The Osprey, the “fish hawk” of the Meadowlands, is one of New Jersey’s largest raptors and one that almost disappeared for good from New Jersey. According to the “Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey,” prior to 1950, over 500 osprey nests were found along the New Jersey coastline. By 1974, only about 50 nests remained. Loss of nesting sites and widespread food contamination by persistent pesticides (mostly DDT) caused the birds’ decline in New Jersey and throughout the eastern U.S. Consequently, the osprey was listed as “endangered” by the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife in 1974.
Thanks to the outlawing of DDT, having cleaner water and the wildlife management efforts of the New Jersey DEP, we were successful in restoring Osprey to the state, Today there are over 500 nesting pair. The Osprey is an incredible and magnificent bird that has returned to New Jersey and to our Meadowlands . Lucky for us there is a special man looking to help make sure these birds of prey stick around for all of us to enjoy. Jim Macaluso, the Osprey Man of the Meadowlands.
From Mill Creek Point and Laurel Hill in Hudson County to River Barge Park and Overpeck park in Bergen County, Jim Macaluso volunteers his time from early Spring to late fall to keep tabs on all the Osprey nests in the Meadowlands area.
“ I have the one nest in Teaneck, one near River Barge Park, one on Berry’s Creek, one on the Hackensack River , two at Dekorte Park, and a nest on the one on the radio tower across from Mill Creek Point. So that is six nests, all of which have either incubating birds on them or will be soon.” Jimmy Told me. “I also take the time check out reports from other birders on suspected nests, but many turn out to be false alarms.”
Jim’s reports go directly to the New Jersey DEP division of Fish & Wildlife, which help determine how the osprey are doing and what help they may need to keep their population healthy and happy in the Garden State
“I check on some nests almost every day,” Jimmy said, “from five minutes to an hour. Once it appears that eggs have hatched I spend more time observing. The other nests I get to once or twice a week, again for a short time each or I will just sit down and watch for an extended period of time. It is very relaxing. I start to watch in March, waiting for their arrival, and if they fledge young, I’ll watch through October.”
Volunteers like Jimmy are critical to the future of the Osprey and other endangered species. He lets the state biologists know right away of any threats to the nest, and he is the first in line to protect and defend the Osprey long before a state employee can respond .
Jim told me that besides the important data he is collecting he does delight in just observing the Osprey. “ I really enjoy watching for new behaviors. One thing that I’ve noticed this year for the first time is that they will snap off branches from both living and dead trees on the wing and bring them to the nest.
“I observed this behavior from both the River Barge birds and one of the pair at Dekorte. Of course I love watching them fish and it’s not unusual to have one pluck a fish out of the water right in front of me. I’ve seen eagles chase them to get them to drop a fish and then steal it. And they put on spectacular aerial displays when defending their nest from crows or other Ospreys.”
We cannot thank Jimmy enough for the all the days and hours he devotes to helping the Osprey “ I think all that all the data the volunteers gather is important because not only do we need to know how this once endangered species is doing, but also because their success or failure gives us an idea of how well the environment is doing here in the Meadowlands area,” Jimmy says.
“Perhaps the reason for the Teaneck’s pair’s limited success is because there are not enough fish in Overpeck to support a larger clutch. Or it could be that there is just too much human interference in its hunting range (very probable). I’ve noticed the Teaneck birds flying in from the direction of the Hudson with fish. That’s quite a long haul.”
All Jim’s observations are compiled on Osprey Watch for NJ Fish and Wildlife. He also keeps Gabrielle Bennett-Meany and Drew McQuade of the NJSEA informed on the all the nesting Osprey in the Meadowlands region.
Volunteerism is a vital key to protecting and preserving our endangered species here in New Jersey. We are very lucky to have such a dedicated and devoted person looking out for the future of our Osprey, the Osprey Man of the Meadowlands, Jim Macaluso.