The nest is located on the Monmouth County side of Whale Creek, just off Ocean Boulevard and across from the fishermen's parking lot at Cliffwood Beach in Aberdeen Township, New Jersey. Besides going to the shore and parking to go view the nest, there is a viewing stand with a NJ State Park interpretive sign and bench you can sit on along the Kavanaugh Trail in Cheesequake State Park. The wooded trail is accessible from Lakeshore Drive not far from the Aberdeen Twp Maintenance Center on Lenox Road. A wooden archway has the trail name marked at the street edge. The trail is new and can be pretty muddy after a rain, so wear proper foot gear. There is a description of the trail, creek, et al at Aberdeen NJ Life blog.
Look for 2 adults on the nest. The adult pair will show pair bonding behaviors such as vocalizations, aerial sky dances, and the male feeding the female fish. You may see the pair copulating, which typically begins 14 days before laying eggs.
Females will lay 1 - 4 eggs at a rate of one egg every 1 - 2 days. After laying, incubation starts. Look for adults taking turns sitting low in the nest incubating eggs. The incubation period can last 35 - 43 days.
Chicks hatch ~39 days after incubation begins. Look for adults bringing food to the nest and making "head bows" into the center. Chicks typically can't be seen until they are 2 - 3 weeks old, so feeding behavior is the only way to know chicks are there.
Around 4 weeks after hatching, look for the heads of chicks to show over the rim of the nest, particularly when adults bring food to the nest. Other times they lie flat and are harder to see. Count the number of chicks in the nest before they learn to fly
Chicks begin flying around 7 - 8 weeks old, and are still fed by the adults. Count the number of chicks who have successfully fledged the nest and are observed flying.
Chick Last Observed
4 - 10 weeks after fledging, chicks begin leaving the nest area to migrate south, once they have learned to fly and feed themselves. Record the date that the last chick left the nest.
Look for signs of nest failure like adult abandonment, adults no longer incubating eggs or feeding young.
The nesting platform was taken down recently while major construction is underway in the park. It is to be restored to its previous position in mid-May 2017. A ball field is being constructed where there was once a barren, rocky field. The nesting platform is supposed to be shielded from the ball field by trees. Local birding volunteers are set to replace the platform. Hopefully the nesting site will be adopted in the future. A pair of osprey were spotted over nearby Treasure Lake a few days ago, and singles have been seen twice, but their nesting site is unclear.
I've checked this nest several times over the past month, including today, and there has been no osprey activity. The nesting material remains on the platform and small birds are inhabiting the nest. A remote controlled model airplane enthusiast is a regular visitor to the park and might be part of the reason that the nest is unoccupied. Kayak launching nearby and vehicles playing music, etc, might also be an issue. Aberdeen Township plans a major construction project in Veterans Memorial Park, including a ball field adjacent to Whale Creek and a more formal kayak launching site on the creek. The ball field will involve removal of reeds south of the nesting platform. The engineering firm has just sent out public notices to residents announcing their application to NJDEP for a freshwater wetlands transition area waiver involving Aberdeen Block 341 Lot 1. The engineer told me that the state asked him to provide plantings to shelter the platform from the ball field. If permits are issued in September 2016, construction will begin immediately involving the delivery and placement of fill dirt to raise the level of the park several feet. Construction will resume in the spring and the new park is expected to open in summer 2017. The grade change and plantings could conceivably impact the nesting platform. Osprey have been seen at nearby Treasure Lake but are apparently osprey from the nest near Keyport harbor. Bald eagles are nesting in the vicinity of Cliffwood Beach. An eagle was spotted chasing an osprey several weeks ago. Mute swans have been aggressive against waterfowl since beginning to nest in Treasure Lake last year. They pound the water with their wings and chase other birds away. It's unclear whether the eagles or mute swans are affecting the osprey.
I visited the platform today around 5:30 pm. There was nesting material but no birds were visible. I asked two people in the vicinity and they hadn't seen any birds in the past hour. I spoke to a neighbor who told me he thought he had seen a bird sitting on the platform in recent days.
