Monday, October 1, 2012

Osprey Platform Raised at the Reservoir!

Since the Manasquan Reservoir was completed in 1990, Osprey were always a big part of the seasonal rhythm at the park, arriving in early March (around St. Patrick’s Day) and leaving in late August or September. Before the Bald Eagle’s arrival in 2001 the Osprey, and their nests, were a mainstay of our public boat tours. We could normally count on between five to six nests during the season. The Osprey are masterful nest builders (the males build the nests) utilizing the dead trees and, in one case, a wooden tree stand.

About six or seven years ago a platform was built behind the main dam. This platform was not visible from the trail, but was not considered an issue. The Osprey had plenty of dead trees to pick from and seemed able to build their nests even, in one case, on a short stump. However, the number of Osprey having successful nests began to drop yearly. Although Naturalist staff noticed the trend, we all hoped it was just the normal ebb and flow of life; the veteran adults dying off and being replaced by much less practiced pairs who found building on the increasingly fragile dead trees an impossible challenge. It was sad to see them attempt to build a nest only to have the first spring storm destroy it before they had even finished.

For the past two years, it proved to be an impossible challenge and no Osprey nested directly on the reservoir. They visited and we would see them now and again, but for the first time in 20 years we had no visible nesting pairs on the reservoir. The Naturalist staff determined that a platform would be needed and with the generous support of Monmouth County Audubon the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey was contacted and agreed to install a nest at the reservoir.

On September 19, staff and volunteers from the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey joined with Park System Naturalists to erect a platform near the Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center. The installation needed to take place when the reservoir was at its lowest level, which this year ended up being only around three feet below full capacity. Installing the nest in deeper water was felt to be impossible and even installing it in a foot of water proved a challenge. Luckily all went well and our hope is that a pair will find the location and platform to their liking. Now it is up to the Osprey and we will be awaiting their return next March with a mixture of hope and apprehension. Visit the Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center, Howell, to learn more about the Osprey and our new platform!

Staff Contributor: Christopher Lanza, Senior Park Naturalist