North Fork Bob and the majority of his fellow ospreys had not yet left their nests in South America when the first few birds were spotted in local neighborhoods last month. But now the North Fork’s most famous fish hawk is on his way back to his summer digs.
Bob, a tagged osprey whose migration patterns have been tracked by ornithologist Rob Bierregaard since 2011, left the balmy temperatures of the Venezuelan highlands on March 30, eight days after his 2014 departure date. He was in eastern Cuba on April 5 and in the southeastern portion of the U.S. on April 15.
“Typically they leave around St. Patrick’s Day,” Bierregaard, a Drexel University research associate who has been studying the fish hawks since 1971, told us last month. He operates the website ospreytrax.com, where visitors can view interactive maps tracking the real-time migration of 14 tagged ospreys, including North Fork Bob.
The roughly 3,500-mile journey from Venezuela to the Northeast takes the ospreys about three weeks to complete, he said. Last year, North Fork Bob left South America March 23 and arrived on the East End April 12.
Orient resident Karen Rich spotted an osprey on her backyard nest in mid-March. And falconer Chris Paparo of Calverton told us last month he saw two ospreys on the South Fork’s southern side on March 13.
“Both were on the north side of Shinnecock Bay,” Paparo said. “One was right off Montauk Highway and the other was down by Old Ford Pond, near Stony Brook Southampton.”
Paparo, who had stepped out for a lunch break when he spotted the ospreys, joked that maybe the birds he saw were novices when it comes to migrating.
“Maybe they’re younger birds that made their migration not realizing how cold it is up here,” he said with a laugh. At any rate, Paparo said, he welcomes the ospreys’ return. “It’s definitely a sign of spring. Once they get here, the fish aren’t far behind.”
As a species, Bierregaard said ospreys, whose U.S. population dropped to just 100 or so pairs in the 1960s because of widespread use of the now banned pesticide DDT, have made a great comeback.
Today, there are between 25,000 and 30,000 pairs in the U.S., he said.
“Now there are more ospreys in the country than there were before DDT,” he said.