Did you know?
In 2019, we documented persistent plastic marine debris in 42% of occupied osprey nests, but suspect that many more contain plastics, which can cause birds to become entangled and cause serious injury or death.
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Barnegat Light Osprey Cam
Our osprey cam was first installed at Forsythe NWR in 2013. In the spring of 2019, we installed a new camera at a nest in Barnegat Light.
Welcome to the home of the Barnegat Light Osprey Cam! We decided to pursue the installation of a camera system at this tall nest so that we can share the intimate life of ospreys with everyone from the Long Beach Island region and worldwide. This is the third year for this pair of ospreys at this nest site (second year of cam). In 2018, they produced two young and three in 2019. All young have been banded for future tracking. This year the same female and 14 year old male (band 788-49033) returned and are incubating three eggs, which will start hatching around May 28.
As many know, ospreys are an important bioindicator species and reflect the health of their surrounding environment. A healthy coastal ecosystem equals a booming shore economy and the ospreys indicate that we're doing a good job of protecting our coastal areas. There are still many threats to ospreys, even though they have recovered from the effects of DDT and habitat loss. You can make a difference and help ospreys by reducing your dependence on single use plastics, eating sustainable/local caught seafood and by not releasing balloons.
Our goal is to increase awareness and protection of ospreys in New Jersey.
We've been treated to some great views of the area around the osprey nest lately. As the young are becoming more agile on the wing they are less dependent on the nest to rest and feed. They can now be found perched atop local utility poles, sailboat masts, the camera mount, and smaller boats moored in the cove to the west of the nest. It's gettiing to be the time of year when the young disperse and aren't in view of the camera anymore. Soon the female will begin her epic journey to her wintering grounds. Last year the female was gone by the third week in August. We've seen her fattening up with plentiful catches of large bluefish to feed her and her young.
This fall we are planning some simple upgrades to the camera system, which we built and installed. We will be removing the camera and mount to relocate the microphone to a lower location beneath the nest box (where it can be shielded better from wind noise). For this to happen we need the aluminum mount pole to be modified, so our wiring will need to be removed and reinstalled. When we reattach the camera then we will mount it a little lower on the pole, so that we get a little more of an eye level perspective - something that we planned for, but did not have power to view the camera when installing it. Lastly, we will brace the camera mount pole to the nestbox so that camera sway is minimized. After all upgrades are done, then we will re-install the camera for winter viewing.
On July 26 at 9:22am 04/M fledged and on July 27 at 9:21am 05/M fledged!
Fledge day is here! 03/M the oldest of the brood fledged this morning at 9:29am. He (we can tell he is a male because of the fit of his bands and the lack of brown feathers on his breast) had some strong hops with short flights directly over the nest yesterday and took flight today. Given that he is the oldeest and a male, it is no surprise to see him fledge first. He hasn't been on camera too much, given his new freedom to explore. The other two nestlings 04/M & 05/M should fledge any day. Females are larger and usually take longer for their flight feathers to fully develop. Now that the young are starting to fledge, the female will be off the nest more and she will forage for herself. She needs to build up some fat reserves before starting her southbound journey to N. South America in August.
Things have been quiet at the nest over the past two weeks, which is great. All three were banded on June 30 with both federal USGS aluminum and state aux. red bands (03/M, 04/M, 05/M) for future tracking. The red bands are the least expensive and intrusive way to follow and learn about them throughout their lives. Since we started banding young ospreys with red aux. bands produced at nests on Barnegat Bay, close to 450 young have been banded as part of Project RedBand. This year a total of 22 red banded ospreys from Barnegat Bay have been re-sighted!! Most of those re-sightings have been here in New Jersey and several are birds who have returned here to nest as adults.
As many of you are aware, this is the peak of the osprey nesting season in New Jersey. Most nests contain young and many have young that are close to fledging, at around 7-8 weeks old. The young at this nest are now 6-7 weeks old and should start to fledge in another week. We are now seeing them self feed, which is great. This gives young birds a chance to gain experience gripping a fish and tearing apart flesh and the female a much needed break.
