By Kevin Lynam, Center Volunteer
This was my first year ever volunteering for the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays’ citizen science surveys, and I feel blessed to have had a chance to experience wildlife and our local osprey population through this experience, which for me, was incredibly moving and fascinating.
Over the last few months, I had lots of fun checking on about 13 osprey nests along both Pilottown Road in Lewes and at the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment campus. Checking those nests taught me how calculated and swift these creatures are. I watched as the males would often do much of the hunting and defending of the nest, especially once the female had taken to roosting and protecting her clutch of offspring. They are also such effective hunters that they can catch not one, but TWO fish simultaneously!!
Before volunteering, I had absolutely no idea how large and healthy the osprey population is in the Delaware and Maryland coastal regions. I am a local photographer and spend a lot of time outdoors, but volunteering to collect the data scientists need to study these animals offered a unique experience for me. (You can check out the photos I took during the survey and many more in the Cape Region by visiting my Facebook page at facebook.com/KevinLynamPhotography.)
I also was not aware of the constant threats to these animals like wind, other predators like eagles and owls, as well as man made threats like over-development, pesticides, and residential and agricultural fertilizer runoff. The survey helped me get an up-close and personal understanding of these stunning creatures: Their beauty, their tenacity, and how likeable they are. Ospreys are true sea hawks, eating only fish, and constantly looking out for each other and their offspring. The loveable birds also breed for life. They are also excellent builders, too, as many build huge nests annually on really high posts and structures to protect their young from predators, and to protect themselves from weather and intense winds. The survey has helped me gain a new perspective on a bird that I had not had much experience or engagement with previously.
Watching them in action, in their natural state, was truly impressive. But beyond making an impression on me that’s helped increase my respect for this species, the experience of just observing this magnificent wildlife has helped me truly realize the importance of healthy Bays and the ocean for the balance of the world, as a global ecosystem.
The Center’s Osprey Survey also has helped me better grasp how we are all interconnected with nature, wildlife, and the planet because of the choices we make. As Newton’s 3rd law states: “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Mankind is at a point where we must consider how our actions will impact the Earth. We must also change our most destructive behaviors that are so detrimental to the planet and wildlife like the osprey, such as plastic pollution. Now is the time when our actions will determine the legacy we leave behind for future generations. I, for one, will always choose nature, as it is a place of comfort and beauty for me … but also a place of great hope.
It is no secret that Earth’s most valuable resources are water, wildlife, light, and love. Not precious metals, not stuff. Without our precious resources, the world as we know it would be a much more bleak and less beautiful place. The ecosystems we rely on will fail if we keep taking them for granted, and the Earth could experience another mass extinction or worse. That is why the Center’s citizen science surveys that collect information about ospreys, horseshoe crabs, fish, blue crabs, and diamondback terrapins are so vital to keep track of our wildlife, so that we can better understand how to restore and protect such ecosystems. We want to leave a small footprint so that other generations will be able to appreciate and enjoy these species and places, in the same capacity that we currently do.
I truly had a blast doing the Osprey survey this year, and I’m looking forward to seeing many of these beautiful birds back again and enjoying our Bays this time next year. It was fun to learn about these animals, and keep a watchful eye to make sure they make it through the summer before heading back down South to overwinter.
If you are interested in doing surveys next year, make sure to sign up as a volunteer now and keep your eyes open for those opportunities! I know I’ll be back to help study our ospreys again next year!
Learn more about volunteering with the Center at inlandbays.org/volunteer.