South Coast Osprey Project — 2019 Field Season

One of the advantages of a long-term monitoring project is we can follow the success stories from year to year. We can also witness the many alternative trajectories, and consider the measures we might take to reduce negative impacts that the human-dominated world may have on an Osprey population and the coastal environment we all share.

We welcome enthusiasts to this project to share findings, celebrate success, and lend much-needed support!

2019 Season Data & Summary

2019 Osprey Breeding Totals for
Westport River & Allens Pond

Nests Surveyed 109
Active Breeding Pairs 98
Successful Nests 62
Total Eggs Laid 269
Total Eggs Hatched 174
Total Birds Fledged 107


Within our study area of the Westport River and Allens Pond, we counted a whopping total of 109 Osprey nests in 2019. However, unlike past years, more pairs were non-breeding—first timers, perhaps—or had chosen inaccessible nest sites such as tops of tall trees.

Our intrepid monitoring crew was able to get to 91 nests, of which 62 were successful in raising at least one fledged chick. This in fact represents a lower rate of productivity than in recent years despite more pairs making nests and producing eggs. From 269 eggs, only 65% survived to hatch. Similarly, only 61% of the 174 chicks survived to fly off the nest.

Why was it such a tough year? Most likely, it was the timing of stormy, wet weather in the spring and summer.

It takes the right combination of instinct, experience, and luck to keep little Ospreys warm and fed under adverse conditions. With the effects of climate change predicted to bring us more precipitation and cooler springs, Osprey parents are going to have to adapt along with the rest of us. Fortunately, our Osprey population is robust and growing and a few rough years won't make much difference to these long-lived birds.

Closeup of Osprey feet with two bands

The Benefits of Banding

How do we know they are long-lived? One piece of evidence is our banding project.

By placing a silver, metal band on chicks just before they can fly, we "tag" them to their origins. The next time this individual is encountered, we add that location and other details to their unique story.

The oldest bird we've encountered in Westport was 21-years-old, while another bird from our population was re-sighted elsewhere at age 25.

We place a second, colored band on just a few birds each year so we can more easily read it from a distance. Each re-sighting helps inform a little more about management directions, provides teachable stories, and offers research potential.

In 2019, we heard back about nine birds banded at our sites, ranging in age from 11 years (perished one week after rescue following an unknown incident at its nest) to just 4 months old (captured alive by camera, flying south along the shores of Long Island Sound in CT).

Of the others encountered, all deceased, two youngsters failed the gauntlet of their first migration (MD and FL), two met their end at airports, one may have tangled with fishing gear, and another appears to have intersected with a vehicle.

About the Program

We constantly learn more about the trials and triumphs of Osprey. With generous support from project sponsors, we also share what we learn by offering public programs, producing materials such as new educational banners, and engaging citizen scientists.

Equally important is the role donors and volunteers play in making sure we have the tools and skills we need to carry out the project.

Thanks to a major benefactor, we replaced the old engine on one Osprey skiff. Volunteers applied paint, caulk, and sealant to both project skiffs, as well as a new bottom for one. We also hired Katelyn Depot as Field Technician, and reaped the rewards of her two prior years of experience as our project intern. Read this article from the Wareham Week to learn about the recovery project Katelyn worked on in collaboration with the state of Illinois.

We are very grateful for all those who take part in helping this project succeed.