An osprey has shown up at the platform. I spent 45 minutes watching him/her earlier today. The osprey was on the platform when I arrived, but he spent most of the time in a tree on the other side of the creek. I took lots of pics. Will post them when my new computer arrives.
I heard an osprey from inside my house, so I went out back to check it out. He was flying at near treetop height and calling out. He was quite animated for about ten minutes or so. This was about 1 pm ET over Treasure Lake in Cliffwood Beach, not far from the Whale Creek platform. I haven't discovered this bird's permanent home, if any. Could he have abandoned the platform and be biding his time at lakeside til migration? UPDATE: While chatting with my neighbor, I saw the osprey land in the middle of a tall oak at the southern end of Treasure Lake, a few doors down from my house, at about 6:30 pm.
I was treated to a half hour of osprey antics on Wednesday evening at Treasure Lake. Two osprey flew around the lake and nearby homes in Cliffwood Beach, both just above the tall oaks and at about 25 ft above the lake. Some of the time they flew in close formation, like a pair, but other times they flew across each other's path. The one bird was the one I've seen here the past month or so. I first spotted him alone in his frequent roost in an oak treetop across the lake. A second bird appeared, then they flew off. The local bird returned and began to call rapidly, like a singing canary. The second bird returned and they flew around for a number of minutes. My observations ended with the local bird roosted alone across the lake. It is getting into the high forties F here at night. I expect this activity to end any day. Can I assume the local bird has found a partner?
I caught a glimpse of an osprey on Treasure Lake in Cliffwood Beach at 6:30 pm on Saturday evening. A small flock of geese flew in and a pair of swans complained, causing quite a racket, which caused the osprey to leave his roost in the tree in my backyard. I'm wondering if this osprey will return to nest in my tree in the spring. Unfortunately I have yet to see the bird roosted in the tree because of the heavy foliage, but he always swoops down into the same gap and arcs across the lake in the same way when disturbed, so I figure it is the same bird. I was beginning to think he had flown south, but no.
I heard at least one osprey on Treasure Lake in Cliffwood Beach yesterday (Saturday) and today (Sunday) this weekend. He's been elusive, so no sightings. I noticed some high altitude migratory birds on Saturday. Today the weather was overcast and cool, which brought in the sea gulls. Lots of blue jay activity in the trees, seemingly coordinated social activity, possibly associated with the osprey presence. I sat out for hours listening and occasionally heard a minor warning call of an osprey.
An osprey has been sitting on a dead branch near the top of a tall tree on the opposite side of Treasure Lake from my house in Cliffwood Beach, near to the Whale Creek nesting platform, for the past two hours (1 pm - 3 pm). He was preening, tucking his head down and working with his feathers. The chest was downy white -- no sign of a dark necklace. The face was clearly marked, black and white. He spent some time staring down towards the lake but didn't dive for food. He flew once that I noticed, making a wide arc towards my side of the lake and then back to his roost. The wingspan was impressive, the tops of the wings a matte finished black. He switched directions and started looking away from my side of the lake. Around 2:30 pm a second osprey flew around the far side of the lake. He returned about 3 pm and prompted the roosting osprey to cry out his warning call. The visiting osprey was flying lower over the lake and didn't seem to linger during either sighting. He had a cool evening last night here, temps up to 70 during the day today, and we expect 52 degrees tonight. It will be difficult for me to tell whether birds in the lake are visitors on migration or local birds, but so far the one osprey seems to roost in predictable spots and may be the local young bird who hasn't been pushed to head south yet. I spotted two osprey in the same tree a week or two ago, so the second bird I saw today might be that second bird. I will just log osprey at Treasure Lake here on the Whale Creek diary and perhaps someone can sort out any migratory birds at a later date?
I have been sitting on my backyard deck for an hour and a half, since about 12:45 pm. I've heard at least one osprey in the near ground but have yet to spot him in the dense leaves. They have been typical warning calls. The sky is mostly sunny with a slight breeze, about 82 degrees. The kingfisher has been active and a catbird made a fuss a while ago. UPDATE: I heard him again around 3:30 pm and again about 7:15 pm. Saw a hairy woodpecker and nuthatch high in the tree. UPDATE: At 7:30 pm the osprey finally revealed himself. He called and then dropped out of the tall oak behind my house. He did two arcs as he crossed Treasure Lake, then he roosted at the very top of a tree on the far side of the lake. The tree was at a point of land jutting into the lake, providing the best view of the three major segments of the roughly cloverleaf-shaped pond. The tree was high on the bank, so the vantage point was perfect. I've not seen him fish, but presumably he's competing with the kingfisher for food.
