Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘severe weather’

Emergency Osprey Nest Surveys in Cape May, Wildwood and Stone Harbor

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

What you won’t hear on the news!!

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Matt Tribulski places a young osprey back in its nest.

Matt Tribulski places a young osprey back in its nest.

It’s osprey season. Osprey Survey Season, that is. However, we never like to start the season off with these types of emergency surveys, but with the increase of strong storms and extreme straight line wind events, they are becoming an annual event. Ospreys nest on platforms in open areas near water, so their young can easily become victims during these types of storms. After receiving a text message from my colleague Kathy Clark yesterday evening about the intensity of the storms, she said we should try to do a survey of the affected areas. I had other plans but I knew that those could wait. (more…)

Impacts from Severe Weather minimal

Friday, June 26th, 2015
Nesting ospreys fared well from June 23rd storms on B. Bay

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

We had some pretty insane weather blow through on Tuesday evening. I saw it first hand while driving to Long Beach Island to visit some relatives in town. The storm front brought high winds and driving rain to the area. The National Weather Service has even declared that there was even a water spout in Brant Beach (which was right where I was driving on the LBI Blvd. southward). Winds gusted to 70-80mph blowing all sorts of debris (and lawn furniture) across the road. I immediately pulled over to where I was protected from the wind. While I sat there I thought of all the osprey nests out on the bay with young in them…

Photo by Ben Wurst

One is better than none! Photo by Ben Wurst

At this time of year almost all nests have young. They range in age from only hatchlings to 4 week old nestlings. Some can be easily blown from shallow or weakly built nests and can be easily blown from the top of nesting platforms. This has happened in the past (in 2012 when we had a “derecho” blow through the area in late June) and almost half the young present were blown from their nests (in Absecon).

To get a better idea of what we experienced, I asked Jonathan Carr, with Weather NJ, what we saw. This would also give me a better idea of what to expect when conducted post-storm surveys. “What we saw in SNJ on Tuesday was a bow echo as evident by radar signature. A macroburst hit SWNJ which generated substantial straight line winds that fueled the system all the way to the coast. In addition, multiple rotation signatures were picked up via velocity analysis which sparked the tornado warnings in perfect alignment from PA through SWNJ and ultimately the Jersey Shore. The NWS officially ruled the incident near Brant Beach a waterspout but little damage was done from such. All damage across SNJ was again, from straight line wind gusts which reached 80mph in several locations. Harvey Cedars actually clocked a 92mph wind gust. I wasn’t surprised given that instability and wind parameters were screaming for this to happen in the prior 24 hours, especially with the cold front trigger moving through. These type of winds are disastrous for any coastal wildlife or nesting grounds with open exposures.”

With that news on the weather front, I knew we’d have young ospreys on the ground. On Wednesday I got my first report from Osprey watchers Ray and Leslee on Cedar Run Dock Rd. They noticed the adults acting funny, who were now on the ground and not on the nest (where they were before the storm). I gave Leslee permission to walk out to the nest. She found two 3 week old young on the ground. I had plans that day so I couldn’t make it there until 9pm. But when I met Leslee and Ray the nestlings were still on the ground. We picked them up and put them back into the nest (and we also fed a good amount of mosquitoes!!)

Four stripes!! Photo by Ben Wurst

Four stripes!! Photo by Ben Wurst

The following day we rallied to get out on our boat to conduct some more “post-storm surveys,” the first of the season. We checked nests from Bonnet Island to Loveladies and Barnegat. A total of 18 active nests were surveyed. At the first nest we checked we found four young (this nest has failed to produce young for the past two years, amazing!)!! The second had two nestlings in the nest and none were found on the ground. GREAT! But, as the clouds moved in the survey took a darker turn… The next nest we checked was empty but had the remains of a very young osprey. Then the next one had two alive in the nest and one dead on the ground (a 14 day old). The next two nests had 2 and 3 young in them and they all looked very healthy. Then at the next nest we saw the whole nest down on the marsh. When we dug through it we found the bodies of two young. They were instantly crushed under the weight of the nest. So sad. The adult female was still sitting on the nest, surely hoping they were found alive. 🙁 It is now too late to get out to other areas to rescue young. I have learned that young are NOT fed when they are grounded. So there is little chance that any young would still be alive if found on the ground. Future surveys will determine how many other areas were affected by the strong storms.

Despite the gloomy outcome, nests in this severely impacted area had overall good results. We counted a total of 27 young from 18 active nests which gives us an average productivity rate of 1.5 young (per active-known-outcome nest). This is almost twice the level needed to sustain the population. Most young were around 17 days old. Only five were banded for future tracking.

It’s too early to tell how the entire population will fare this year. It could be a down year, with reports of no large schools of menhaden that are close to shore. Menhaden (bunker) are one of the most crucial food sources for many coastal species, including osprey.

