Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Osprey Project webpage

Juvenile ospreys in a hacking tower in North Jersey.
Photo courtesy NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Previously, we did not have a way of displaying information about this project with our members, volunteers, and supporters. Recently I got the opportunity to download some software to easily edit the Conserve Wildlife Foundation's website to display and highlight some of our "Conservation Projects." One of the featured projects is our Osprey Project.

As you may know the "Osprey Project" began in the early 1970's after the osprey population was decimated by habitat loss, persecution, and from the effects of DDT in the ecosystem. Since then, work by biologists with the Endangered and Nongame Species Program(ENSP) and volunteers have helped the population recover to near historic numbers. In 2009, 486 nesting pairs were observed and documented in New Jersey, a post-DDT milestone, and near the estimated 500 nesting pairs before the decline of the species in the 1940's.

Volunteer Joe Bilotta and my Dad, Steve and brother Andy Wurst
assist with the placement of two platforms at the Oyster Creek Generating
Station in Forked River, NJ in 2007. Photo courtesy Exelon-Oyster Creek.

I began work as a seasonal with the ENSP in May, 2004 after graduating from Unity College . I worked on a variety of projects, mostly with shorebirds and horseshoe crabs. Immediately, I was involved with posting beach closures to protect foragaing areas for migrating shorebirds and collecting egg samples from spawning horseshoe crabs to estimate egg density and availability to shorebirds. Then I began work with ospreys in late June after Kathy Clark, a supervising zoologist trained me on how to properly handle and band nestlings. Shortly after beginning my work with ospreys I immediately felt a connection to help this imperiled species in New Jersey. Over the next few years while working as a seasonal for the ENSP, I continued to work with ospreys. Other than banding, I conducted maintenance and installation of new artificial nesting platforms, with limited funding. I knew that I needed do something to help fund this project.

Banding a nestling at Forsythe NWR in 2009.
Photo by Johnathan Carlucci.

Since the beginning of my work with ospreys, I am now a full-time employee of Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ (CWF) and have significantly increased our role in the Osprey Project. Since we are a non-profit organization, we can seek and acquire private funding through donations and gifts to help fund the Osprey Project. Previously only limited funding was received by the state through State Wildlife Grants (SWG) from the federal government. Hardly any funding was dedicated to installing and repairing nesting platforms. Since I began working with CWF we have installed more than 50 nesting platforms, all with private donations and with help from many dedicated volunteers. We have raised over $10,000 in funding and we have watched ospreys numbers rise.

We have come along way, but our work never ends. Ospreys rely on us to provide suitable nest sites for them to successful reproduce. Nesting platforms need continual maintenance. Each year older platforms subside to the harsh conditions of the coastal salt-marshes. Screws rust, wood rots, and platforms blow over. Each summer when platforms are noted as being damaged, plans are made to repair and/or replace them. In the next few months we will be keeping busy. Many platforms are scheduled to be installed from areas in Monmouth County south to Cape May Point.

I encourage you to visit our website to get more information about our Osprey Project and I would like to thank you for following this blog.

I apologize for the lack in posts recently. Most of my work recently has been focused on habitat restoration projects. For more information about these projects, click here.

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

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