Conserve Wildlife Blog

Osprey 98/K: The Backstory

January 10th, 2023

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Osprey 98/K with prey over Barnegat Lighthouse State Park. May 2022. Photo by Bob Peal.

I have been finalizing osprey band re-sightings and encounters from last year and one particular band number stood out. It was 98/K, who was re-sighted by Bob Peal during his visit to Barnegat Lighthouse State Park on May 17, 2022. There he photographed a variety of wildlife, including several ospreys who had red auxiliary bands, one of which was readable!

98/K was banded as a nestling on July 12, 2019 at a nest that was less than 2 miles from Barnegat Lighthouse State Park as part of Project RedBand, a Barnegat Bay osprey banding and re-sighting project. It’s natal nest is one that is very special to my family and I. We built and installed it in early 2017, in loving memory of my father, Dr. Stephen Wurst, who passed away in late 2014. It replaced a very old and derelict platform that ospreys could no longer use, which was located inside Sedge Island WMA. This location is a prime one for ospreys, being the most densely populated colony in New Jersey and within our only Marine Conservation Zone. It was also along Oyster Creek channel, that my father used to travel with his 32′ Blackfin sport-fishing boat. Every time he would pass Sedge Island, he would let me know the osprey activity that he observed when passing by. The perfect place to honor my dad! You can watch a video of us installing the platform.

The nest was occupied right away but not productive until 2019, so banding these young was extra special this year! On the day that we planned to band the young, I was joined by my good friend Northside Jim and Philly based artist Evan Lovett. We went out late in the afternoon and met my brother out at the nest. We carefully climbed up to the nest and saw that both young were around six weeks old and very healthy! We proceeded to band the young for future tracking with both a federal bird band and a field readable red bands, 97/K & 98/K, which would allow us to more easily identify them when they are alive.

Photo by Northside Jim.

After banding the two nestlings, we wanted to get a photo together with them — to share with family. I will never forget how my fearless brother picked up one of the nestlings without any hesitation and carried it down the ladder (something that can be quite tricky without experience) as this was the first time he joined me to band ospreys. Though, he gets experience handling injured raptors while working as a veterinarian.. After a couple quick photos, we placed the young back in their nest and left the area to allow the adults to return to their nest.

Our osprey fieldwork inspired artist Evan Lovett to paint a large mural of 97/K on Long Beach Island that same summer! In the 15+ years that I have worked with rare wildlife, I have learned that raising awareness for the species we wish to protect is crucial. Science and art come hand in hand, so using an oversized portrait of a red banded osprey to build appreciation for the species and our grassroots conservation activities was awe-inspiring! (maybe we can find a spot in Barnegat Light where Evan can paint a mural of 98/K!)

This was the first re-sighting of 98/K and I was so excited to see photos of him back in the LBI Region to forage and eventually find a nest of his own! I too hope to re-sight his band and continue to tell his story to my friends, family and our osprey project fans and supporters! My father’s love of fishing and wildlife truly lives on for others to admire. ❤️

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2 Responses to “Osprey 98/K: The Backstory”

  1. Michael Academia says:

    Fantastic story! Thank you for sharing and all of the amazing work!

  2. Phyllis says:

    So exciting, thank you for sharing your story and all you do.

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