Written by Paul DeOrsay, Friends of the Bay Friday, 12 April 2013 00:00
One of our surest signs of spring around Oyster Bay and Cold Spring Harbor is the return of our ospreys. Males should be arriving any day now, and their female companions should follow in a couple of weeks from their wintering grounds in Florida and South America. Ospreys mate for life, and often return to the same nest year after year.
Ospreys inhabit every continent except Antarctica, and populations appear to be healthy and stable after a serious decline in the 1960’s and 70’s, probably due to the pesticide DDT.
There are a number of nesting sites around our Bay and Harbor, many on purpose-built platforms, easily recognized by the large tangles of sticks, which form the foundation of the nest.
These large raptors (wing span of 4-6 feet) are active during the day, so those on or near the water will frequently see them circling and diving for the fish which make up 99 percent of their diet. A brood of three or four chicks, which usually hatch in early June, will consume 6 pounds a day, keeping the adult birds busy through the summer.
The Center for Conservation Biology, a research group headquartered on Chesapeake Bay, launched a global program called Osprey Watch in 2012, to engage citizen observers to record breeding information on a large enough scale to be useful in monitoring aquatic health. In their first year, the observers documented 1600 nests in five countries, but none of them were in our watershed! I urge anyone with an interest to go to the website and sign on as an observer (or just to take a look and learn more about these magnificent birds.) at www.osprey-watch.org
Friends of the Bay: 2 Townsend Square, Oyster Bay, NY 11771