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Two juvenile ospreys euthanized for maintenance of Calvert County ball park lights

Two juvenile ospreys were taken from their nest Monday at Calvert County’s Cove Point Park in Lusby, then euthanized – this because of maintenance on lights.

Juvenile ospreys are currently in the process of fledging from their nests in Maryland or within days/a couple of weeks of doing so.

But these ospreys never had the chance to fledge.

Cove Point Park ballfield. Calvert County photo.

According to Tanya Espinosa, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection (USDA APHIS), “Under a Cooperative Services Agreement with the county, Wildlife Services removed the birds as they were impeding the replacement/repair of the lights.”

Quite often, ospreys will nest atop lights or utility poles, but many will wait for nesting season to be over before doing any type of maintenance.

Espinosa continued, “Cooperators are given the opportunity to determine whether or not to involve a wildlife rehab facility. In this situation, they decided not to involve a wildlife rehab facility.  The birds were humanely euthanized using methods approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association.”

While no wildlife rehabilitator was contacted about the two juvenile ospreys, the president of Maryland Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (MWRA) wished they would have been.

“Any one of the rehabilitators would have been happy to take care of them and that they probably only had another week to go … which means the work could have been postponed,” explained Kathleen Woods, MWRA’s president and executive director of Phoenix Wildlife Center.

Photos of the ospreys being captured were shared Monday on the MD Birding Facebook group in a since deleted post – several people questioned why it happened, as ospreys are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in coordination with APHIS, can issue depredation permits for legally taking protected migratory birds in some situations.

According to the APHIS website, “Although the USDA Wildlife Services Program is not a regulatory program, we have a role in some regulatory processes. Wildlife Services biologists conduct damage evaluations to provide information to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state wildlife agency as part of their permit processes. WS provides technical assistance to callers with migratory bird conflicts. In some cases, lethal take may be required to resolve these issues or reinforce the effectiveness of non-lethal dispersal. In such cases, WS biologists complete an evaluation form (Form 37) that describes the incident and documents our recommendations for management options. When lethal take is recommended, those forms are forwarded by the applicant with applications and application fee for Federal Migratory Bird Depredation Permits.”

In the Facebook post, there were several people wearing shirts from a company called Lighting Maintenance, along with a man wearing a shirt and hat with the USDA logo – he was photographed putting the ospreys in a pet transport container.

Ospreys migrate to Maryland from southern areas, such as Florida, Central and South America, to mate and raise their young, before going back to warmer areas for the winter.

For these two adult ospreys, these were their only young born this year.

“Ospreys are not considered threatened or endangered or a species of concern in the State of Maryland,” offered Espinosa.

Even so, this decision isn’t sitting right with many people, including Woods.

“So sad they didn’t reach out,” she said.

“Calvert County requested assistance with removal of an osprey nest from a light pole from USDA APHIS-WS, as the location of the nest posed a risk to the health and safety of people, including youth, using the ball fields at Cove Point Park,” according to Sarah Ehman, public information program manager for Calvert County.

Ehman continued, “USDA Wildlife Services determined that nest relocation was not possible. Newer light poles being installed include osprey nesting platforms to more safely accommodate the presence of ospreys at county parks. These platforms have already been installed at Dunkirk District Park, Hallowing Point Park and Cove Point Park and are in use by osprey at these locations.”

Lighting Maintenance opted not to release a statement.

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Update – Calvert County released another statement Wednesday –

“The Calvert County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) has issued the following statement regarding the removal of an osprey nest from a light pole at Cove Point Park:

“We have received a number of comments and questions regarding the removal of an osprey nest from a light pole at Cove Point Park.

Because the nest was located in an area adjacent to a ball field, the nest posed a risk to the safety of the public; the light pole at Cove Point Park is not equipped to accommodate the presence of ospreys. The presence of the nest could endanger visitors to Cove Point Park with the risk of falling sticks or other nesting material.

Calvert County Government enlisted the services of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services, through a cooperative services agreement, to remove the nest. Due to the nature of this agreement, Calvert County Government was not consulted or informed as to why or how the decision was made to euthanize the juveniles in the nest rather than relocate. For the safety of the birds we often enlist the services of USDA.

Moving forward we will work to ensure that any ospreys removed from county property will be relocated and will communicate this position with USDA. We appreciate and value the outpouring of concern for our county’s natural resources. The county is in the process of installing lights equipped to safely accommodate the presence of ospreys at our parks, to enable wildlife to coexist in our recreation spaces.”

