Osprey Hero: Livin’ The Dream

I want you to close your eyes and picture what an “Osprey Hero” might look like. Just relax, and see something that represents what that phrase might mean to you. Now open your eyes.

MEEEEEHHHH! YOU’RE WRONG! I’ll show you exactly what an Osprey Hero looks like…

Ladies & Gents: Meet Ben Wurtz, Osprey Hero
Ladies & Gents: Meet Ben Wurst, Osprey Hero

While Ben’s last name can be confusing at first, I am going to assure you: he is one of the absolute best guys you’ll ever encounter. Ben is part of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey and the man at the NJ Osprey Project. Ben truly lives the dream, traveling all throughout our coast minding to our resident Osprey.  If you see a band on an Osprey’s leg, Ben probably put it there.  If you see a sharply built Osprey stand, Ben probably built it.

Except this one. This super dicey looking thing is old school.
Except this one. This super dicey looking thing is old school. Notice how the Osprey play Jenga with their nest.
Bandeded me furst Ben! No, bandeded ME furst Ben!!!11!!
“Bandeded me furst Ben! No, bandeded ME furst Ben!!!11!!” Don’t worry little fellas: Ben loves you all.

Due to the somewhat “public” nature of Internets, it has been hard for me to hide my Osprey Obsession. People always say to me, “Dude, if you love Osprey so much, just go over to the Bay. There’s nests all over the place.” For me though, that’s not the point, plus I’m kind of scared of the Bay because it is super scary.

But when I got an offer to ride along with Ben as he conducts the 2013 Osprey Census, it was an opportunity of a whole ‘nuther magnitude. The opportunity to roll up and down Barnegat Bay’s Northside with an Osprey Hero was just too awesome to miss.

And I'd never miss the chance to come face to face with my Camera's Nemesis: The Mighty Osprey
I’d never miss the chance to come face to face with my Camera’s Nemesis: The Mighty Osprey
Mah parentz hate you.... so I hatez you.
“Mah parentz hate you…. so I hatez you.” This bird is so young it still has egg on its face. Not really, but that little white thing on it’s beak is what she used to bust out of the egg. It’ll fall off soon.

It was a joy to see, firsthand, that LBI’s Osprey are having a banner year. Many nests are packed with healthy chicks, and we found previously unproductive nests gettin’ busy. It also appears that Sandy did far less damage to the somewhat fragile stands than might have been expected.

On top of the world: With Osprey
On top of the world: With Osprey
But we found some unproductiveness too. This egg is dead so Ben collects it for testing. Remember, it was the Osprey egg failures that showed us that DDT was so bad. You can thank the Osprey that you and all your spawn aren't dead from DDT right now.
But we found some unproductiveness too. This egg is dead so Ben collects it for testing. Remember, it was the Osprey egg failures that showed us how bad DDT was. You can thank the Osprey that you and all your spawn aren’t dead from DDT right now. Thanks Osprey! And thanks Ben!

It was quite a sight to get up close and personal with the might Osprey, climbing up rickety stands in fly infested marshes while the Osprey dived bombed and tried to rip our faces off. All in a day’s work for Ben!

Gives a whole new meaning to "Osprey, comin' in HOT!"
Gives a whole new meaning to “Osprey, comin’ in HOT!”
Osprey mate in pairs, but act in colonies. Mama flips out first, and then Dad if he's around, then all kinds of Osprey show up to join the dive bombing mayhem.
Osprey mate in pairs, but act in colonies. Mama flips out first, and then Dad if he’s around, then all kinds of Osprey show up to join the dive bombing mayhem.
Dad comin' in hot, to Dive Bomb Ben with a half-finished lunch
Dad comin’ in hot, to Dive Bomb Ben with a half-finished lunch
Dats my kuzin over there, coming to dive bomb yer face. U better leave and don't bandeded me.
Dats my kuzin over there, coming to dive bomb yer face. U better leave and don’t bandeded me.
Ben has to tune out a lot of Osprey (and photographer) nonsense to get the job done. Ben had to beg me a skabillion times to get back in the boat so we could keep moving.
Ben has to tune out a lot of Osprey (and photographer) nonsense to get the job done. Ben had to beg me a skabillion times to get back in the boat so we could keep moving.

It’s one thing to love wildlife. It’s a whole different story to devote yourself to helping these creatures in the way people like Ben do. You really have to wonder where great people like Ben Wurst come from. Interestingly, we know exactly where he came from. He’s part of the family behind the Amazing Barnegat Animal Clinic who helped us save a Cheezit last year. It is truly an honor to know these people.

Fluffy Puffy Osprey Pile
Fluffy Puffy Osprey Pile

I took 2,961 photos today. Good golly. The only way to get through this is to just start posting a new series every few days called something like “Overdoing it with the Osprey from Awesome Ben Field Trip Day” or something. We’ll use it as a first ever opportunity for Readings From The Northside. An opportunity to nag you. I have been your dutiful servant for years, bringing you amateur photos, nonsense commentary, and made-up science almost daily. I’m going to ask for something in return.

I want you to donate something to the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, and make sure they know that it is for the NJ Osprey Project. You can even specify Barnegat Bay. Give what you can, give in a way that feels meaningful. If you can go big, go big.

I want you to help the NJ Osprey Project because the work they do is important. But also importantly, I want you to help me because I’m important. You see, Ben does not only do the hard work: he is passionate about the Osprey and constantly trying to push our programs to the next level. There are 3 projects we talked about while getting dive bomb by angry Osprey that Readings From The Northside wants to see become a reality:

#1 Colored Secondary Leg Bands

These colorful leg bands would allow photographers and birders to actually identify individual birds local to their area. I NEED THIS!!!! MAKE THIS HAPPEN. These are the kind we used to bust Chotchkie last summer.

#2 Satellite Tags

Please, please, please help put our local Osprey on the cutting edge. Make them the iPhone 6 of Osprey by helping them get a some satellite tags so the birds can be tracked from Barnegat Bay to as far off as South America during the migration, and back again. We need to know what our Osprey are up to.

#3 Coloring Book

I’ve rarely met a person on the beach who knows what an Osprey is. But once they do, they’re into them. Osprey are cool. The NJ Osprey Project dreams of creating some simple materials in the form of coloring books or simple brochures to help introduce the LBI humanz to the Osprey.

I can haz oranj krayonz? (for mah eyez)
I can haz oranj krayonz? (for mah eyez)

Please start writing checks furiously to http://www.conservewildlifenj.org/ and make sure to tell them you are giving them money because Ben Wurst is an Osprey Hero, and that Readings From The Northside needs the Osprey in North Beach to have colored secondary leg bands so we can name the Osprey and make all the gratuitious Osprey shots slightly less boring.