Osprey Project

Objective

The objective of the study is five-fold: 1.) Determine if scavenging behavior of coastal Ospreys is more consistent than past research claims 2.) Study the diet and feeding habits of Ospreys 3.) Use Ospreys as indicators to determine ecosystem health of Sandy Hook bay/shore area 4.) Capture and document images/official sightings of Osprey scavenging behavior 5.) Study Osprey vocalizations during their development (not well documented)

Meeting

Mon 10am and Thursday 10am

Students

Mentor(s)

Blog

Week 7

July, 11 2019


Discoveries

This week was used solely to gather information, review all data and footage and prepare to present all my findings

Shortfalls

  • One camera was left on site for two weeks, with over a thousand videos collected. Unfortunately, the night it was placed on a tree, what appears to be an opossum displaced the camera, causing the osprey nest to be out of view for the remainder of the videos

Errors

  • One camera was removed from where it was posted by the NJ Sea Grant Consortium
  • Fortunately after contacting the NJ Sea Grant Consortium, the trap cam has been located and will be mailed back to me shortly.

Corrections

  • Finding more suitable locations for setting up trap cams
  • Checking usability of videos and data recorded more frequently to avoid wasting time looking through hours of unusable footage
  • Re-evaluating all footage to try to find any new information that can be used towards publication

Week 6

July, 04 2019


Discoveries

  • After putting more research into the ‘scouting’ behavior I observed, I learned that there is already a more general term for when birds do this; it is called “sentinel behavior”
  • Although previously not known for this, new research is proposing that Ospreys can act as sentinel birds
  • In fact, according to the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, “OSPREY: WORLDWIDE SENTINEL SPECIES FOR ASSESSING AND MONITORING ENVIRONMENTAL CONTAMINATION IN RIVERS, LAKES, RESERVOIRS, AND ESTUARIES”
  • Not only are ospreys sentinels for the environment, but they act as sentinels for their families and possibly for neighboring osprey families as well
  • More data would be needed to prove this sentinel behavior

Corrections

  • Leaving cameras up until next week, rather than taking them down to look at footage, hoping this will allow me to catch more usable footage

Week 5

June, 27 2019


Discoveries

  • New behavior observed
  • Parent osprey, assumed to be male parent osprey due to size, will leave the nest to fly to a nearby highpoint
  • The parent osprey then proceeds to scan and scout out the area for any potential threats, occasionally relaying messages back to the parent osprey still in the nest
  • Coined the term Scouting behavior to describe this phenomena
  • Appears to be used only by the male parent Osprey

Corrections

  • Hoping to be able to wrap up this project by week one of the Summer II session

Week 4

June, 20 2019


Discoveries

  • Female parent osprey will give warning calls when she feels there is a threat nearby
  • Some nests seem more habituated to humans; for instance, the ospreys in nests closer to the main road of sandy hook were less likely to give warning calls as I approached their territory, compared to the nests that were further from human activity
  • These ospreys could be older, more experienced pairs, or
  • This is possibly due to the fact that Sandy Hook now offers rentals of some of the buildings that either have, or are next to, the osprey nests, giving these ospreys more exposure and therefore leaving them more habituated
  • More data would be needed to prove this difference in behavior between pairs

In addition

  • Typically only hunt in the morning not at night
  • Birds observed building nest and returning with twigs and other materials for the rest of the day

Shortfalls

  • One osprey was observed returning with a large item to the nest, but it is unclear if item was a fish or a piece of seaweed

Errors

  • Batteries were not fully pushed in

Corrections

  • Reach out to more park rangers on obtaining osprey population data
  • Set up cameras earlier in the day, being mindful of angles and direction of the sun

Week 3

June, 13 2019


Discoveries

  • No visible activity at night
  • Comfortable with the presence of other smaller birds
  • New possible theory: ospreys prefer chimneys due to stability and less accessibility to nocturnal scavengers, due to the difficulty of climbing bricks (would need data from previous years to confirm this)

In addition

  • Data is available on Osprey populations from previous years, but access is not available to the public
  • According to the National Park Services, “Habitat: Fresh and saltwater, shallow water estuaries, lakes, and rivers.
  • Nest on platforms, buoys, chimneys, and dead trees.” However current observational data show Ospreys nesting almost exclusively in chimneys, with the exception of one manmade pole
  • More observational data would be needed to prove Osprey’s preference for chimneys and avoidance of artificial manmade platforms