Donna L. Cole is an award-winning investigative and multimedia reporter who works for WNAV News. She’s also a volunteer bird of prey rescuer.




A Week Later and Another Osprey Story

As we know, last week’s osprey rescue didn’t have a happy ending. It’s a week later and here’s the story of another juvenile osprey.

For more information on Owl Moon Raptor Center, the work they do or to help them continue that work, visit https://owlmoon.org




Thirteen Reasons Why I Didn’t Give Up On The Bald Eagle Story

Thirteen bald eagles died on a farm in Maryland in 2016. They died a horrible death. They suffered. And so did a raccoon.

After over two years of asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) what, not who, killed the birds, I finally got the answer in 2018.

I asked because the public had a right to know. We knew a human was responsible for the bald eagle deaths because the USFWS had released that information back in 2016. But what killed these birds, found on a farm in Federalsburg, Md., was important information that wasn’t being released. If it  killed once, it could do it again. And again. And again.

If you’re not familiar with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), it’s a request for information that has to be answered. It can’t be ignored, like emails or phone calls might be.  A FOIA can be denied, but a reason for denial  has to be provided. That can be appealed.

An open law enforcement case was the reason for denial in my first FOIA  to USFWS back in 2016.  It was actually my first FOIA in over 20 years as a journalist.  I knew appealing the FOIA would be fruitless because if this was an open law enforcement case, they wouldn’t jeopardize the case by releasing information to the public. But because the USFWS had indicated back in 2016, that they would be closing the case for lack of evidence tying anyone to the crime (yes, killing bald eagles is a federal crime), I knew they couldn’t deny this information forever. Multiple emails and phone calls were ignored thereafter.  If they weren’t ignored entirely, I was told they’d check with their law enforcement division and get back to me. And then nothing. I submitted another FOIA in May of 2018. The answer came the following month.

I knew going into this the cause of death would be a pesticide or lead, but a banned pesticide was shocking to me. And one that is so very toxic was horrifying. We shared the story on WNAV and it wasn’t long after,  I realized I had to share the results with someone that could get the information out to a larger audience. I reached out to The Washington Post. Much thanks to Karin Brulliard for being so responsive, getting this story out there and telling it so well.  I also learned, thanks to The Washington Post story, we had what a federal wildlife agent would call an “epidemic on the Eastern Shore.”

I am so very thankful this story has now been seen by so many.  When I woke up yesterday morning to find an email in my inbox from a reporter at The New York Times asking for the information I had and asking for my help – that’s not something that happens every day.  Or any day in my past for that matter.  Carobofuran shouldn’t still be out there, it shouldn’t be used, it’s banned in the United States and it has killed multiple times. 

What’s next?  I contacted the Environmental Protection Agency as soon as I had the results. They were very responsive. The bottom line is the states are responsible for pesticide violations. I asked the Maryland Department of Agriculture, which is tasked with the enforcement of pesticide violations, what they’re going to do about it.  Their answer was to send me to another state agency that has nothing to do with the enforcement of pesticide violations. I will keep asking.

For the back story and one you should know – I love animals. Always have. And it was in 2012 I developed a love for birds of prey. It’s a long story, but to make it short – two barred owls had given birth to two owlets in my yard or very close to it.  I was in bed, recovering from a bilateral mastectomy gone wrong and I thought I was hallucinating (I was on pain killers) when I kept seeing and hearing odd things. I wasn’t hallucinating. The owlets were learning how to fly. Those birds got me out of bed, holding my camera again and moving. Through my lens, I’ve been focusing on birds of prey ever since  – it helps take the focus off of my pain.

In 2017, I asked  Steve Hopp, WNAV’s general manager,  if we could stop giving away balloons at events. There was something else I asked him. He said yes to both requests. On July 7, 2017, I posted the following on WNAV’s Facebook page – “At WNAV we have an enormous amount of respect for our environment and all of those who call it home. As such, we’ve decided we will no longer be giving away balloons. This decision was made out of consideration for the wildlife that could be harmed by errantly released or improperly disposed balloons. We will have other giveaways for kids and adults when you see us broadcasting at some of our wonderful area events. This is also a great opportunity to let you know WNAV has become the first media partner of the Maryland Bird Conservation Partnership, a coalition of agencies and organizations dedicated to reducing threats to Maryland’s birds.” In 2018, I volunteered to help the Maryland Bird Conservation Partnership, by being a bald eagle nest monitor.  I monitored three nests – two on the Eastern Shore and one in Annapolis. The video below is from this past April at the Annapolis nest.