Late last week we had our first named tropical storm impact the area, which was very early for this time of year. With gusty winds and heavy rain, many ospreys had to lay low. Luckily the winds were not too severe to cause any widespread nest failures. So far we have observed mixed results for ospreys throughout the Atlantic coast. There have been some islolated nest failures where groups of nest platforms were completely empty and devoid of any young, and then we had nests overflowing with broods of 2-3 young at every nest. It's a bit of a mystery at this point what might have caused some nests to fail as it could have been predators like eagles or the effects of high winds. Overall, productivity still seems good and enough to sustain the population.
Banding day is here! Today CWF Habitat Program Manager Ben Wurst will be visiting the BL Osprey Cam nest to band all three young for future tracking. They are around 4-5 weeks old and at the perfect age for banding. When accessing a nest for banding, the adults fly off the nest and circle and call to defend their nest. The young lay down to "play dead." We try to minimize our time at nests by being well prepared (prepping bands) and will leave some fresh fish for the adults to feed themselves and young afterwards. These young will get both a silver USGS aluminum band and a red aluminum aux. band. The red band will allow us to be able to learn more about these birds while they are still alive! This year we have received re-sightings of 18! live red banded ospreys in NJ!
We are not sure about doing a separate live video of the banding this year, because Ben will be by himself in the bucket and sometimes it is hard to concentrate on banding when also going live. As always you can simply watch the live stream on YouTube or above. Ben will likely take some video from his perspective of the banding to share afterwards and with photos of the young ospreys.
If you live on the island or are visiting, you are welcome to come by to talk to Ben afterwards! The nest is at the west side of 24th St. in Barnegat Light.
I feel like I say this every year -- time flies! The young are growing quickly and are now around 21 days old. This is when their body feathers are emerging from pin and they eat about half their body weight every day. They move around the nest more and are more aware of things outside of the nest.
The male is foraging more often to feed himself, his mate and his brood of three. So far it seems as though he is having no problem finding prey even during times when we have had constant NE winds. I often speculate that nests here in coastal NJ have no problem finding prey because we have both protected estuaries with shallow areas and also open ocean to forage.
In other news - I banded the first osprey nestlings of the season yesterday at Island Beach State Park. They are a little older than these nestlings and around 3.5-4 weeks old. You can watch them via the Pete McLain Osprey Cam hosted by the Friends of Island Beach State Park. Next week we will begin our surveys of osprey nests throughout Barnegat Bay to determine how the colony as a whole is doing. Our volunteers will be doing their own surveys to determine the outcome of ospreys in other major nesting colonies throughout the state. Others are reporting nest outcomes on Osprey Watch, which is where you can view all known osprey nests in NJ.
We will be banding these young during the last week of June or first week of July and will stream it live on our YouTube channel like last year.
We have three! The first egg hatched late in the afternoon on May 28 and then the second hatched early on May 30. Then the third finally hatched early on June 1. This is the first time that this pair (who have nested here since 2018) produced three young!
Can't believe it's been so long since my last update here! Time really does fly!! Today marks day 32 of incubation of the first egg. Since this pair has been on the same exact schedule as last year with laying eggs, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised about hatching that coincides with 2019 dates. We saw a pip in the first egg on May 28 and the first feeding on May 29, day 38. Incubation of 40 days is about average for nests that are closest to the ocean. Hard to do a hatching contest with these birds! :)
In other news, so far we have gotten 36 responses to our prey research form. The majority have observed the male returning with menhaden (44.4%) and flounder (27.8%). No surprises there. Thanks to everyone who has conttributed so far. Foraging will really kick into high gear for the male once the eggs hatch. Then the survival of their brood will be determined by his ability to find and catch prey. Luckily he is a veteran at 14 years old, so he knows all the best foraging grounds.
