Second Chance for Young Osprey Born in Loveladies Marsh

Aug 30, 2017
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

From her desk in her home in Loveladies, Deb Traster can see the osprey platform, occupied by avian couple Jack and Wendy, that rises up from the marsh behind the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences. “I work from home, and I sit here at my window watching the nest,” she noted. Not long ago, Traster upgraded from binoculars to a telescope to sharpen her view of her raptor neighbors, which, this summer, included three chicks born to the osprey pair.

Late last month, aided by the focus of her telescope and assistance from Conserve Wildlife Foundation Habitat Program Manager Ben Wurst and local blogger and conservationist Northside Jim, Traster came to the rescue of the youngest of the juvenile ospreys.

After an early walk with her dogs on July 30, Traster gazed out at the nest, looking for five heads. “That morning, I didn’t see five,” which, she explained, wasn’t exactly cause for alarm, as Jack was often out hunting, and the two older juvenile ospreys had fledged and would occasionally leave and return to the nest.

However, through her telescope, Traster then spotted a little head bobbing on the marsh. “I could tell it was a bird in distress,” she explained.

She continued to monitor the situation, unsure of the type of bird and wondering if it was perhaps caught in fishing line. Eventually, she realized the bird was an osprey and that he seemed to be trying to fly away, but could not.

Traster emailed Wurst, who she’d heard speak about ospreys at the Foundation three years ago, when Jack and Wendy had a single baby, and Traster became hooked on the nest and its osprey family. She also notified the Long Beach Township Police Department, which said it would reach out to animal control.

Wurst soon contacted Traster and said a volunteer called Northside Jim would meet her at the marsh, while he advised for a bit over the telephone. When the duo got to the site, they realized the bird was the youngest of Jack and Wendy’s brood, tagged as Red Band 78 – otherwise known as Chump.

Jim, a North Beach resident, names all the birds that inhabit the nest in the LBIF marsh. Jack and Wendy are christened as such for the main characters in Stephen King’s The Shining, as they were “a really dysfunctional couple when they first arrived” in Loveladies. The pair’s single chick three years ago was called Danny, Jack and Wendy’s son in the horror novel. Last year, the pair had three babies – Larry, Larry and Larry – and this year’s trio was named Knuckles, Hoagie and Chump, after the cartoon pigs in a Disney short film.

Traster said she got Chump’s attention while Jim covered him with a towel and scooped him up. They then inspected him and deemed him relatively fine, if malnourished and a bit scabby. As Wurst explained, “Ospreys hatch in the order in which they’re laid. Chump was the runt,” and was therefore likely pushed aside at mealtime and otherwise bullied by his older siblings.

Wurst and Northside Jim – who often assists in installing and repairing osprey platforms, and has become a local animal rescuer par excellence, with guidance from his CWF pal and other stewards of the wild – had banded the osprey babies earlier this year. At the time, Knuckles and Hoagie looked healthy, but Chump, not so much.

“We believe that when he fledged, he didn’t have enough meat on his bones (to fly). He didn’t have enough energy,” said Wurst.

Once Jim had corralled Chump, he fed him a bit of fresh fluke from Boulevard Clams, then took him to Don Bonica of Toms River Avian Care. “Don is great,” said Jim. “He’s a phenomenal resource.”

Bonica determined that Chump didn’t need any surgical care. As Wurst noted, “Don was able to fatten him up, and he put him in the flight cage as well to make sure he could fly.”

After three weeks with Bonica, the young osprey was ready to leave his care. Last Thursday, Wurst picked up Chump and drove him to the LBIF marsh. Ospreys have nest fidelity, so he wanted to return him to his place of birth, although the bird may not necessarily return to the nest site.

“That morning there was a good breeze out of the north. The birds need a little headwind to get lift,” Wurst remarked. Osprey 78 took flight. “We sat in the blind there and watched” as the juvenile osprey, as well as his parents, soared above. “He was riding on some thermals,” said Wurst, “sailing around overhead.”

Wurst offered gratitude to Traster for her part in rescuing Chump: “She keeps an eye on her birds, and knew what to do, and made a difference.”

“The kudos really need to go to Ben for sharing his breadth of knowledge with the community, and informing the general public about this amazing resource, the marsh,” said Traster. “He does such an awesome job with the Conserve Wildlife Foundation.

“And kudos to Northside Jim for being as obsessive as I am about ospreys,” she said with a laugh. “He’s certainly an asset to this island.”

Jim, who blogs at his site Readings from the Northside – at – said what he loves most about the Island is “the wildlife, the natural part of it. … Through that, I’ve gotten really into conservation.

“I can’t walk by an injured animal and not help. My poor wife is concerned I’m becoming ‘The Bird Man of LBI.’”

The story, writ large, Jim noted, is that there are people in the neighborhood on the marsh, and elsewhere, who care about the animals that are part of the local community.

“These are our birds,” he said of the ospreys. The parents come back every year and raise their children here, just like many people on the Island.

Northside Jim relayed a story about a seagull who, he realized awhile ago, is a regular on his beach. One year, he noticed that seagull had brought his offspring to the beach “and taught them how to steal food from people,” as human parents stood their children on surfboards and dug holes with them in the sand.

As for the osprey kids, Traster and Northside Jim haven’t spotted any of the three juveniles recently. Ideally, now at three months old, Chump and his siblings are out catching their own food and growing stronger.

“Hopefully now he has a shot,” Traster said of the youngest osprey. “I do hope we see Red Band 78 again.”

Juliet Kaszas-Hoch

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