Friends of Smith Mountain Lake State Park
Sunday, March 03, 2024
  Osprey Watch 5 - June 10, 2014     
For those of you who have been following the egg laying, hatching and development of the osprey chicks at Smith Mountain Lake State Park, it is very sad to report that all the three chicks are gone.  Sometimes it is hard to accept the hand nature deals us.  With a camera right on the osprey nest, we get to be a part of the efforts by the osprey pair to build the nest, produce the eggs, and watch the three hatchlings grow and fight for survival.  We become emotionally invested in their well being and root for them to succeed.  They are battling the average mortality rate of 53%.  This means that a little more than half won’t live beyond a year.  Last year, of the three chicks hatched at Smith Mountain Lake State Park, one disappeared and two fell out of the nest.  The park staff was able to put them back in the nest and they ultimately fledged. 
            Brian Heft, Smith Mountain Lake State Park Manager has looked at the circumstances of the disappearance of this year’s chicks, conducted a thorough search of the area and reviewed social media comments to try to ascertain what happened.  His best educated guess is that an owl took the chicks on successive evenings.  When you look at the osprey food chain, they are at the top with only an occasional threat from eagles.  However, osprey chicks are more vulnerable.  The fast moving owl with a keen night vision is no match for osprey chicks even with the mother trying to fend off the attack. 
            It is too late in the season for the osprey pair to have another brood.  They will linger in the vicinity until September and migrate south to either the coast of South America or the Caribbean Islands.  Next year they will begin the process of renewal and return to Smith Mountain Lake to start another brood.  We will again be waiting, watching and rooting for them to succeed.
by Jim Gerhart
Friends of Smith Mountain Lake State Park