The ospreys are back, the ospreys are back
People from across Martha's Vineyard joined together on Saturday to celebrate the arrival of the fish hawks at the 16th annual Osprey Festival at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown. Under sunny skies that provided reasonable warmth, more than 200 people enjoyed guided walks, educational talks, crafts, live music, up-close encounters with live birds, and generous supplies of food and baked goods.
Photo by Tim Johnson
On Tuesday, just days before the event, the male osprey returned to his nest at Felix Neck; the female flew in the following day. Suzan Bellincampi, Executive Director at Felix Neck, said she was excited and relieved to see the "stars of the show" return just in time for the Osprey Festival.
It's nothing short of a miracle that ospreys migrate to South America in the winter months, and return to Martha's Vineyard in early spring to reclaim their old nests. The nesting pair at Felix Neck is just one of approximately 70 others expected to nest on Martha's Vineyard this year.
In 1969 there was just one nesting pair of ospreys on Martha's Vineyard. Thanks to the efforts of Gus Ben David, former executive director of Felix Neck, and a host of other volunteers, landowners, and the electric company, 135 nest poles have been erected on Martha's Vineyard. The osprey population on Martha's Vineyard is now the second largest in all of New England.
Dick Jennings and David Nash were on hand at the festival to discuss monitoring and migration. Both men have dedicated their time to help monitor the ospreys on Martha's Vineyard. They talked about how the decline in the herring population in recent years is a major problem affecting the birds. While ospreys will eat flounder, scup, and other fish, herring has a higher fat content and is a better source of nutrition. Mr. Nash also spoke about the need for additional volunteers to help monitor osprey nests across Martha's Vineyard, including counting fledglings by observing feedings.
Birder Dick Jennings works with Richard Bierregaard, a leading osprey researcher from North Carolina who has ties to Martha's Vineyard. Mr. Jennings told the audience that with the help of Mr. Bierregaard, a local team is planning to put satellite transmitters on three fledglings in the late summer. If the pair at Felix Neck is successful in producing a healthy offspring, they plan to tag it.
In 2007, young Felix was monitored with a transmitter, but unfortunately the bird's signal was lost in Costa Rica. Another bird named Conomo, who was tagged in Lobsterville in the same year, has been tracked recently fishing in a reservoir on the eastern end of Cuba.