DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife seeks volunteers for Delaware Citizen Osprey Monitoring Program

Division of Fish & Wildlife to hold training workshops March 5 and 6

DOVER – Delaware’s Division of Fish & Wildlife is seeking volunteers to participate in this year’s Delaware Citizen Osprey Monitoring Program. Ospreys build distinctive nests on nesting platforms, utility and other tall poles or trees, the nests often prominently visible along many Delaware waterways, especially Sussex County’s Inland Bays. These majestic raptors depend on a healthy and abundant food supply, and since their diet consists primarily of fish, annually monitoring their population and activities statewide provides a good indication of water quality and the general health of Delaware’s waterways.

This year, the Division of Fish & Wildlife is merging Delaware’s Citizen Osprey Monitoring Program with OspreyWatch, a worldwide osprey monitoring program operated in the U.S. through the Center for Conservation Biology (CCB) in Virginia. Volunteers will monitor osprey nesting activity at assigned nest sites throughout the breeding season, which lasts from mid-March through the end of August, and will enter their data online using the CCB OspreyWatch website.

For those interested in helping to collect osprey nesting data, the Division of Fish & Wildlife will hold two training workshops for volunteer osprey monitors:

  • Saturday, March 5, 1-3 p.m. – Nature Center at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, located off Route 9 east of Smyrna at 2591 Whitehall Neck Road, Smyrna, DE 19977
  • Sunday, March 6, 1-3 p.m. – DNREC Shoreline & Waterway Services Facility, 901 Pilottown Road, Lewes, DE 19958

Volunteers need attend only one of the training workshops.

Osprey populations throughout the United States suffered serious decline in the 1950s and 60s, largely due to the effects of DDT, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and other chemical contaminants. DDT and most PCB uses were banned in the 1970s, and – despite some residual contamination in the environment – osprey populations have recovered markedly. In the early 1990s, to assist their recovery, the Delmarva Ornithological Society partnered with the Division of Fish & Wildlife and other organizations and took the lead in constructing, installing, repairing and replacing osprey nesting platforms throughout the state.

Before 2003, the Division of Fish & Wildlife conducted osprey surveys in the Inland Bays and Nanticoke River areas where osprey populations were traditionally the highest. That year, statewide surveys began as a result of an increase in osprey sightings.

“Delaware’s osprey population is on the rise, so volunteer assistance with nest monitoring is definitely needed,” said Wildlife Biologist Kate Fleming of Fish & Wildlife’s Wildlife Species Conservation and Research Program. “The contributions of our volunteer monitors allow us to document breeding activity and milestones that we wouldn’t be able to collect otherwise.”

Ospreys will become a common sight beginning around mid-March, with nesting pairs returning and starting to rebuild their nests. Veteran monitors anxiously await the first signs of the ospreys’ return to begin recording data at least every other week. Observers note osprey activities from nest building to the juveniles’ first flight to the departure of adults and juveniles in late summer.

“Ideally, volunteers should monitor nests near their work or home or be willing to drive to their monitored nest often,” Fleming said, noting they also need internet access to report their findings as well as to receive updates about the project and details about other nesting sites throughout the state. “We are so excited to be merging with the CCB program to help us improve our data management capabilities, and we expect it to be a lot more fun for the volunteers too.”

Volunteers who know of an existing nest that they would like to monitor are encouraged to bring location information with them to the osprey monitoring training workshop. Volunteers will be matched with nests via email the week following the training workshop. Nest assignments will be based on preferences provided at the training workshop.

Preregistration for the orientation is required. To preregister, or to find out more about volunteering for the Citizen Osprey Monitoring Program, please contact Vickie Henderson at 302-735-8657, or email Vickie.Henderson@delaware.gov. Information is also available by visiting Citizen Osprey Monitoring Program.

Media Contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 46, No. 47