Ospreys begin returning to the Jersey Shore

    Welcome home! 

    It’s that time of the year again when ospreys — the raptors that have staged a miraculous comeback in New Jersey since the early 1970s — migrate north from their wintering grounds in Central America, northern South America, and the Caribbean.

    [Related: In Barnegat Bay’s Sedge Islands, ospreys reign]

    In recent days, ospreys, also known as fish hawks, were spotted throughout the Jersey Shore. Commenters on the New Jersey Osprey Project Facebook page reported sightings in Bass River, Island Beach State Park, Oceanport, Brick, and Sandy Hook.

    Photographer Chris A. Fraley captured this image of an osprey in Sandy Hook on Friday in “grand fashion with a ribbon in tow to announce its migratory return,” he says. 

    Ospreys are typically seen hunting for fish by hovering over tidal waterways, diving downward with talons extended when they spot prey. 

    The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey will offer a livestream of a nest in Oceanville’s Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Volunteers finished installing the camera equipment on Friday. 

    Further north in Ocean County’s Island Beach State Park, where an “osprey cam” mounted across the state park’s Interpretive Center had streamed nest activities beginning in 2012, volunteers are working to replace equipment and align a wifi dish to ensure connectivity.

    For now, the camera is offline, according to the Friends of Island Beach State Park (FOIBSP).

    FOIBSP Trustee Tim Husar says 80 percent of the equipment installed in 2012 has failed, citing the harsh coastal environment in the state park.

    “We are replacing it as we go,” he said. 

    The camera immediately became a hit, with a community quickly forming and reporting on nest activities in real-time. 

    Husar says an ongoing osprey camera fundraiser has garnered the non-profit organization $2,225, which is significantly shy of the $10,000 goal. The organization is accepting tax deductible donations here.

    Highlights of the 2015 Osprey Report, which provides the number of nesting pairs, active nests, and nest productivity for the raptors throughout New Jersey, found 534 active osprey nests (up from 420 in 2014) and nearly 600 pairs (up from 567 in 2014).

    “Ospreys are an important indicator of the health of our coastal ecosystems, so it is important to track the health of their population. Their continuing recovery is a very promising sign for our estuaries and the fish and other wildlife that depend on clean water to survive,” said CWF Executive Director David Wheeler.

    “Today, no visit to a coastal waterfront would be the same without the magnificent sighting of an osprey soaring above or crashing down to the water’s surface for a fish,” he said. 

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