AUGUSTA, Maine — Like the swallows that return to San Juan Capistrano, Calif., and the buzzards that return to Hinckley, Ohio, the osprey have returned to Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park, Freeport, according to park officials.
A male osprey, or fish hawk, landed at Googins Island on Tuesday night, unpacked his bags and made himself at home on his nest, Park Manager Andy Hutchinson announced Wednesday in a Maine Department of Conservation press release.
“He looked like a new arrival,” Hutchinson said, “and the neighbors came by to check him out.”
As Hutchinson watched the osprey, which appears to be the same male of two pairs that annually return to the state park, three immature bald eagles flew by in formation and checked out the newcomer.
“I’ve never seen that before,” said Hutchinson, a well-known naturalist. “Perhaps they were siblings from a nearby nest. When they got too close, he took off and went right after them.”
The popular seacoast park has had two nesting pairs of osprey for some years. The birds, which can be easily viewed by park visitors, have been a regular favorite attraction at the Freeport park, which is owned and managed by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, under the Maine Department of Conservation.
The return of the two resident pair of osprey is a sure sign of spring. The birds mate for life and spend the winter separately in more southern climes, such as Brazil. The male’s arrival is right on schedule, showing up as expected during the last week of March to the first week of April, Hutchinson said. The female should arrive in the next week, he said, to be followed in succession by the other male and female.
One pair always returns to the nest high in a pine on Googins Island, just off the park’s shore, while the other pair nests in a tree on the mainland. The island nest is “pretty intact,” with no winter damage, Hutchinson said. Pretty soon the male will begin to add twigs to the nest; then the pair will mate, with the female laying two to three eggs. Both birds rotate the eggs and sit on them and take turns bringing back food to the nest. Both parents later hunt for food to feed the newly hatched chicks.
The ospreys’ arrival is just in time for the park’s first “Osprey Watch” interpretive program, said Hutchinson. A spotting scope will be set up. The event will be held 2-3 p.m., Sunday, April 8. For more information, call the park at: (207) 865-4465.
The second annual “Feathers Over Freeport,” an all-ages birding event featuring numerous activities, will be held the weekend of April 28-29 at both Wolfe’s Neck Woods and Bradbury Mountain state parks. An osprey watch will be part of the activities.