A Note from Our Chapter Chair
A Hopeful Story
Once faced with extinction, ospreys are making a strong comeback in New England.
Ten years ago, my husband and I went to Martha’s Vineyard and were delighted at an osprey sighting. Today, I can see a nest with newly hatched chicks from our Post Office parking lot near a marsh in the northeastern corner of Connecticut. There is even an online feed to watch them grow!
There are now hundreds of osprey nests along the Connecticut shore. In 2021, volunteers mapped 814 nests in Connecticut! If you’ve been to State Parks along the Sound, I’m sure you’ve seen the nesting boxes built to help the birds to recover after their numbers were ravaged by the toxic effects of DDT poisoning.
Check this Connecticut Audubon Osprey Nation Map to see if there are ospreys nesting near you.
Ospreys are large raptors with a wingspan of 50 to 71 inches. They are also known as “fish-hawks” because they live almost entirely on fish caught with their unique dive straight into the water, the only raptor to completely submerge when hunting their dinner! Ospreys return annually to their place of birth, to breed in the same nest, which may be reused for as long as 70 years. The male arrives in March, followed by his mate.
We visited the Great Island Refuge in Old Lyme to observe the many nesting families; there are approximately 150 ospreys in a 15-square-mile marshy island near the mouth of the Connecticut River. We learned about this spot from an episode of Nature, Season 40, Episode 2, Season of the Osprey.
The documentary follows one osprey pair, as they return separately from their winter home in the Amazon basin, a journey of 4,000 miles, to the same nest on Great Island where they have nested and raised their chicks for the past ten years. They rebuild their nest and their relationship, with the male fighting off competition for their choice location, above the reach of predators. He brings gifts of fish to woo his mate, culminating in the male’s “sky-dance,” flying dramatic arcs in the air, and diving to display his prowess in fishing, which will be a vital skill as his new family will solely depend on him for their sustenance. We see the female sit on the eggs for 37 days, watch the eggs hatch and the female tend the three chicks until they are ready to fledge. As the chicks become more independent the season ends, and the osprey begin their annual flight to the South once again.
What a fascinating look at this majestic bird, and a hopeful lens on wildlife in Connecticut.
If they can come back from the brink, maybe we can too!
P.S. I hope you are having a wonderful summer! We are busy planning activities for the Fall, and we’d love to see you at some of them, virtually or in-person. Check them out at Sierra Club Connecticut's Events & Outings, more being added all the time.
I’m excited about our Garden and House Party Fundraiser coming up on September 17th. You will visit a solar-powered home with heat pumps, three electric cars, and battery backup, and learn more about how you can electrify your home and transportation. In addition, the property was on this year's South Windsor Garden Tour and the plantings have a focus on pollinator habitat and native plantings for wildlife. Food. Drink. Legislative priorities. What more could you ask for? Hope you can join us!
Or do some feminist environmental summer reading with us in the ongoing, virtual All We Can Save Book Club
Susan Eastwood is Chapter Chair of Sierra Club Connecticut.