Today a viewer commented on YouTube about the perch. That prompted me to zoom in to showcase it when the male was perched. I instantly saw his band and did a double take. It read 788, not 1088. This meant one thing - that our old (soon to be 14 years old) male is alive! I looked back at video over the past few weeks and saw that he's been here for the past two weeks - hiding in plain sight! With such poor weather and not as much time to zoom in for a good view, we've missed closeups to positively ID him during this time. Plus, both birds were banded on their left leg with a USGS bird band, so it was honestly something that could easily be missed if not looking close enough to tell the difference. My post on April 24 with the photo of the male I assumed it was the new male, but when you look close you can just barely read 490, so that is our 14 year old - 788-49033!
Now the question is, did the younger 5 year old mate with the female and if so, did he fertilize her eggs? Possibly. It is hard to say for sure, but from when we looked back at the recorded video, the old male returned around April 12 and the first egg was laid on April 20. From Alan Poole's, Ospreys: A Natural and Unnatural History, "Pairs mate most frequently just prior to egg laying. Earlier copulations may actually have little to do with fertilization, serving instead to test a mate's receptiveness (strengthen pair bond)." So it sounds like the young male was just playing around and attempting to court with this female, but the resident male returned just in time to fertilize her eggs.
Either way, this is fascinating behavior to witness because of this camera. This likely happens at other nests where resident birds arrive late on spring migration. Thankfully, this old, experienced male is back and has a brood of three eggs to help incubate!
Then there were three! Throughout New Jersey most ospreys are now incubating eggs. The onset of incubation can be determined by the presence of birds sitting on the nest 24/7. A low posture, with a flat back, indicates that they're incubating. As we can see by simply watching this camera, the female does the majority of incubation, while the male does 100% of the foraging. Therefore, the success in their reproduction lies with his ability to find and catch prey to feed himself and his mate. The female will get breaks from incubating to stretch her wings, preen, and feed. I find it really intriguing that they usually do not feed on the nest until they have young. This is likely to avoid attracting would-be predators, like crows, gulls, and raccoons to their nest and unhatched eggs.
Since we're right on schedule with 2019, having a contest to guess when the eggs might hatch would be too easy... :)
As mentioned in a previous entry (4/18), we are contributing to research by a college student who is gathering data from osprey nest cams throughout the world on osprey prey and their productivity. The research will be published as a manuscript in the Journal of Raptor Research. Currently there are four countries and 13 cameras (including ours) who are participating. The goal of the research, as stated by the student, is "to report fish counts and species, and nesting success gathered from citizen science and nest cam data. My aim is to establish citizen science and nest cameras as valid and substantial tools for the scientific and educational communities. Thus, enhancing our knowledge."
Here we know what the main prey items are (flounder and menhaden), but we do not offically record them. Contributing to this project will be a great way to document what prey are delivered, how often and how successful they are in producing young that fledge. It will also help engage more people in watching the cam and learning about the life cycle of ospreys. Anyone can contribute by watching the live stream or locally from the gound, like Stephanie H. who got a great shot of the male with a large summer flounder!
To access the form, click here (we will also make a widget on the sidebar so you can access it from there).
Right on schedule! Egg two was laid sometime early this morning (will look to confirm time from recorded video). Viewer Michelle B. reported seeing two eggs around 5:10am. Egg three should drop on 4/26.
This morning the female laid the first of at least three eggs! Right after 8:00am she stood and showed the glossy, fresh laid egg. So far today she has been glued to the egg, but got a chance to feed around 1:30pm, then the male took over incubating. Females do around 70% of nest duties, including incubating and males do 100% of the foraging. They start incubating after they lay the first egg, so an adult will always be on the nest from now until they all hatch.
The amazing part is that she laid the egg today one year from when she laid the first egg last year! If she keeps on the same schedule then we should see egg 2 on 4/23 and 3 on 4/26. If they incubate for the same number of days (38 days) then the first egg should pip and hatch on 5/28.
If you want to read updates from last year, then check out our archived 2019 NestCam News.
I like to think that this site is being more and more desirable to ospreys, as we continually see more competition for the nest. Generally speaking, this is becoming more and more common, as there are more ospreys who are living longer and seeking to takeover estabished nests. Not far from this nest platform, which sat unused for more than a decade after being installed by the Garden Club of LBI, there is another unused tall nest platform. This spring we heard from locals that ospreys have been seen perched on it and even adding nesting material. Hopefully we see some birds settle down to nest on that platform as well, since there aren't too many available nest sites on the 18 mile long barrier island. Most nests are located on the many channel markers, islands, and back bay saltmarshes.
