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By Rebecca Keister
PBN Staff Writer
BRISTOL – Volunteers with the Audubon Society of Rhode Island have begun once again to monitor the 160 known osprey nesting sites in Rhode Island, a project it took over from the R.I. Department of Environmental Management in 2010.
The state began the project in the late ’70s to help track the osprey population as it dwindled, following the society said the use of DDT, a pesticide, from the 1940s through 1960s.
The society reported that last year it counted 159 successfully fledged young and 171 in 2010.
“Osprey are thriving, but we need to continue to study them,” said Judy Lewis, volunteer coordinator at the society. “They are an excellent indicator of environmental health in aquatic systems.”
Also known as the sea hawk, the osprey is recognizable as a large raptor with a black eye patch and wings that Lewis said makes the bird easy to monitor.
They also nest in visible sites, more frequently along the coast as they eat fish almost exclusively.
The Audobon Society has about 60 volunteers engaged in its monitoring efforts and invites more to join.
“We always are eager to hear reports of additional nests,” said Lewis. “We rely on sightings from the public to help us complete our map.”