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October 9, 2020

Where Do the Ospreys Go?

Here one day, gone the next. Seemingly overnight, the ospreys that populate the Chesapeake Bay in abundance vanish without a trace. Gone is the classic ‘ee-ee-ee’ screech that echoes throughout the creeks and over the marshes as these magnificent hunters dive with pinpoint accuracy to capture unsuspecting fish in their talons.

This early fall phenomenon often goes un-noticed by summer recreationalists, myself included. However, spending roughly five hours on a boat twice a week well into October afforded me the opportunity to witness this transition. Motoring past empty nest stands during water quality monitoring, I wondered, where exactly do the ospreys go?

In researching the answer, I learned that many ospreys that breed in North America migrate south for the winter to South and Central America (though some reman closer to home or winter in Florida). With the aid of satellite trackers, researchers have been able to track this massive migration of around 14,000 miles in about 2 weeks- and during hurricane season no less! Ospreys mate for life, but travel to separate wintering grounds. In the spring, they will come back to the same nesting area year after year…imagine traveling 28,000 miles round trip with no map or cellphone to find your partner- an impressive feat! The largest threats posed during their venture are stormy conditions during open water travel and bird hunters.

I hope the ospreys are making the journey south safely and look forward to the return of these marvelous icons of the Chesapeake Bay next summer. Until then, I will be pondering how these birds managed to make better vacation plans than me.

-Chloe Obara (Chesapeake Conservation Corps 2020-21)