Thursday, August 27, 2009

Migration Begins!

A juvenile osprey in Ocean City, NJ.

Many different things may indicate that summer is ending, labor day parties, less tourists, cooler temperatures, sour gum leaves turn red, shorter day length period, and southbound bird migration....For ospreys, it marks the beginning of the annual fall migration period back to their wintering areas where warm waters support high numbers of prey. This year all osprey young produced in New Jersey have fledged (529 young were observed this summer) and after they fledged they relied on their parents for food for several weeks. Now, many are on their own, using instincts and learned tactics to catch fast moving and cryptically colored fish. Many juvenile ospreys are dispersing from their nest sites and beginning there migration south to Central America, Northern South America, and the Caribbean Islands where they will spend the next two years and will not return to NJ to breed until late March 2011.

Route (red lines) typically followed by ospreys during fall migration. Most follow
landmasses south from Florida through Cuba into Hispaniola,
then fly directly south into Venezuela and Columbia.

Fall migrants can be seen as early as mid-August in New Jersey. Juveniles begin migration before adults. Sometimes juveniles fly completely in the wrong direction before they eventually turn and fly south. Satellite tracking studies are being conducted by on several juveniles and adults near New Bedford, Massachusetts. The data that is collected from the tags is great information and very interesting to follow where each of the birds goes during migration. Check out the link to follow the birds from Massachusetts.

This year volunteers and biologists banded 348 osprey young. In a typical year we usually get around 10 bands that are recovered. In 2008, 16 banded ospreys were found. Unfortunately almost all recoveries we get are from dead or injured ospreys. We do get great information from band recoveries. We can study survival/mortality rates, migration routes, and behavior.

Here are where bands were recovered in 2008:
Cayman Islands - Alive, was rehabilitated and released. Banded in 2006.
Mauricetown, NJ - Banded 2004.
Mauricetown, NJ - Banded 2003
Wildwood, NJ - Banded 2006
Hollywood, MD - Banded 2006
Margate, NJ - Banded 2008
Cape May, NJ - Banded 1991 - 17 years old!
St. Croix, USVI - Banded 2006
Vero Beach, FL - Banded 2008
Miami, FL - Banded 2008
Hollywood, FL - Banded 2008
Tolima, Columbia - Banded 2008
Cauca, Columbia - Banded 2008
Little Egg Harbor, NJ - Banded 2008
Mauricetown, NJ - Banded 2004

After a cold front moves through and winds are coming from the north, look up and you may notice the spectacular event that occuring all around you! If you want to get the best views of raptors and other birds during migration visit one of these locations:

Cape May Point State Park - Peak viewing period for ospreys is early October.
Higbee Beach WMA - A diverse wildlife management area in Cape May that has many different habitat types.
Hawk Mountain, PA - "Hawk Mountain is the world's first refuge for birds of prey. Open year-round, visitors enjoy scenic vistas, 8-miles of ridge and valley trails, a Visitor Center, Bookstore, and native plant garden, and each autumn, the chance to observe large numbers of hawks, eagle and falcons as they migrate past our lookouts. Operating as a non-profit eco-tourism site, your trail fee or membership dues directly support scientific research, public education and Sanctuary maintenance."
Kiptopeke State Park, VA - "Since 1963, Kiptopeke has been the site of bird population studies. Sponsored by the Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory and licensed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, volunteers capture, examine, weigh, band and release resident and migratory birds each year from mid-August through November. In the raptor research area, hawks, kestrels, osprey and other birds of prey are observed and banded from September through November. Kiptopeke’s hawk observatory is among the top 15 nationwide."

For more information about raptor migration and birding in New Jersey visit:

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