There were two osprey roosting in a tall oak behind my house on Treasure Lake in Cliffwood Beach this morning. I opened my curtains about 6 am after hearing an osprey's cry. Two flew out of the branches about 35' up and flew across the lake.
I can't help but think this osprey has adopted me. This morning was the latest occasion of this bird roosting in the tree in my backyard overlooking Treasure Lake. The local acoustics made it seem that he was across the lake, but he was right above me. The neighbors came out and he cried a warning then flew away. I know it's just coincidence but it's fun to ponder having that sort of connection. I suspect Iit is one of the birds formerly of the Whale Creek nest.
There was an osprey on Treasure Lake in Cliffwood Beach this afternoon between 4-5 pm. This is not far from the Whale Creek nesting platform. The lake has kingfishers, swans, night herons, cattle egrets, catbirds, blue jays, cardinals, and a number of other deciduous forest and wetlands birds. The osprey could only be heard today. I didn't check the nest today.
No birds at the nest again today. Checked the platform and nearby trees, both from a distance and from close proximity to the nest and creek, which would normally provoke calls. I spoke to a fisherman, who said he'd seen the birds in an unspecified past but hadn't seen them today. Lots of fishing and boating activity by the creek yesterday and today, including SUVs parked near the platform. Yesterday there was a man flying a gas-powered model airplane around the park the entire time I was on site.
I returned to the Whale Creek nesting platform this evening around 6:45 pm and found an adult on the nest and a small juvenile in a tree across the creek. The adult was crying from the platform as I drove into the parking lot across the street and continued to cry when I stood at the street edge with my binoculars. The adult became alarmed and flew across the creek and roosted briefly in the same tree. The adult flew an arc around the far edge of the field then flew away. The juvenile stayed in one spot throughout. I was surprised to find the nest inhabited after seeing no birds for weeks. I can't explain it. I guess I missed them? Maybe a second adult is also in the area hunting? I'll begin checking this nest more frequently.
GPS readings from Rob Bierregaard's Ospreytrax website show that Edwin flew over Treasure Lake on this date. Three osprey diverted circa August 2014 at Great Kills, NY, flew over Raritan Bay, and crossed into the bayshore within a couple of miles of each other. See the map in photos of this nest showing Edwin in light orange (yellow) crossing near Cliffwood, Blackie (teal) at Keyport, and Bridget (orange) at Laurence Harbor. Tilton (white) also crossed into Laurence Harbor but swung west of Great Kills, NY along the way there. We have several nests in this area of the bayshore. (This is not a visual observation)
An osprey flew over Treasure Lake off West Concourse in Cliffwood Beach again today, at least seven times between 5:30 pm and 6:30 pm. It was crying loudly as it flew above the treetops. The first crossing was from south to north towards the Raritan Bay. Half hour later he flew back south. Another northern crossing followed by a southern. This time I was able to see him fly towards South Concourse in the distance. He flew twice from east to west, crossing my house and scaring the neighborhood squirrels. The last time I could only hear him. It could have been more than one bird; I can't say. But he put on quite the show. Given the distance south he flew, he could have come from the nest at Matawan Point, which had two birds still in the nest as recently as a couple of days ago. Or he could be the youngster who left the nest at Whale Creek. Seems unlikely that he is migrating but lingering in the area.
I saw an osprey at Treasure Lake off West Concourse in Cliffwood Beach today about 6 pm. The location is less than a quarter mile from this nest. The bird made a long series of very loud cries, then it circled the lake, flapping and then soaring. I heard the calls again about an hour later. Also in Treasure Lake at the time were a pair of kingfishers, a pair of swans, a night heron, and an assortment of blue jays, catbirds, and other birds. The jays and catbird seemed anxious, calling excessively. I'd recommend installing a nesting platform at Treasure Lake.
