The Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife is seeking volunteers interested in monitoring the state’s osprey population, with a volunteer orientation set for 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, March 31 at the St. Jones Research Reserve in Dover.

Nests are located throughout Delaware with the most concentrated osprey population in the Inland Bays. The Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program has been monitoring this population since the 1970s but in 2003 the project expanded to include other areas.

“The last volunteer orientation in 2007 yielded great interest from Delaware’s citizens and nest monitoring coverage could be found up and down the state. With the reporting of new nests, we know that Delaware’s osprey population has grown immensely, so assistance with monitoring is much-needed and will work in conjunction with the next statewide survey scheduled to be completed this year,” said Anthony Gonzon, Division of Fish and Wildlife biologist and osprey monitoring project coordinator.

Beginning about mid-March, osprey typically become a common sight, with nesting pairs returning to rebuild their nests from previous years. “For veteran volunteer monitors, seeing ‘their’ osprey return is a monumental occasion that begins their annual data recording period,” said Vickie Henderson, assistant project coordinator. “Observers collect data at least every other week and note everything from nest building to the juveniles’ first flight. When the osprey depart around late summer, monitors turn in their data.”

“Division of Fish and Wildlife relies on these volunteers to help monitor Delaware’s osprey population each year,” Gonzon said. “Data they collect adds to a better understanding of osprey arrival dates, nest success and other aspects of osprey biology in the state. This knowledge enhances the state’s periodic surveys and supports conservation decisions for osprey. Data gathered about this majestic bird also is indicative of environmental health. Because ospreys are high on the food chain and eat fish that may accumulate toxins, their status and nesting success can foretell problems that also may affect humans.”

Ideally, volunteers should monitor nests near their work or home or be willing to drive to their nest often. They should also have access to email for reporting their findings as well as receiving updates about the project and details about other nesting sites throughout the state.

Volunteers who plan to attend the orientation and know of an existing nest that they would like to monitor should bring location information with them. During the orientation, project coordinator Gonzon will briefly describe the history of osprey in Delaware, protocols in place for the project and the direction the project is taking.

The orientation is offered free of charge, but preregistration is encouraged. For further information about the Citizen Osprey Monitoring Program, or to register for the orientation, please contact Vickie Henderson at 302-735-8657 or email Vickie.Henderson@state.de.us

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