There you have it. There were thirteen very personal reasons why I didn’t let this story go. Thirteen bald eagles that mattered.

 

Update – WNAV withdrew as a partner of the Maryland Bird Conservation Partnership in March 2021. More information about that is here.




A Fish Called Pogy

Imagine if there was piece of wood at the bottom of your home which provided the structural support needed to keep your house from falling down. Or imagine that piece of wood doing the same thing for a city. Or an ocean. Or for a bay named Chesapeake. Metaphorically, that piece of wood is what many say menhaden is. Menhaden is a species of fish at the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay food chain – as such, it supports the entire ecosystem. It actually has a bunch of names, including pogy. Over the years, there has been concern, actually lots of it, voiced about menhaden depletion due to commercial fishing. Despite what seems like an abundance of evidence to support these concerns, compelling documentaries made about menhaden in the past and currently being produced, and no shortage of news reports, protections have been few and the problem compounded by being a multi-state issue, with an extremely well-financed, commercial menhaden fishing industry at its core. This isn’t a fish consumed by humans, but one that is used in a seemingly endless variety of products all over the world. In other words, there’s lots of money in this fish.

My education about menhaden began several years ago in Reedville, Virginia, the epicenter of the menhaden fishing industry on the Chesapeake. My husband and I were cruising up the bay on a boat and decided to stop for the night in Reedville. I love fishing ports, always have, but this one was different – a lovely town, but in the heat of this particular summer evening, it was permeated by the smell of dead menhaden. I’ll never forget it. That said, there is an entire group of people in Reedville and beyond that make their living off of this fish, working for a giant company called Omega. In a what if scenario – could there be menhaden farming/aquaculture like we’ve seen with oysters, as a viable alternative to taking them from the Chesapeake? I don’t have the answer.

This issue of menhaden is being addressed right now in a way that apparently hasn’t happened before and this involves the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). Watch this video of John Page Williams of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF). He was speaking at an educational meeting of the Severn River Association in Annapolis. The CBF is urging the public to weigh in on the issue, specifically to advocate for Option E through public comments to the ASMFC. Public comments are currently being accepted through 5 pm October 24. Learn more at cbf.org/menhaden.

Also, if you’re interested in what a Chesapeake Bay waterman has to say about this issue, here’s an interview I did recently.

 




Add These to Your Eastern Shore / Maryland To-Do List

You know those moments when you were planning on doing one thing, but then …

There we were, husband, kid and I, driving down the road, heading to St. Michaels when we passed the sign for the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry.  I said, “we haven’t done that for a while.” Husband responded with, “turn around – let’s do it.”

A beautiful drive led us to the ferry dock in Bellevue.  A sign stated the ferry leaves every 20 minutes and since we didn’t see it, we parked and walked around the small marina, home to mostly workboats. There was also an adjacent beach, which would be a great place for young kids to play.

The ferry service began operating in 1683.  Yes, 1683.  Do you know of any privately-owned business which started in 1683 that’s still around today?  For this reason, the Oxford-Bellevue ferry is thought to be the oldest operating, privately-owned ferry service in this country.  The Rocky Hill-Glastonbury Ferry in Connecticut started service in 1655, making it the oldest ferry service in the U.S. in continuous operation – it is run by the state of Connecticut.

20 minutes after we arrived, we saw the ferry heading towards us.  It took only a few minutes for the other cars to disembark and for mine to load.  Yes, for our crossing – we were the only ones on it.  The crossing over the Tred Avon River takes 10 minutes.  $12 includes the car and the driver and it’s $1 for each additional person.  Do yourself a favor and take a ride on the ferry sometime, especially if you’ve never done it before – it’s part of Maryland’s history.

One other tip for you and also in this same area of the Eastern Shore – when I was asked what I wanted to do on Mother’s Day, or more specifically where I wanted to eat, I said Scossa.

In my humble opinion,  I’d say it’s one of Maryland’s best restaurants – definitely in my top three.  The people of Talbot County are probably going to be upset with me for letting this secret out of the hat, but so be it.

Located in downtown Easton, just across from the courthouse, Scossa offers indoor and outside seating – we always sit outside.

What makes Scossa so good is Giancarlo Tondin, who has a pretty remarkable history in the restaurant world that goes well beyond Maryland.  Read about that here –  http://www.scossarestaurant.com/story/

That was my Mother’s Day and thank you to my family for a great day.  I hope yours was wonderful too.

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If you’re going to have a sidecar, you have to have a sidekick.

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