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 Oceanville’s Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, Bayville, Deal, and Island Beach State Park.

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

    In Ocean County’s Island Beach State Park, where an “osprey cam” mounted across the state park’s Interpretive Center has been streaming nest activities since 2012, volunteers have installed the camera equipment for the season just in time. 

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

    The “cam nest” now has an osprey pair, with the first one arriving less than two weeks ago and the second one last Wednesday. 

    Friends of Island Beach State Park (FOIBSP) Trustee Tim Husar said last year that 80 percent of the equipment installed in 2012 had failed, citing the harsh coastal environment in the state park.

    Husar says the organization accepts tax deductible donations to fund equipment purchases and maintenance here.

    The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey is also offering a livestream of a nest in Oceanville’s Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. But while it’s streaming at the visitor’s center, New Jersey Osprey Project’s Ben Wurst says, technicians will soon be making adjustments to bring it back for internet viewing. 

    Highlights of the 2016 Osprey Report, which provides the number of nesting pairs, active nests, and nest productivity for the raptors throughout New Jersey, include 515 active osprey nests.

    “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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