They’re Back….the Ospreys That Is

“In a month, one of the most recognized birds on the Chesapeake Bay, will make its way back to our area.

Though the brown and white birds are often mistaken for eagles, the osprey is smaller, its black bracelets (marks on its wrists), and crook in its wing as it flies clearly distinguishes it from other birds of prey, explains U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist Pete McGowan.

Sadly, in the early 1970’s, ospreys, also known as fish hawks since they dine nearly exclusively on fish, were nearly wiped out by the pesticide DDT. Fortunately, the birds have made a comeback since the pesticide was banned. Today, they are found on all continents, except Antarctica, proudly perching on the sides of their huge nests of jumbled sticks. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Chesapeake, where the abundance of osprey has led to the Bay being called the “”Osprey Garden of the World.” Now, trash poses a threat to the well-being of these magnificent birds.

McGowan, who has been studying osprey for years with colleagues from the U.S. Geological Survey’sPatuxent Wildlife Research Center, believes that half, or more, of all osprey nests on the Bay and surrounding rivers contain fishing line or similar cordage material.

He encourages people to properly dispose of their fishing gear and debris and offers the following tips:
Safely stow or throw away any unused fishing line, tackle, and other trash so that birds and other animals will not become entangled in these materials. “Potential for entanglement is high,” notes McGowan, “And often causes injury or death.”

* Recycle monofilament line when feasible.
* If fishing line is to be discarded, take it home and cut it into small pieces first; then dispose of it in a trashcan.
* Do not throw any plastic—or pieces of plastic—into the water.
If you find fishing line, balloon ribbon, kite string, rope, plastic, or other debris that may harm wildlife, dispose of it properly.

A children’s story honoring McGowan’s contribution to the osprey, Osprey Adventure (Tidewater Publishers, 2008), by Maryland author Jennifer Keats Curtis helps children (ages 5-11) was recently published and is being hailed for its simple, non-judgmental moral: anglers can reduce the injuries or deaths to wildlife by properly discarding or recycling fishing line and hooks.

Curtis was inspired to write the book after she saw McGowan’s “Angler Alert: Fishing Line can Kill” sign when she went to fish off of a local pier and followed the sign back to the man who was posting them. After that, she joined McGowan for nest surveys so that she could understand how the birds were being threatened and what kids could do to help. Osprey Adventure is a realistic nonfiction that uses McGowan’s research as its basis.

As these birds make their way back to the Bay, tips on keeping them safe may prove crucial to their survival. For more tips on the birds and details on the book, please visit www.ospreybook.com.

A writer for a decade, Curtis’ previous books include the ASPCA Henry Bergh finalist Turtles In My Sandbox and MCTELA award winner Oshus and Shelly Save the Bay. Her forthcoming book Baby Owl’s Rescue will debut later this year. Osprey Adventure is available in bookstores and online everywhere. With “props” in hand, Curtis regularly visits area preschools and elementary schools to talk to children about Bay animals, Bay heroes, and what they can do to help them.

For more information or to request a presentation, please contact Jennifer Keats Curtis at 410.626.7657 orjcurtis@cablespeed.com.

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