July 15, 2011

New Osprey Project Takes Flight

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center partners with PSNH to track Osprey

Holderness, N.H., July 12, 2011****Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) is supporting a new research and education project with the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center (SLNSC) focusing on tracking the international migrations and food foraging strategies of nesting Ospreys in New Hampshire. The information gained will help to focus conservation efforts where they are most needed.

Using lightweight, state-of-the-art solar powered satellite transmitters attached to the backs of juvenile Ospreys, interactive web based technology will allow near real-time virtual tracking of multiple Ospreys as they migrate from their nests in New Hampshire to South America and back. As envisioned, the five-year project will track up to 15 New Hampshire Ospreys.

Two transmitters will be deployed this week on youngsters at a nest at the PSNH Ayers Island Hydro Station in New Hampton. PSNH has a 24-hour webcam at this nest providing a spectacular view of the daily lives of these birds. New web pages created by SLNSC will allow anyone to view the incredible long distance journeys that lie ahead for these birds.

The new tracking project is led by Iain MacLeod, Executive Director of the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness. MacLeod has studied Ospreys for more than 30 years and has monitored the growing nesting population in the Lakes Region since 1997. In addition to PSNH support, MacLeod also gained project funding from the Jane B. Cook 1983 Charitable Trust and the Science Center’s own Innovative Project Fund. Chris Martin, senior biologist from NH Audubon, will serve as a Project Advisor.

“This project will allow us to track these birds continuously for up to three years as they migrate across the Equator, and is part of a larger New England-wide project spearheaded by Dr. Richard O. Bierregaard, a distinguished visiting research professor at the Department of Biology at the University of North Carolina,” said MacLeod. “Bierregaard has been studying Ospreys on Martha’s Vineyard for 42 years and holds extensive experience using this satellite tracking system. After 10 years, and more than 40 birds tagged, his project is providing much-needed data revealing migrational differences among Ospreys and helping pin down where threats to the birds lie,” added MacLeod.

The Osprey – sometimes called the “fish hawk”-- is a large fish-eating bird of prey. Bierregaard’s studies have shown that Ospreys are still shot while migrating through Cuba and Haiti – usually at fish farms – and at their wintering grounds in South America. Violent weather systems in the Caribbean are also a major threat to the birds.

PSNH has a long history of working to help bring Ospreys back to New Hampshire. Project Osprey was launched, in partnership with the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department and New Hampshire Audubon, in 2000 to work toward a full recovery of the state-threatened bird of prey. As part of the Osprey recovery, PSNH provided financial support as well as crews and equipment to erect 15 man-made nesting platforms for the Osprey. The platforms were critical for attracting Osprey into new areas of the state. Six years after Project Osprey began, Osprey numbers had doubled in New Hampshire. Setting new highs for the post-DDT era, Ospreys occupied 43 active nests, produced 62 young, and settled in four of New Hampshire's major watersheds in 2005. The New Hampshire Fish & Game Department removed the Osprey from its list of Endangered and Threatened Species on September 20, 2008.

To follow the latest updates on this Osprey project and follow the tagged birds, visit http://www.nhnature.org/osprey_project/overview.html and to view the PSNH Ayers Island OspreyCam, visit http://www.psnh.com/Environment/Osprey-Online.aspx.

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