Ospreys sighted in Menemsha

Another welcome sign of spring.

In an annual rite of spring, ospreys have begun returning from South America, and have been spotted around the Vineyard. — File photo by Julian K. Robinson

Some people get excited about tree frogs, and some people get excited about ospreys. Not to be outdone by the peeper crowd, Julian Pepper of Edgartown called last Wednesday and said he saw an osprey near Quitsa in Chilmark.

Ospreys are also known as fish hawks; Mr. Pepper, a well-known recreational fisherman with a good share of Derby plaques, shares similar skills for finding fish.

The osprey’s annual arrival from South America is cause for celebration. Only four decades ago the birds had nearly disappeared from Martha’s Vineyard. A massive effort to revitalize the osprey population resulted in their numbers increasing from only two pairs in 1970 to more than 70 pairs today. Most reside on nesting platforms atop tall poles erected as part of the Felix Neck Osprey Project begun by Gus Ben David in 1971.

The osprey lines his big nest with seaweed and scavenged materials, and feeds exclusively on fish, diving feet-first from high aloft to catch his meal.