A Very Special Garden Club of LBI House Tour

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As the full moon sets over the Mainland…
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And the sun’s first light hits the water…
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Ben Wurst arrives at his favorite Osprey nest in Barnegat Bay
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Now Ben shouldn’t be playing favorites, but this really is a very special nest. You might remember it from last season, featured in the 2016 Reading Oh! Na-tu-raal! This natural Osprey nest was formed by two very determined and resourceful adult Osprey in a rickety snag on a shallow sandbar in the middle of the Bay.
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You can’t even mention Barnegat Bay to Ben without him saying, “Hey, we should go check on the natural nest!” It doesn’t matter how sunburned or exhausted or dehydrated he might be after doing an eight hour census of Osprey nests in the Bay, or how much leisure time he might be enjoying fishing in the Bay with his family…. Ben will inevitably say, “Hey, before we go home, just one more thing… let’s go check on the natural nest!” Sure, its cool and beautiful; but it is also extremely dicey. His concern for this unique nest is well founded; not only is it ecologically precarious, but the poor birds nesting here face constant, daily, human disturbance and harassment. When the tide is low, the sandbar on which the nest sits is a favorite place for vacationers to park their boats, play some frisbee, swim their dogs, and drink some beers. Amazingly, the two adults and two babies seem to somehow have survived the chaos… again!
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House Tour: “Welcome to mah cribz! This is where the magic happens!”
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But this visit is doubly, even triply, even quadruply special. For today not only have the the two 2017 Natural Babies, Haus & Toor, survived, but they will now join Project Red Band as Red Band “00-H” and Red Band “01-H.”
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That may sound like gibberish to you, but what it means is that Haus & Toor are the 201st & 202nd Red Banded Osprey in Barnegat Bay. That’s quite an achievement.
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And making this occasion even more super special is the fact the “00-H” and “01-H” are the first Red Bands in the new set of bands lovingly donated to the NJ Osprey Project by The Garden Club of LBI. Project Red Band is a very, very special project in Barnegat Bay. It only exists by, and for, our local community to get to know more about our Osprey neighbors and how they use our Bay. The interest, the kindness, and the generosity of the Garden Club of LBI can’t be overstated. The Garden Club of LBI proves once again: they are good neighbors. I don’t think it is coincidence that Ben timed the banding of these very special birds, at this very special nest, with these very special bands.
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I tried to get Toor to say a special thank you to the Garden Club of LBI. This is the best I could do. Sorry. I suppose that’s pretty good for an Osprey. So, Thank You!

This is a great time of year to hit the beach and look for Red Bands from the comfort of your beach chair. It is usually during this last week of July when you will see the new crop of Osprey fledges, who have only just learned to fly, being led by their parents from the Bay to the Ocean for the first time.

I don’t know of any science to back this up, but what I observe every year on LBI during this week is this: on warmer days, especially with clean, west winds, you can observe groups of adult & juvenile Osprey “kettling” from the Bay to the Ocean. “Kettling” is the term, I think, for when birds soar high, in large circles, on currents of air which give them lift. There is almost zero flappity-flap involved. Just wings spread wide, traveling across the Island in large, slow circles, from the Bay, to the Ocean, and back again. If you watch these groups with binoculars, you will usually see one or two adults, and a few juveniles. My impression has always been that these are families and that the parents are taking them to the beach for their first big adventure.

Soon after, in early August, you will start to see the braver, fledgling Osprey attempt fishing in the surf. It is both beautiful and comical as the young Osprey have zero idea what they are doing and so they fish with all the grace of an overweight Pelican.

Juvenile Osprey are easily recognized by the striking contrast in their feathers; their dark feathers still have very light, buff colored tips. They literally glow with beauty. You can also recognize them by how terrible they are at fishing. But easiest of all, you can recognize them on LBI by their bright red bands, easily visible with the naked eye and field-readable with some cheap binoculars.

So pack those binocs and start watching. This is one of the funnest times of the year to feed your Osprey Fever from the beach. Enjoy it while it lasts. In just a month these babies will make a mysterious and perilous journey to South America. And we won’t see these beauties again until they return about two years from now. That is, if they survive.

But we’ll know for certain when our friends & neighbors have returned thanks to Project Red Band, and the generosity of The Garden Club of LBI.

Please, please, pretty please, join the good neighbors at the Garden Club of LBI and show a little love to the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey with a tax deductible donation to support Ben’s work & Project Red Band. This has been a season of epic motivation & good fortune, with a record number of Red Bands deployed in the Bay. They’re gonna need more; STAT! It’s the best part of the Osprey Recovery in Barnegat Bay: they just keep making more babies.

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Sunreyes. Sunrise in the Osprey’s Eyeball. I totally stole the idea for this piece from Ben Wurst. Sorry.