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Nest watchers needed for osprey season

By Staff | Jan 3, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED An osprey with three chicks on its nest.

A volunteer opportunity will soon be underway for those who enjoy watching osprey.

The International Osprey Foundation introductory and sign-up meeting for volunteer nest watchers for the January through May nesting season will be held at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 7, at the Community House, 2173 Periwinkle Way.

Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP by calling International Osprey Foundation Volunteer Nest Watch Coordinator Carol Smith at (815) 474-9281.

Smith said the meeting is being held for their osprey monitors, as well as going over the goals of the association and introducing new board members. She said CROW Hospital Office & Admissions Manager Shelli Albright will also be in attendance to talk about their re-nesting process when osprey chicks are found on the ground.

Smith said the first step is to find the nest. When the nest cannot be found, the lost chick is placed with osprey chicks of similiar size and age.

The foundation, who is always seeking volunteers, currently has approximately 22.

“We hope to continue to expand to include more nests as we identify nests,” Smith said. “We are in the process of reorganizing, adding some things, so our monitoring is more accurate.”

The organization, which began in the early 70s, originally started as a response to the plummeting numbers of osprey due to DDT use.

“Eagles and other raptor population was decreasing because eggs would break,” she said.

Unfortunately last year was a bad nesting season. Although there is no definitive answer as to why, Smith said it appears that catching fish is part of the osprey’s matting ritual. She said the osprey is catching fish for their mate in the nest.

“They want someone that brings home a lot of fish,” Smith said.

With the fish population at a decrease because of the red tide last year, she said the osprey did not have enough nutritional level to produce some of the hormones necessary to lay eggs.

“We had pairs on the nest,” Smith said. “They appeared they would have chicks, but didn’t have many chicks. It was the lowest production of chicks in our recorded history.”

Only 18 chicks fledged on Sanibel from 73 nests monitored.

Volunteers are needed to go out and check on the osprey nests every two weeks. A checklist will be given to the volunteer as they look for osprey in the given area. As the season progresses the volunteer will look for signs of the osprey laying eggs, as well as counting the chicks and monitoring when they fledge.

Smith said it takes about three to four months for the osprey to go from eggs to fledging.

If monitoring nests is not a job of interest, but individuals are still interested in volunteering for the International Osprey Foundation, there are other areas to be filled. Smith said individuals can learn about the organization and represent the organization at outreach activities.