Viewers yesterday notified us that a red banded osprey, 65/D, who looks like a female (by the fit of her leg bands) attempted to land on the nest around 12:52pm on April 17. 65/D is one of 400 ospreys who originated from nests on Barnegat Bay and were banded as a nestling as part of Project RedBand, our osprey re-sighting project. She was banded at a nest near the south end of LBI on Marshelder Island on June 26, 2017. This is the first time that she has been re-sighted. If you see a red banded bird, please let me know!
In other news, this year we are helping a researcher look into the prey of ospreys by using observations collected from live streaming cameras at nests. "The goal is to report fish counts and species, and nesting success gathered from citizen science and nest cam data. My aim is to establish citizen science and nest cameras as valid and substantial tools for the scientific and educational communities. Thus, enhancing our knowledge."
The data that we will collect includes:
- Fish data (how many and fish species, if possible)
- Breeding Success or Failure
We will create a form (linked to from this page and the live stream on YouTube) where viewers can submit reports of fish caught and consumed at the nest. Stay tuned for more information!
A cold front brought heavy rain and high winds to New Jersey. Gusts of at least 78mph were observed at coastal locations. Wind speeds this high can easily destroy an osprey nest. One such nest in Oceanville, our old Osprey Cam, had eggs. The female could not remain on the eggs in such high winds, so her clutch of eggs was lost (we are not sure if she had a full clutch). Luckily, it is still early in the nesting season for ospreys, so they can re-nest. At a few other sites we heard that nests had been blown off platforms or structures. This happening early in the season means that the birds will have another chance to re-build. When we see storms like this in summer months, then it means big trouble for ospreys where many nests can fail by losing eggs/young. This severe weather was more damaging to nesting eagles, who have young that are still flightless.
Otherwise, the female stuck around the nest for a while last night. When this happens then it usually means eggs will be laid soon.
The young male who arrived first at this nest has been defeated by the older, more mature male. We finally confirmed his full band number is 1088-08822. I banded him as a nestling on July 13, 2015 inside Sedge Islands WMA at nest 123-A-042, just 3.15 miles to the north of where he now nests.
Today I also confirmed that it's the same female as last year (first year of cam) and likely the same as when the nest first became active (2018)! Like mentioned previously, ospreys can be identified by their iris' and feather patterns on their heads, like an avian fingerprint. The female at this nest has some diistinct flecking of brown spots on her right iris, as you can see in the above comparison photos. This is a really neat component of using technology to ID birds.
As you can see the pair is working on the nest a bit to spruce it up and prepare for egg laying. We did observe what looked like successful breeding this past Sunday, but they will mate again to streghten their pair bond. The male been providing prey to her, which is key for their successful nesting attempt.
Last year the female laid the first egg on April 20. Think she'll lay before then? I do. -BW
Activity at the nest is spreading like wildfire now! This morning before 8am the young (unbanded) male battled with a banded adult male. As you'll see in the video above the banded male won. He has been seen perched on the nest later this morning and there has been no sign of the young male. We shall see what plays out with regards to who wins over the female, and if that female is the same as last year (we need to get some good stills of her head to ID).
Otherwise, we mentioned that the new male is banded. Well, so far we've been able to read at least 3 digits of his federal bird band, which is 9 digits long -- xxxx-xx822. This alone tells us that this is NOT the same 12 year old male as last year, whose band ended in 033. A quick search of our banding records revealed at least 18 birds who have a suffix that ends in 822, but we suspect it is one bird who was banded close to Barnegat Light, at Sedge Islands. This is because males return very close to their natal areas to breed as adults and female tend to wander further away. This is likely to prevent inbreeding. The real fascinating component of this is that if the full band # of the male is 1088-08822, then he was banded on the same day as 90/C, a red banded osprey (fed band is: 1088-08825) who was observed on the nest on March 31!! They originated from different nests from inside Sedge Islands WMA. Great observatons using the camera system here to identify birds we've banded.
