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April 27, 2011

Today was a frustrating day for the osprey.

First, I saw Frank and Margaret flying around their nest very agitated.  Then, I saw why they were agitated—there were two men removing the eggs from their nest. The two osprey eggs were physically removed from the nest this morning at the marina’s request by the US Fish and Wildlife. 


The two men from US Fish and Wildlife had been asked to remove the eggs from the nest so the marina could move the boat.  The osprey had made a nest in the high bridge.  I was glad to see the marina take the appropriate steps to have the eggs removed, but it was still very frustrating to watch them take the eggs away.  It was especially hard to watch Margaret sit in her now empty nest.  

After meeting the guys at the pier, Jennifer and I had the opportunity to go out on the DNR boat and watch them place the eggs into two other osprey nests in the South River.   I try to think of the silver lining in this situation, the eggs will survive and Frank and Margaret will survive.  However, I won’t be able to watch the eggs hatch or see the chicks grow. 

This whole experience got me thinking an osprey doesn’t need to be on the endangered species list in order for us to protect it.  Under the Federal Migratory Bird Act, ospreys are federally protected birds.  They are not endangered birds, but they are still protected.  Why is it then important to protect them even if they are not endangered?  Well that’s just it, if we didn’t protect them, then they would become endangered.  During the 50s and 60s, the osprey population was close to extinction due to the use of DDT.  DDT made eggshells thin and weak and when the females were sitting their eggs, the eggs would crack and the young would die.  It wasn’t until the 1970s that DDT was banned and the osprey population started to make a comeback.  DDT had a huge impact on the osprey population in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. 

To bring the subject home to the South River Watershed, DNR says, there are 30 pairs of osprey nesting in our watershed.  That is a total of 60 birds.  Today, someone said, “I see lots of osprey, why do we even need to protect them.”  The DNR representative had a great answer to this question.  When you are seeing ospreys, you are seeing the entire population.  They are not like other birds, who can live near the water, in the woods, or in the fields.  Osprey have a very specific living area.  So again, when you see osprey on the water, you are seeing their ENTIRE population.  In the case of the South River, we have 60,000 people in our watershed and we have 60 osprey.  That is a ratio of 1:1,000.  We have one osprey per one-thousand people. 

Doesn’t seem like a lot of osprey when you come down to it.  It is important to protect these creatures and help them thrive.  They are an integral part of the watershed ecosystem and we need them to have a healthy South River. 

April 26, 2011

I'm 99% sure that over the weekend Margaret laid eggs.  Since I can't see into their nest, I can't be 100% sure, but she hasn't left her nest all day.  It seems to me, she is keeping those eggs warm.  We shall see what happens in 5 to six weeks.

April 8, 2011

Ever since we’ve moved to our new office, I’ve been watching the wildlife that is in and around Gingerville Creek.  I’ve been especially watching the two ospreys that have taken up residence in one of the flying bridges of a boat.    

Growing up in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, I have seen my fair share of ospreys, but this is different.  From my office window, I get the opportunity to observe their daily behavior and it is fascinating!  Since not everyone gets the chance to watch ospreys at such a close distance, I thought it would be fun to write a blog about their activities.  Frankly, I’ve grown quite fond of them. 

I started observing when the male showed up in Gingerville Creek.  He was perched in one of the trees outside of Erik’s office.  He would sit there for most of the day, leaving to take a quick trip around the river or to catch a fish, but for the most part it looked like he was waiting for someone.  And he was!  A few days later his lady friend showed up and they have begun building their nest. 

Being an osprey cannot be easy; every day brings a different challenge..  They have been building their nest little bit at a time.  Each day the male bird brings back branches of all sizes for her to use in their nest.  It’s fun to watch her decide what branches are best.  For example, if she likes it, then they will work the branch into their nest.  If she doesn’t like it, she will push it off their perch as if to say, “I don’t like it, go find me a new one!” 

They face other challenges, from eagles and crows encroaching in on their territory to human disturbances, such as boat traffic, construction, or human interference.  I can tell when activity is going on outside because they will begin to “talk” at loud volumes.  Now I’m not expert at osprey language, but there is a difference between their calls.  You can tell when they are calling to each other or when they are upset.  The almost hysterical chirping means something is going on that doesn’t make them happy! 

He has just brought back another branch, and we will see if she likes it or not.  I will be blogging about their status so check back soon for recent activity. 

