Operation Osprey: 7.20.2023

Published: July 20, 2023

Introducing … The Leaning (Osprey) Tower of Chase Creek

Osprey Date – 7.20.23: These are the early days of SRA’s Osprey Navy, whose mission it is to discover and track all the osprey nests in the Severn River. 

   

It’s Stage One of Operation Osprey – to create a river-wide inventory of osprey nest living in our watershed. There is also a major educational component to Operation Osprey, to engage and educate students and volunteers about osprey and their dependence on the health of the Severn River. 

Armed with binoculars, a camera and the naked eye, our small Osprey Navy team shoved off on a warm July morning. 

With volunteer Boat Captain, Dan Bernstein, at the helm, SRA’s Program Officer, Tom Guay, tracking and keeping records and local photographer, Karen Guay, capturing the excitement, our team headed out on SRA’s research vessel, Sea Girl, to see what they could see. 

The osprey did not disappoint! First stop: Chase Creek, where the team found a family of three deep inside the southern fork. 

This family set up home on the leaning tower of Osprey Platforms. That’s the fledgling in the nest (at right). 

As we drifted by, Mom and Dad osprey were in the trees nearby yelling out warning calls for the young one to get low and safe in the nest. 

Eventually, the youngster took a test flight over the creek and disappeared in the trees.

There was, sadly, nobody at home in the other Chase Creek osprey platform, which is a tall, well-built platform in the Pines On The Severn living shoreline area. And nobody was at home on the channel marker outside Chase Creek either (see image at left above)

The Learning Experience 

For this time of year, there should have been young in both nests, either fledglings from an early-spring birth or chicks/nestlings from a later June birth. 

Without young, single, and unsuccessful osprey pairs leave their nests and migrate south earlier than osprey with youngers to raise. Since a mom osprey will not leave the nest when she’s raising chicks, an empty nest is a sign that there are no young to raise this year. 

There is an occupied nest on channel marker 4 outside of Brewer Creek. We chased him/her away when we nosed in too close trying to get a better look (picture below)

The team had better observational luck in Clements and Saltworks Creeks. 

Each featured two osprey platform nests with a mix of single juveniles, brother and sister fledglings and even a mom and her two youngsters in the nest in the shallow headwaters of Saltworks Creek (picture below). 

There also could be osprey nests in the trees, but these are obscured by the wonderfully thick foliage of these forested shorelines. 

At this time of year, juvenile ospreys are nearly as big as their parents and just getting ready for their first flights. 

Here are some of the fledglings the team found on Clements and Saltworks Creeks: 

 

Our primary goal this summer is to track all osprey nests by their local address (i.e., GPS coordinates). Once we have their addresses, we can subdivide the river into small sections for volunteers to help track osprey activity at each nest.

SRA is tracking the osprey population as a bioindicator of the health of the Severn River because these sea hawks only eat fish from the river. If their population declines, it could be an indicator of problems that need to be investigated. 

Photos: Karen Guay

Special thanks to BGE and the Great Schooner Race Foundation for supporting Operation Osprey!

To join our Osprey Navy in spring 2024 to help with the osprey census, contact SRA’s Program Officer, Tom Guay at taguay@severnriver.org