Well, things are really heating up here! Both birds who have been hanging on the nest over the past few days are new. The old male was banded and had a much more distinctive pale yellow iris. This new male is a young adult with a more orange tinted iris and little experience. He is mantling a lot and being very submissive to the female, who also appears to be new (I still have to get some good snapshots of her head to confirm). The male has made a few (unsuccessful) attempts to mate with this female this morning on the nest.
It is still early, so one from last year could still return and take back their nest. If they don't then this might be an interesting season to watch with a new pair attempting to nest for their first time...
At around 11am this morning a red banded bird landed on the nest long enough to get it on video and review to confirm its ID -- 90/C, who was banded as a nestling near the Spizzle Creek Bird Blind at Island Beach State Park. 90/C was one of three 5 week old nestlings who were banded on July 13, 2015. You can read more about that on the Island Beach Nature Programs Blog.
Yesterday morning two females landed on the nest - one after another. Neither appears to be the same female as last year. We can ID an individual bird by a couple different methods. One is their leg band (if banded). Another by the plumage on the top of their heads, which is like a fingerprint. The last is their iris, which can have dark pigmentation around their pupil.
More and more ospreys are returning to their summer breeding grounds. South winds aid in their northward migration in spring. At the osprey cam on Friday, a banded male was observed landing on the nest. He didn't stay long but you can see in the video that he is banded, so could this be our male? It's quite possible, but he hasn't been seen on the nest since. BW
Word on the interwebs is that an osprey was viewed on camera yesterday! I did not see myself and we did not yet have our internal network storage device installed, so we are relying on sightings from our faithful watchers on the report. It is still early for most birds to arrive back, but sightings have been coming in from coastal locations in Viginia, and Maryland. With more south winds, they will help push more spring migrants northward. With a very mild winter it's anything goes at this point. Last year we observed egg laying as early as April 9.
If you happen to catch a glimpse of an osprey on the nest, take a screen shot and hop on over to our interaction page and post it there to share your sighting. BW
If you haven't noticed, after popular demand, we decided to keep the Osprey Cam online all winter. While we should re-brand as the "Brant Cam," it is a great time to watch the seasonal shift in winter wildlife and weather. January seemed to fly by and there was little in the form of ice on the bay as opposed to last year, when the bay was frozen solid. It's no surprise as January was the warmest ever recorded worldwide and the 5th warmest in the US. As I type this I received notifications for a severe thunderstorm.
Anyway, ospreys are set to begin to their northward migration in the coming weeks. From now until they begin nesting, we have the big task of completing repairs at nests. This is something that would not be possible without our awesome volunteers! Next week we will release the 2019 NJ Osprey Project Report, so stay tuned for that. -Ben
2018: This platform was first used in 2018 after being installed many years ago by the Garden Club of LBI. We knew this would be the perfect site for a camera, with access to power and internet. We received a generous grant from the Osprey Foundation to install a new camera at this location in late 2018.
Early 2019: We presented our idea for a nest cam to the Town Council of the Borough of Barnegat Light and they enthusiastically approved.
February: We consulted with an electrian, ITS Electric Service LLC and they helped obtain construction permits and install service for us.
Late-March: Electric service was installed and the camera and associated equipment was attached to the osprey nest platform, after that was repaired by adding a new nest box.
- New Jersey Osprey Monitoring Project (NJOP): information about how we help monitor and manage the state population in partnership with NJ Fish & Wildlife's Endangered and Nongame Species Program
Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager: Email
Find Related Info: Osprey
Report Prey Deliveries!
You can help ospreys by reporting fish that are caught at this nest by reporting your observations using the form linked to below. Everyone who contributes will be entered into a contest to win a CWF/New Jersey Osprey Project prize pack!
Other Osprey Cams
Friends of Island Beach State Park, Island Beach, NJ
Friends of Forsythe Osprey Cam, Oceanville, NJ
Wetlands Institute, Stone Harbor, NJ
Blackwater NWR, MD
Terrapin Cove, Maurice River, NJ