Around the Island

Bluebirds, eagles and ospreys — oh, my!

JAMES COLLIGAN PHOTO | A pair of bluebirds check out a nest box.
JAMES COLLIGAN PHOTO | A pair of bluebirds check out a nest box.

There is both good news and bad news for bird lovers at Mashomack. Under the bad news heading, the bout of cool, wet weather during the last week of April and first week of May has led to the deaths of numerous bluebird nestlings and eggs.

The Nestbox Project, led by Dr. Bill Zitek, carefully monitors each of 56 boxes around the preserve. As of late April there were 43 eggs in nine nests, but by May 5, five nests had lost 27 young, mainly the newly-hatched nestlings. While camera footage still needs to be analyzed, Bill attributes the loss to the weather: with the parents struggling to find enough insects for themselves, they were likely not as attentive as usual. Without the proper incubation or food, the young perished.

Luckily, no adults have died and bluebirds can “reclutch” or start a second brood.

By May 12, in just one week’s time, five new nests were in the works, two of which were in the boxes that had failed previously. These renests, along with the four original boxes with 14 young that survived the dreary weather, give Bill hope that we will still have a successful crop of bluebirds in 2016.

Ospreys, that poster child of the Peconic Bays, are doing quite well, thank you very much. Surveys done by Mashomack’s Natural Resources Manager Mike Scheibel shows 15 active nests, with ospreys actively incubating eggs. Most nests are on platforms, but there is also one in a tree, and another on Split Rock in Smith Cove. A walk along the Green Trail gives you a nice look down into that one. Mashomack also has an osprey cam trained on a nest in Bass Creek. While not yet available online, the staff can monitor the birds’ activities through a dedicated video stream in the office.

The big news on the preserve is that the pair of bald eagles, in residence since 2014, are once again proud parents. Two eaglets have been confirmed as of May 12. The nest, tucked away in the far reaches of the preserve, has proven quite prolific. In 2014 the pair raised two young, and last season they fledged three — a rare occurrence for eagles.

May is a great month to be outside, and is especially good for birding. Grab your binoculars, or borrow a pair from the Visitor Center and get in on the action!