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.