By Molly Weeks Crumbley
Now that winter has crept away from Chesapeake Country, not only do warmer temperatures and longer days return, but Maryland also welcomes its ospreys back home.
Ospreys are one of the largest species of raptor in North America, and the Chesapeake Bay Program reports that a quarter of the entire United States population nests in the Bay region. Though the number of ospreys dwindled significantly in the 1970s—an estimated low of 1,450 breeding pairs—due to the widespread use of pesticides, their population has rebounded and even thrived in recent years.
It is currently estimated that the Chesapeake Bay region hosts as many as 10,000 breeding pairs, who typically return to Maryland in March and remain until late summer. Spotting the distinctive brown and white bird wheeling over the water or gathering sticks for its nest means that warm days are well and truly on the horizon.
For the first time ever, Southern Maryland is welcoming the birds back with a festival in their honor: the Maryland Osprey and Nature Festival. The family-friendly event will have opportunities for guests to learn about Maryland’s seafood-hunting raptors through events like bird walks led by Audubon guides, lectures from wildlife experts, raptor demonstrations, and the chance to see the birds up close.
This kind of interactive public outreach is the driving force behind the festival, which was conceived as a response to the public outrage that reverberated through the region last summer when two osprey chicks were removed from a Lusby park and subsequently euthanized.
“The amazing rebound of ospreys has exceeded the availability of natural nesting sites. Human-made nesting structures are rarely unoccupied, and ospreys are now nesting on cell towers and lighting structures. This can create conflicts with human values and needs; thus the Maryland Osprey and Nature Festival was hatched,” says Sal Icaza, chairman and CEO of the festival.
“We appreciate the outpouring of support that we’ve received from our community and throughout the state, especially this inaugural year. I am pleased to be part of this grassroots movement that has gained momentum for all the right reasons.”
Organizers aim to make the festival an annual event, providing educational resources to individuals and agencies in order to foster an attitude of co-existence and conservation in Calvert County in particular and the Bay area in general.
The Maryland Osprey and Nature Festival is Saturday, April 2 at the Drum Point Club in Lusby from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for individuals or $10 per family. Proceeds will be donated to Owl Moon Raptor Center, a nonprofit facility in Montgomery County that specializes in the rehabilitation and release of injured birds of prey. Local favorite Deanna Dove performs and Grizzly Mountain Grill’s food truck will be on site. Parking at Drum Point will be limited, with overflow parking and courtesy shuttles provided at Patuxent High School.
“If you love birds and nature, or just want to learn more about wildlife, join us on April 2. It should be a great event, and it is for a great cause,” says Icaza. “Let’s keep our fingers crossed for good weather.”
For more visit marylandospreyfestival.org.