I checked the nest this evening and saw/heard no osprey in the vicinity. Even when I approached the nest and the creek there was no cautionary call from a nearby osprey. I will check again but I suspect the nest has been vacated. Blessedly the dead osprey must have fallen to the ground as there was no longer a bird hanging from the platform. Let me note here that one of the IFF nests in Union Beach had a live dangling osprey in the past few weeks and the neighbors called for assistance. A naturalist trained in such matters visited the site, which was on the IFF property north of Rose, and the bird expert saved the bird, according to those neighbors. I spoke to the people who reported the matter late this week. Too bad I couldn't have seen this Whale Creek nest bird in anguish before it died. Thank you, Ben, for checking into the new nest. It actually has an official interpretive sign erected by Cheesequake State Park, so I presume the State of New Jersey put up the platform. The sign is on the Kavanaugh Trail, which starts in Cliffwood Beach on Lakeshore Drive near the intersection with Lennox RD and the township public works/recycling center. I spoke to the parks dept and let them know the trail wasn't being tended to, and they agreed to take action. Hopefully the trail will be cleared of fallen birches, overgrowth cut, and the trail itself built up so it doesn't swamp up when it rains. The trail isn't part of the park's network of roads, so park officials are having an outside agency tend to the trail. We'll see how that works out. Perhaps next year we will be able to view the nest from the bench that Cheesequake Park placed in the deciduous forest near the platform for that specific purpose? I hope so.
I visited the nest this evening around 8:20 pm. One osprey was perched in a nearby oak across Whale Creek from the platform. I approached the nest platform and was able to confirm that a dead osprey is hanging by one wing from the platform. During a ten minute visit, I saw no other ospreys but the one in the tree. It had facial markings and was brown. I presume it was one of the adults but I can't confirm it. I suspect this nest is no longer habitable this season because of the dead body hanging from it. I wonder if the bad experience will discourage them to return in the future.
I visited the nest yesterday evening around 8 pm and again this evening around 8:15 pm. On Monday evening, at least two osprey were seen flying about ten to fifteen feet above the reeds, while a chick sat on the nest. Eventually, the adults returned to nearby trees and the chick flew across from the nest to a nearby oak across the creek. The chick flew back and forth from the tree to the nest, but while we watched he mostly neared the platform and didn't alight on it. I noticed something hanging behind the nest and down along the support pole and I feared it was a dead osprey.
Tuesday evening it seemed clear that one of the birds was dead, hanging by its wing from the rear of the platform, wing fully extended and spread.
Tuesday there was an adult on the pole slightly above the nesting platform, no birds on the nest itself, and a chick in the oak across the creek. The chick didn't move as the adult flew back and forth to the oak, seemingly encouraging the youngster to return to the nest.
So it appears that one of the chicks is dead and the other chick can fly and may have separated from the nesting platform.
I visited the nest today about 6:30 pm. One adult and one chick were visible. The adult seemed to be instructing the little one on how to fly, holding his/her wings out to catch the breeze and ever so slightly lift off the platform. The baby was lifting the wings to catch the breeze but would have none of the flying. The adult flew to a branch on the parents' favorite oak across the creek and then looked back expectantly, but the chick just stood and watched. I was watching from the road, but when I moved closer the adult crossed the creek, cried and then began to fly around. The adult settled down, but then a crabber came along in his SUV and pulled between me and the platform, got out and tossed a large crabbing net into the creek. I went home. It looked like the adult returned to the nest and was repeating the flying lesson as I drove away. A few new photos added.
I visited the nest today around 7 pm. One adult and one chick were visible. The adult was on edge because of a gathering of Skidoo jet ski enthusiasts partying at creekside. There were several pick up trucks playing loud music and at least one jet ski motoring back and forth in the creek, shooting a spray of water into the air. The group was having a good time but oblivious to how upset the bird was becoming. It left the nest several times to circle. If these birds can successfully nest here, perhaps there is a chance for them in more urban environments? They haven't abandoned the nest at least.
