by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager
By now most ospreys are back from their wintering grounds in Central and northern South America. Generally the older more experienced birds return first and the younger inexperienced adults follow. Over the past month I’ve been very busy with platform repairs and installations throughout coastal New Jersey. You may not be aware but I maintain a huge number of nesting platforms. In just the past couple weeks I’ve worked as far south as Avalon (where I lead a group of students and their parents from Collingswood to replace an existing platform) and as far north as Bayonne (where I installed 3 platforms with local middle and high school students). Both were memorable experiences for both myself and many of the students. Most of them had never been on a boat or ever had the chance to walk on the saltmarsh.
Maintenance of existing platforms is critical to the continued recovery of ospreys. Over time (and in some cases, not much time) the condition of these nesting platforms is degraded, mainly by the environmental conditions where they’re placed. For the most part the fasteners are what go first from contact with high levels of moisture in the air, after that, the wood decays (unless a pressure treated or cedar wood is used). One way to help prevent the decay of platforms is to use marine grade stainless steel screws, galvanized bolts, and treated lumber. If we were to lose a large portion of the available nesting platforms in a given year then the population would suffer, so it’s important to make sure existing platforms remain in good condition.
Last week I got out to the “Wildlife Drive” at Forsythe NWR in Oceanville to repair a platform. The platform top had lost a side and could no longer hold nesting material. I built a new top out of salvaged wood that I collect and installed it on Thursday afternoon. The next day a male osprey began to place nesting material in the freshly repaired platform. Talk about perfect timing!
If you’re interested in helping us to maintain osprey nesting platforms, contact me about our new program to “Adopt a Platform.”