Photos from the Survey:
Photo by Ben Wurst

Remains of a young osprey. Photo by Ben Wurst

Photo by Ben Wurst

One. Two. Three. All in the nest! Photo by Ben Wurst

Female on her nest. Photo by Ben Wurst

Female on her nest. Photo by Ben Wurst

Photo by Ben Wurst

The oldest in this historic nest got a little feisty. Photo by Ben Wurst

Female hovers over her nest to check on her young (3) after we surveyed her nest. This is one of the oldest nests in NJ. Photo by Ben Wurst.

Female hovers over her nest to check on her young (3) after we surveyed her nest. This is one of the oldest nests in NJ. Photo by Ben Wurst.

Photo by Ben Wurst

Young that were found on the ground were decomposing very quickly. We moved them out of sight from the adults. Photo by Ben Wurst

Photo by Ben Wurst

An empty nest off Loveladies. Last year this nest was productive. Photo by Ben Wurst

Photo by Ben Wurst

A week old chick and an egg on a channel marker nest of LBI. Photo by Ben Wurst

Photo by Ben Wurst

A four week old nestling that was banded with a red auxiliary band for future tracking. Photo by Ben Wurst

Osprey surveys completed

Monday, July 30th, 2012
Severe weather may have reduced productivity this year

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Surveys of nesting osprey have ended for 2012. Each year volunteers, state biologist and CWF staff complete nesting surveys of ospreys. These “osprey banders” complete “ground surveys” (referred to as ground surveys because they are surveying nests by land/sea, not by helicopter) that cover around 70% of the state population. The surveys are meant to keep tabs on the state population and data collected from the surveys are used to determine the health of the population. Young are also banded for future tracking. Next year a state wide aerial survey will be conducted; the last aerial survey was in 2009 where 486 nesting pairs were found. We won’t know the total size of the population until then. Nesting success is mixed this year and is highly variable by different regions, mainly because of severe weather.

I never heard of a “derecho” until this summer. According to Wikipedia it is “a widespread, long-lived, straight-line windstorm that is associated with a fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms.” A derecho hit Cumberland, Salem, Atlantic & southern Ocean County in the early morning hours on June 30th, right in the middle of the nesting season for ospreys. Weather plays a significant factor in the success of nesting ospreys. They nest in open areas, which makes them vulnerable to high winds and severe weather, and since they primarily feed on fish, water clarity affects foraging success.

“In South Jersey, Atlantic City Electric reported that 206,000 customers lost power from downed trees. Most of the outages were in Atlantic County, which prompted a county-wide state of emergency. Near Atlantic City, a boater died while trying to bring his vessel ashore. Officials believed that lightning struck a 104-year-old church in Longport and caused a fire that damaged the building. An elderly couple was killed when a tree fell on their house. In Vineland, damage was preliminarily estimated at $125 million. On July 19th, 2012, President Barack Obama declared three counties in New Jersey (Atlantic, Cumberland, and Salem) federal disaster areas. This assured disaster relief through federal assistance to local and state governments and some non-profit organizations.” (from Wikipedia.com) I also know that two people were killed while sleeping in a tent at Parvin State Park.

Kristin, an intern with CWF puts an osprey nestling back in the nest. © Ben Wurst

At this time most young were between 2-3 weeks old, with some a little older and some younger. All young are very vulnerable to severe weather, especially when wind gusts reach 70-100 mph, they can be easily blown from their nests and if not retrieved quickly could become food for ground predators or washed away with the tide. Winds gusted to 81 mph in Tuckerton, 74 mph in Absecon (Reported by the NJ State Climatologist Dr. David A. Robinson). In three areas that I survey (Absecon, Mullica River, & Little Egg Harbor) many young were either lost or blown from their nests and found dead or live on the marsh. In Absecon 9 of the 22 young produced had been lost or found dead on the marsh as a result of the storm. At a couple other nests to the north a few young were found on the ground shortly after the storm. Off of Great Bay Blvd. many nests that had young before the storm had lost them. One of our volunteers reported that many nests in Ventnor that were previously occupied had no young after the storm.

We can only hope that severe weather like this will not occur during the middle of the osprey nesting season again, but with a warmer climate these might become commonplace in New Jersey. One thing that we might consider is to take a long look at our current design for nesting platforms and look to see if we can make changes to allow for a deeper nest bowl. More of a problem is that some ospreys do not build substantial nests and use little sticks and branches, while others build large nests that are not easily blown away with the wind.

 

  • Subscribe!

    Enter your email address to subscribe to the Conserve Wildlife Blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Support Conserve Wildlife Foundation

    Support our efforts to protect New Jersey’s rarest animals, restore important habitat, and foster pride in New Jersey’s rich wildlife heritage.

    Join - Donate - Adopt a Species
  • Recent Comments