Shortfalls

  • Due to the unavailability of visible activity of scavenging behavior, as well as abundance of fish in this area, my hypothesis that Ospreys scavenge no longer has any viable potential to be proven.
  • When trap cam is pointed directly at the Sun, the glare ends up distracting from most of the footage
  • Not enough high points to get a better view of nestlings
  • Not enough usable footage, trap cam settings must be further adjusted

Errors

  • Camera 2’s SD card was out of place and therefore no footage was taken.
  • Camera 3 along with its SD card was stolen

Corrections

  • Double check that all cameras have SD cards pushed in
  • Can disprove information on Osprey nesting choices by capturing enough images/footage of chimney nests

Still need

  • Osprey population data
  • Better vantage points

Week 2

June, 06 2019


Discoveries

  • Two more active Osprey nests were found in the chimneys of Fort Hancock’s old housing, at the tip of the hook, resulting in a total of four active nests discovered
  • Common theme of preference for chimneys over manmade nesting posts, possibly for stability, security, or closer to food source.
  • More vultures were spotted feeding on dead bird, fish and deer carcasses.
  • Nests that appeared empty on the last expedition now had Osprey pairs, suggesting that either the parents stay out of the nest for long periods of time, or that Ospreys are still pairing up and breeding well into the month of June.
  • Certain buildings have easy to reach, clear-viewed locations where Ospreys can be observed, more to be discovered

In addition

  • Male and female osprey parents can be differentiated from one another by which bird brings food (males) and which bird tries to solicit food through begging calls (females).

Shortfalls

  • Long island that takes time to navigate
  • Ospreys are condensed at the far end of the island, requiring further travel
  • Information on Osprey (and vulture and deer) population numbers from previous years is kept by park rangers, but is not accessible to the public

Errors

  • Only one of the three trap cameras had accessible, working SD cards
  • The one working SD card captured a day’s worth of footage but the footage was mostly blocked my branches
  • The one working trap cam also was set to daytime mode, did not capture nighttime footage as intended

Corrections

  • More trap cams
  • Batteries (and sim cards) for all trap cams
  • Only set up trap cams at visibly active sites
  • Leave trap cams for longer duration
  • Edit trap cam settings to record for longer periods of time rather than short intervals
  • Set all trap cams to 24-hr instead of day mode
  • Try to record any Osprey/Vulture interactions, as well as Osprey/nocturnal animal interactions and developing Ospreys’ vocalizations

Still need

  • Batteries
  • Trap cams
  • SD cards
  • Gloves
  • Measuring tape

Week 1

May, 31 2019


Discoveries

  • All (2) active Osprey nests were found in the chimneys of Fort Hancock’s old housing, at the tip of the hook
  • The manmade nests that were created for them are further inland, and, for some reason, are vacant, suggesting there’s a reason the Ospreys are not nesting there. Ospreys typically do not live in colonies and prefer to be spread out from their ‘neighbors’, and yet they are moving more and more towards the tip of sandy hook and away from the rest of the island.
  • Near the vacant Osprey nests were an abundance of vultures, at least 4 or 5, feeding on dead bird and fish carcasses.
  • One Osprey was seen flying above the area of the vacant Osprey nest and the feeding vultures, appearing to be scoping it out, but never landed in the area.

In addition

  • Male and female Ospreys are difficult to distinguish from one another, so rather than referring to mother or father Ospreys, they will be referred to as parent Ospreys
  • Osprey vocalizations sound almost paedomorphic (The parent Osprey’s vocalizations were originally thought to be chicks cheeping)
  • Baby Osprey vocalizations are raspier, less clear, and higher pitched

Shortfalls

  • Long island that takes time to navigate
  • Ospreys are condensed at the far end of the island, requiring further travel
  • Ospreys are nested in chimneys taller than any surrounding trees, further investigation will be required to find sufficient locations to place the trap cams

Errors

  • Only two of the three trap cameras were working
  • Set up a trap cam at a vacant nest for hours
  • Only set up one trap cam at an active nesting site, but not for a sufficient time to properly document their behavior

Corrections

  • More trap cams
  • Batteries (and sim cards) for all trap cams
  • Only set up trap cams at visibly active sites
  • Leave trap cams for longer duration
  • Edit trap cam settings to record for longer periods of time rather than short intervals
  • Try to record any Osprey/Vulture interactions, as well as developing Ospreys’ vocalizations

Still need

  • Batteries
  • More trap cams
  • Gloves
  • Measuring tape
  • Sim card reader