Photo courtesy of Ben Wurst, Dominic Tumas and John Maschal

   The first osprey platform on Mordecai was erected by Nicholas “Nickie” Cotov, (a.k.a. Captain Bly) in 1994.  Captain Bly was well known in the area as a marina owner but also remembered for erecting many osprey platforms within the Barnegat Bay area to assist in repopulating this declining species.

The Mordecai platform, however, was never home to an active nest because it was located in an area on the island that was prone to predators. Over the years, the platform’s condition deteriorated and it became clear that it could no longer safely support the weight of a nest.

In 2016 Mordecai Land Trust (MLT) was approached by Ben Wurst of Conserve Wildlife, who wanted to remove the old platform and build a new one on the island. Under Ben’s guidance and with the assistance of members from MLT and ReClam the Bay, a new platform was erected in October 2016. The new platform, which can more easily prevent predation by its single pole construction, was installed more inland on the island on Mordecai’s east marsh and directly across from Cotov’s (Captain Bly’s) Dock on Holyoke Ave.

Photo by Michele M. Budd ©

The new location quickly attracted an unattached male in the spring of 2017. Although he did not find a mate, he continued defending the area throughout the summer. The male returned in April 2018, and could be heard cooing his mating call for hours until a female finally arrived. Aerial and fish-dangling courtship displays, called the “sky dance,” as well as an aggressive defense of the site was observed, before culminating in the rapid building of a massive twig nest on the top of the platform.

In remembrance of Captain Bly’s legacy and his commitment to the Mordecai Ospreys, the male was named Captain. His life-mate was named Belle, in honor of John Maschal’s long term service to MLT and his assistance in building the new platform.

A red auxiliary band (28/K) was placed on Buddy’s right leg so that she could be monitored by Project RedBand, a Conserve Wildlife Osprey management and conservation project. The head to tail black striping along the chick’s back, helped to age the chick at approximately 4 weeks old. Photo by Michele M. Budd ©

Mordecai’s first Osprey egg was laid between May 25-27, with hatching occurring near June 22, 2018. The chick, named Buddy, was seen popping its downy feathered head up from the nest on July 8th. On July 19th, Ben Wurst and Michele Budd surveyed the nest to tag the nestling with a federal USGS bird band and a red auxiliary “field readable” leg band (28/K) onto the right leg of the approximately 4-week old chick. At approximately 8 weeks old, a well-fed and healthy Buddy fledged on August 15th and befittingly took its first flight toward Cotov’s (Captain Bly’s) Dock.

 

Mordecai’s beautiful cove became the preferred location to practice flying and fishing. Fishing is taught by the male Osprey and Captain has proven to be an exceptional provider for his family throughout the egg’s incubation and his chick’s development. By the beginning of September, Buddy had become a skilled hunter. The downy feathers had also been shed and because of the new necklace of brown chest feathers, Buddy could now be identified as a female.

Photo by Michele M. Budd ©

Mordecai’s first Osprey family departed their salt marsh home during the week of September 10-14. Each followed their own southern migration toward Florida to the northern sections of South America, where they will winter independently from each other. Captain and Belle will return to Mordecai in the spring and refresh their old nest for their next brood. Buddy will spend her first year at her wintering grounds and then return north in her second year (within 100 miles of Mordecai), to find a mate and her own new nesting site.

Captain Bly’s vision of an active Osprey platform has finally become a reality and, due to their strong site fidelity to a safe location with plentiful fishing, Captain and Belle will continue to make Mordecai their home.

Additional Link:

To learn more about Project RedBand or to report an Osprey resighting, go to: http://www.conservewildlifenj.org/redband

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