With High Expectations, OspreyWatch Embarks on Second Year by J.R. Absher of The Birding Wire 3-6-2013 3-6-2013

As an ambitious project of The Center for Conservation Biology, an academic research group combining the resources of the College of William and Mary and the Virginia Commonwealth University, Project OspreyWatch was launched in 2012.


By harnessing the energy and enthusiasm of those persons with an inherent interest in ospreys, along with those with a special concern and awareness for the wetlands and aquatic environments on which the magnificent raptors rely, the initial goal of Project OspreyWatch was to accumulate important data from a global community of “citizen scientists” via the Internet.

In its first year of the project, more than 800 volunteers from five countries monitored an estimated 1,600 osprey nests. In addition to documenting the arrival of the adult ospreys returning from their wintering areas in the southern hemisphere, volunteers counted nestlings and recorded other data.

In preparation for the second year of OspreyWatch, The Center for Conservation Biology is sounding the call to Osprey Watchers everywhere to record and share their observations with a growing online community, in anticipation of a greatly expanded project for 2013. Volunteers are being recruited from local birding clubs, colleges and universities, and from the general public.

The stated mission of Project OspreyWatch is to bring “citizen scientists” together in order to collect information on a large enough spatial scale to be useful in addressing critical issues facing aquatic ecosystems, including depletion of fish stocks, and environmental contaminants.

Photographs from OspreyWatch 2012 volunteers, courtesy of The Center for Conservation Biology

Ospreys feed almost exclusively on live fish throughout their entire life cycle. As a primary consumer within aquatic ecosystems, this means they can be especially sensitive to both overfishing and environmental contaminants.

Of particular interest to the researchers from The Center for Conservation Biology, nearly all osprey populations breed in the northern latitudes and winter in the southern latitudes, effectively linking the aquatic health of the two hemispheres.

OspreyWatch utilizes a user-friendly Internet platform allowing participating observers across the globe to map their nests, log observations, upload photos, and interact within an online observer forum.

Information entered into the platform is immediately accessible to users and will be summarized following the breeding season.

To join community of osprey researchers for 2013, visit www.osprey-watch.org (don’t forget the hyphen!) and become an official OspreyWatcher and “citizen scientist!”

Even if you don’t reside in an area where ospreys nest, you might want to make regular visits to the OspreyWatch website to monitor the observations as they are logged in.

It’s almost as much fun as being there with binoculars!

– J.R. Absher
Editor, The Birding Wire

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