I visited the nest around 8 pm this evening. The adult male was on the large oak tree across the creek from the platform. The nest had no adult presence. A man was flying a large remote controlled plane several hundred feet away and I suspect the adult male was nervous about it. Also there were a pair of fishermen with their truck at creekside. After about ten minutes, the adult male was back on the nest and there were two chick heads slightly visible over the nesting material. I spoke to the man operating the plane and he assured me he knew the nest was there and he was keeping 300 ft away, which he claimed was what he read online was the rule. This spot can be a challenge for nervous birds. The oak across the creek seems to have no leaves, and the adult male likes to hang out there. He is at nest platform height when over there. I've not seen him fish from there, but it would be a good spot.
I visited the nest around 8 pm this evening and arrived in time to see the male adult return with food for the female adult and two chicks. He stood there for a minute or two then retreated to a branch about halfway up a large oak tree directly across the creek from the nest. The female adult began to feed the two chicks, whose heads could be seen clearly in silhouette. The birds don't seem disturbed by the many pickup trucks that park on the grounds to place boats in the creek or to accommodate a family fishing event. I think there is sufficient margin between the outdoorsmen, who seem oblivious to the birds, and the otherwise cautious adult birds on the nest. Tonight will be another round of private fireworks and drinking at the beachfront on the occasion of the Fourth of July. The birds seem no worse for wear.
Drove by today on my way to the Cheesequake Creek Inlet. Saw the adult with at least one of her young sitting on the nest. The youngster was much more apparent than usual. Hopefully I will have a chance later to follow up. Fourth of July weekend is quite noisy with fireworks and revelers of all sorts at Cliffwood Beach, just across the road from where the nest is. I was glad to see they didn't flee in fear. The din can be frightening, even for those who understand what's happening.
The adult was very active this morning between 6 am and 6:30 am. The nest overlooks the creek, so she seems to watch from her nest and swoop down to check something she's seen. The banks are over 5' high, so she drops out of sight for a moment then returns to the nest from the rear. Small birds nearby taunt nearly every move she makes. She seemed alarmed at my presence. She circled the nest at treetop height repeatedly then flew to a large white oak across the creek and roosted about two-thirds the way up.
As I drove by to park in the Fishermen's Lot, I noticed that the adult osprey was standing next to a large puddle that formed in the field about a hundred feet from the nest and about 50 feet from the street. I set my phone to camera and headed over, but she was on to me from the start and took off. By the time I was in position near the bridge, she had already made two arcs behind the nest and was heading in for a landing. I took a couple shots, then returned to the car to retrieve my binoculars. She landed on the platform post and faced the nest but looked over her left shoulder at me. I studied her from near the road and saw the chick briefly. I then walked along the creek towards the nest, which prompted a series of plaints from Mom - roughly ten quick calls in a row. I took some pics of an agret in the creek, then the osprey and then I left. This was 6:15 pm to 6:30 pm.
Visited the nest at 6 am today for 15 minutes. Single adult sitting on the nest. Presumed female. Chick(s) not visible. Conditions seem ideal - low wind, perfect weather, clear, recent rain. A couple of small birds are active under the nest platform. I noticed them last time as well.
I visited the nest today between 11 am and noon. And I took my binoculars. Definitely only one adult present, presumably the female. She was standing. I saw one immature stick his/her head up, beak closed and pointed straight up. I thought the baby must be tiny, as the tip of the beak didn't reach past the upper extent of mom's leg. But then the baby briefly lifted a rather large, brown feathered wing, but only about 20 degrees and back down again, a wobbly affair. The wing could have been 18" to 24" long, rough guess. I've added more pictures, including day shots of the situation of the nesting platform in relation to Whale Creek, the Whale Creek bridge, and a shot from the corner of Greenwood and Lakeshore. There is one shot of the bridge guardrail -- the grassy side is a suggested safe spot for viewing the nest. (The road across the bridge is narrow and a blind spot, so don't venture into the road to view the nest.) There isn't a nesting pair, as far as I can tell, but there are two osprey in the nest, so I'm a bit confused as to how to answer that question in the activity report.)
There seems to be only one adult with one or more chicks squirming in the nest. I first noticed this last weekend and again this afternoon. The six photos below are from today 6/28/2014 around 7 pm. The adult was troubled by my presence today but not last week.