Watch: A combined effort leads to rescue of young entangled osprey

    A Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey (CWF) habitat program manager and JCP&L linemen joined forces yesterday in Ocean County to rescue a young osprey entangled in monofilament from a gill net. 

    It was a busy day for Ben Wurst, the Jersey Shore-based “osprey whisperer” and protégé of the late Pete McLain, the man credited with bringing ospreys back from the brink of extinction in New Jersey during the 1970s. 

    [RELATED: N.J. osprey population continues to grow, survey finds]

    While conducting an osprey nest survey at at Sedge Island Wildlife Management Area Tuesday evening, he received a call from Rich Nicol, a local wildlife photographer, about an osprey nestling that was entangled.

    Wurst began his day banding ospreys for tracking purposes in Island Beach State Park, which he streamed live on Facebook. Then, he headed across the Barnegat Bay to Bayville to help free the entangled young osprey. 

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

    “You see, after seeing photos of the young osprey, I knew it was RTF (ready to fly). Ospreys fledge, or take their first flight, at around seven to eight weeks of age. The entangled osprey was around seven weeks old,” he explained in a CWF release. “I knew we had to act quickly to catch the bird and untangle it before it tried to fledge.”

    After hearing that the nest was on a pole between 35- and 40-feet high, he realized the situation called for more than a large ladder, so he contacted JCP&L’s Jeanne Lennon for assistance with securing the necessary equipement to get him safetly into the nest. 

    Lennon dispatched two linemen, identifed by Wurst as “John and Joe,” in a large bucket truck.

    The men “were eager to help me rescue the young osprey,” Wurst said. “I explained how delicate of a rescue this was since the bird had the line around its neck.”

    In the bucket at platform height, the avian expert successful untangled the gill net from the young fish hawk’s neck with a lineman’s assistance and then, just like he had done just hours earlier at Island Beach State Park, decided to band the bird for future tracking as part of Project RedBand

    CWF commenced the project in 2014, marking young ospreys with auxiliary color bands in order to engage citizen scientists. And two years later in Island Beach State Park, a photographer captured the first shot of a returning “RedBand” osprey hatched from nearby nest on middle Sedge Island.

     “The use of the auxiliary ‘red bands’ will help us learn a lot about the ecology of ospreys nesting on Barnegat Bay,” Wurst said last year. “‘Project RedBand’ will also help us engage local communities in osprey conservation and management by encouraging citizens to report re-sightings of banded birds.”

    Yesterday’s rescue was a collective effort that brought together people simply wanting to help.

    “We’d like to thank Rich for being an avid osprey watcher and alerting us to the situation and Jeanne L., John, and Joe with JCP&L for providing us with the means to rescue this beautiful young osprey. We wouldn’t have been able to save this young osprey without their help. Thank you!” Wurst said. 

    Preview photo courtesy of Bonnie Myszka/Shack in the Swamp Photography.

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