Conserve Wildlife Blog

Time to Get Muddy!

September 8th, 2016

Volunteers needed to help maintain and repair osprey nests

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Map of nests that are in need of repairs in Absecon, NJ.

Map of nests that are in need of repairs in Absecon, NJ.

We have an obligation to care for and protect our wildlife, and for me, that’s what drew me into my current position. Osprey nesting platforms have been a focus of my work over the past 10+ years. They are designed specifically for ospreys and if built properly, can withstand the impacts of severe weather, including coastal flooding, high winds, and storm surge. For ospreys these platforms protect their nests from predators and flood tides, but over time the extreme salt marsh environment takes its toll on them. With the added weight of the large, perennial stick nests it can shorten the life span of a properly built platform drastically. Over the years I’ve seen older nests topple, from the weight of the nesting material and aging hardware, during the middle of the nesting season during severe storms. This is hard to prevent at every nest, during every storm, which we know are becoming more and more frequent, but we are adapting and in turn, helping our ospreys become more resilient (and productive) in the end.

New stainless screws are installed in an existing osprey nest to help prevent future catastrophe.

New stainless screws are installed in an existing osprey nest to help prevent future catastrophe.

In the past we (myself and other volunteers who survey ospreys and help maintain platforms) used to visit a nest only once a year, during nesting surveys in late June and early July. At that time we would note the condition of the platform and if repairs were needed, schedule those for the seven month long non-breeding season. Those who have volunteered to help and worked with me, know the task at hand. Most tasks include using hand tools to construct nest platforms and perches and to install them. I always say the hardest part is getting the platform to the saltmarsh where they will be installed.

To help engage and inspire others to help care for our growing osprey population, we are looking for volunteers who live within the watersheds were we are planning to conduct repairs of osprey platforms. Tasks vary by watershed but most are to add new (stainless) screws to existing platforms, install predator guards/perches, clean off excess nesting material, and do any other repairs to platforms (including moving and replacing some). We are hopeful to meet some local baymen and fishermen who are looking to help keep the nesting population stable as it has been over the past 10 years.

The work will occur in mid-late October and will be carried out through these watersheds:

  • Barnegat Bay (Point Pleasant south to LEHT)
  • Great Bay – All nests here need new hardware and one nest needs to be replaced.
  • Absecon Bay – In this area we have four platforms to replace. Three will be moved and one new one installed. Four other nests need critical repairs.
  • Sea Isle – several nests here need predator guards and a couple need minor repairs.
  • Wildwood/Cape May – After the strong storms in late June hit this area, many nests need new platform (tops) and others need to be cleaned off.

If you are interested in being notified when these platform construction and repairs occur, please email me. Let me know what you are interested in helping with and if you have a boat (and a ladder!) that can be used.

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