To see an Osprey dive for food from a height of up to 40 metres is a spectacular and unique viewing opportunity. At the top of the aquatic food web, ospreys are birds of prey like eagles, hawks and falcons. Almost eagle sized, Ospreys weigh 1.5 – 2.0 kg, with a wingspan of 1.6 metres.

The 1960s and early 1970s were periods of critical population decline for Great Lakes Ospreys. Osprey numbers along much of the Atlantic coast of the United States also crashed at this time. Canada’s Great Lake populations declined most significantly.

A single pesticide, DDT, appears to have been largely responsible for the dramatic population declines in Ospreys and many other bird species. DDT breaks down into DDE, which is the substance identified as the cause of eggshell thinning and reproduction failure in Osprey’s and other birds of prey.

Since 1972, DDT use had been banned or severely restricted, and Ospreys have slowly bounded back. Staff at Island Lake Conservation Area erected Osprey nesting platforms in September, 2003, and the first nesting attempts by Osprey were in April 2004. This resulted in a pair of Osprey raising two young successfully.

osprey flyingThis platform provides a safe place for Osprey to nest with ample amount of food nearby for their young. Osprey typically build their nests atop tall, semi-isolated structures, which often lead to nesting on man-made structures such as antennas and utility poles. Their nests are built from things such as sticks, driftwood, seaweed, and other materials. When they return sometime after all the ice on the lake has melted they are faced with the task of adding new materials to the nest they have been using for years, in preparation for their eggs. Since Osprey mate for life and are very territorial, they have returned to this platform at Island Lake every year.

Can you guess when Island Lake’s Ospreys will return this spring? Enter your contact information and your Osprey return date in the spaces provided. The person who enters the correct return date will win an annual “Our Credit” CVC Family Membership valid for 10 Conservation Areas operated by CVC.

Entries will be accepted until March 31, 2012; 11:59 pm. For information about the Osprey and the contest visit: http://www.creditvalleyca.ca/enjoy-the-outdoors/conservation-areas/island-lake-conservation-area/osprey-watch-at-island-lake/.

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