Martha’s Vineyard osprey are multiplying

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Osprey often nest on Martha's Vineyard.

The osprey population of the Vineyard was bountiful this year, the 21st annual osprey census showed.

“A record high of 100 active nests were observed,” Suzan Bellincampi, Mass Audubon sanctuary director at Felix Neck, wrote in a release. “At these nests, early estimates show that 133 osprey young have fledged, again a record. In addition, there were at least four housekeeping pairs (adult birds that are seeking and beginning to build a nest, but did not complete the nest and lay eggs). With the adults, unpaired osprey, and fledglings, there were more than 327 osprey in the air over the Island.”

The effort to count, monitor, and record osprey breeding success is a monumental task, considering there are 223 active and inactive osprey poles and nesting structures on the Vineyard — a tremendous increase from the 1970s. Some 41 volunteers logged more than 2,400 hours to realize this year’s census, she wrote.

Bellincampi told The Times the robust population is indicative of ample habitat, food supply, and nesting areas.

“It’s an incredible success story,” she said. She pointed out the birds crawled back from the brink of extinction in the 1960s and 1970s when use of the pesticide DDT was prevalent.

She credited legendary naturalist Gus Ben David, her predecessor at Felix Neck, with helping osprey recover on-Island by beginning a campaign to erect nesting poles decades ago.