An osprey nest built before the 2019 summer season has attracted the birds of prey for a fifth season, with the parents having migrated to the borough a few weeks ago and the tell-tale chirps of hatchlings heard for the first time this week.
The nest, built at the municipal marina by the Seaside Park Environmental Committee, is located on an elevated platform near the shoreline and away from predators. It’s also tucked back in a wooded area to prevent disturbances by humans, and dogs are not allowed near the platform. The osprey was federally endangered for decades, a victim of DDT usage, and remains a threatened species in New Jersey despite having been removed from the federal list. The species’ resurgence – especially at the Jersey Shore – has been heralded as a major success.
There were several adult osprey observed flying at dusk Wednesday night, including one who checked on the nest periodically, one time dropping off a freshly-caught fish. Two osprey often keep watch from the channel markers just outside the marina entrance during the day, taking off to hunt around sunset. Chirps could be heard from a safe distance Wednesday, and every so often, a baby would pop its head up over the edge of the platform to take a look at the local surroundings. By the end of summer, the babies will be hunting for fish on their own.
According to the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, results of the 2022 New Jersey Osprey Project Survey documented the largest-ever number of nesting ospreys in the history of the project. Surveys by staff and loyal volunteers recorded a total of 733 occupied nests throughout the state, 83 percent of which were along the Atlantic coast (the remainder were near Delaware Bay). Of those nests, 555 were tracked all season, and shown to have produced 720 young during the summer. Though this number was low comparative to recent years, the Shore area saw a number of storms last spring and an extended period of adverse weather, which could have contributed to the reduced number of offspring, the report said.
“Despite the reduced productivity last year, we continue to see the osprey population thrive and expand range,” the report said.
Human-built osprey nest platforms are a common sight at the Jersey Shore, though channel markers along the length of Barnegat Bay have been home to some of the largest nests recorded. A man-made nest at Island Beach State Park even has a popular webcam attached.
“We have talked as a committee for a while about adding one here in Seaside Park,” said Jane Mason, a committee member, at the council meeting in 2018 when the nest was proposed. “We’ve done a lot of research and talked about it for a long time.”
The talk ultimately resulted in the construction of the nest – and a happy family of osprey calling it home once again in 2023.