Bay Journal

The birds are back in town: Ospreys on the Anacostia

  • By Whitney Pipkin on March 26, 2014
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Photos of ospreys taken near the Anacostia River this past year. (Provided by Earth Conservation Corps) Photos of ospreys taken near the Anacostia River this past year. (Provided by Earth Conservation Corps)

After a sunny vacation in South America, the iconic ospreys are coming home to the Chesapeake Bay. Of particular interest — at least to bird-deprived city dwellers — are the ospreys that have for years made their home in D.C. along the Anacostia River.

The birds come back like clockwork around March 15 each year, and this year was no exception. But that doesn’t mean bird watchers will see them at their nests quite yet.

Daryl Wallace with the Earth Conservation Corps said the ospreys often take two to three weeks to return to or rebuild their nests after arriving in the area.

Wallace said he’s seen that the birds are in the area on the electronic tracking system, but he hasn’t seen them in person yet. This is the second year that the ECC has been able to track the birds during their winter migration with telemetry devices that send signals about their whereabouts.

“We’ve been working a little more on connecting technology with the environment and conservation and thought it would be really interesting to see where these ospreys go, because they come back every year,” said Kellie Bolinder, ECC’s executive director.

Wallace said the birds might not nest this year in the same spot that they have in the past. The Department of Transportation removed four of their nests from under the South Capitol Street Bridge during construction while they were gone, so osprey fans aren’t sure where they’ll be able to sight them next.

“We’ll probably have to give them another week or so to see if they come back to the same spot,” Wallace said in an email. “If not, we will have to use the GPS technology to find out where they are for the photos.”

He and corps members lead educational programs with the birds in D.C. schools after they’ve returned. The tracking program has provided a way for students and bird watchers to follow the ospreys throughout the winter.

The project has been a boon for students who learned about the birds or saw them in person on the Anacostia River. The Corps also received funding to maintain an “osprey cam” that provided live video feeds of the birds’ nests. It hasn’t been quite as popular as the National Zoo’s panda cam, but that all seems to depend on how cute the bird’s babies might be this year.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation also tracks some ospreys that call Port Isobel Island home. Those birds are on their way back as well and can be tracked here.

The Chesapeake Conservancy operates a popular osprey cam which lets you observe the daily activities of a pair of ospreys as they produce eggs and rear their chicks which can be viewed here.

Bird watchers in D.C. are rooting for the ospreys to set up shop at their traditional nests along the Anacostia River, where they’ve come to be a symbol of its improving ecosystem.

“It’s really a hopeful sign to have these here,” Bollinder said of the ospreys. “For the community to understand that this river that has such a bad reputation as far as pollution… it’s clean enough to sustain life.”

About Whitney Pipkin
Whitney Pipkin writes at the intersection of food, agriculture and the environment from her home base in Northern Virginia. Her work for the Bay Journal often focuses on the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, and she is a fellow of the Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
Read more articles by Whitney Pipkin


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