For more background information on ospreys, check out these websites:





April 13, 2011

After the first blog, I realized these osprey needed names—they have a lot of personality!  After watching them, the names Frank and Margaret popped into my head.  I looked outside again and watched her meticulously place a stick in the nest, while he sat perched high on the boat; on full alert for any predators.  So, it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Frank & Margaret!

Frank and Margaret have been very busy with nest building.  Their nest has grown significantly over the weekend and this week.  After doing some research, I found that average nests are 1 to 2 feet deep, and can range from 3 to 6 feet in diameter!  From my window, it looks like they have built two nests—one on top of each other.  Ospreys are known to build more than one nest in their territory, but this seems a little close.  I’m thinking Frank has given Margaret a selection of twigs to choose from for building their nest.  During the nesting season, they will continuously repair the nest with these extra twigs and branches.

Since Frank and Margaret have taken up residence in the flying bridge of one of the boats, I was curious to know more about the rules & regulations of osprey nest building.  Can you remove a nest?  What happens to the property after the nest becomes “active”, meaning eggs are present in the nest.  After a slight mishap with human interference with the ospreys, I was even more curious to know the rules.    

I talked to Diana, South RIVERKEEPER®, who talked to Peter, our local osprey connection, and this is what they had to say about nest rules & regulations.   

Ospreys, as with most birds found in the United States, are protected by both state and federal laws. The arrival of spring in the Chesapeake Bay also means the arrival of ospreys, who are seeking suitable nesting sites for the remainder of spring and summer. Once almost an extirpated species in the Chesapeake Bay region, ospreys are now a commonly observed species, with approximately 3,600 nesting pairs in the region. Unfortunately, ospreys that nest in the Chesapeake Bay region nest mostly on man-made structures such as duck blinds, power poles, navigational markers, nest platforms, and, in this case, a flying bridge of a boat. 

Such nesting sites can be frustrating to property owners. Under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), osprey are a protected species. Protection includes their nests, eggs, and young. Under federal law, osprey nests can be removed from private property before any eggs or young are present in the nest, however, once eggs or young are present in the nest (early April through July/August), the nest can no longer be removed or disturbed. If a property owner has an osprey nesting on their property, and the nest contains eggs or young, then the property owner must apply for a federal MBTA permit to remove the nest.  They can do this by contacting the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service's Office of Migratory Birds at 413-253-8577.  If someone sees human disturbance to an active osprey nest they should report activities to the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Enforcement Coalition Hotline (CBEEC) at 1-800-377-5879, a 24 hour manned hotline.  CBEEC is a coalition of state and federal law enforcement agencies responsible for enforcing environmental regulations in the Chesapeake Bay region.

I enjoy watching Frank and Margaret build their nest piece by piece.  I never realized the intricate process they take in building their home.  I look forward to seeing what happens next in “As the World Turns—Osprey Style.”  

Last week, Erik went into Annapolis to lobby in support of HB 1034, better known to me as the “bag bill.”  When I found this out, my interest was perked and I wanted to find out more information.  When it comes down to it, the gist of the bill is to reduce the amount of plastic bags that end up as trash in Maryland’s waterways, like the South River. 

Already, Washington D.C. has instituted a 5 cent tax on bags and it has had positive impacts on both the environment and business fronts.  I was reading over some of the stats and the figures were quite impressive.  For example, before the bill passed in D.C. plastic bags accounted for 47% of trash in the Anacostia River.  After the bill passed, 66% fewer bags were pulled from the Anacostia River in 2010 versus 2009.  Next, the number of plastic bags sold dropped from 270 million in 2009 to 55 million in 2010 that is an 80% reduction.  Since there was a concern that the bag tax would affect businesses, it was interesting to find out that 78% of businesses reported that the bag bill had either a positive effect or no effect at all on business. 

With Project Clean Stream this Saturday, it will be interesting to see the amount of bags we pull out from behind Home Depot.  I know it might sound funny to say “I like this tax”, but I do.  In my opinion, the bill will make people think twice.  They might think, do I really need this bag or maybe they will take into consideration the environmental impact bags have on the waterways and the wildlife living in it.  Either way, it makes a consumer pause and think even if it’s just for a moment. 

If you’re interested in finding out more information on the bill click here to read the entire HB 1034 bill or check out the Sierra Club website for more information on ways you can contact your representative.