March 25, 2024
It’s old home week for ospreys along the park’s 64th Street trail


By Mary Reid Barrow

Osprey photo by Gibbs Barrow

It was old home week last week along the 64th Street trail to the Narrows in First Landing State Park.

Ospreys had arrived back from parts unknown to their summer nesting grounds along the Lynnhaven River. The big birds were soaring overhead calling out, as if greeting long lost friends and neighbors.

And not only friends and neighbors, but osprey mates are greeting one another because they too spent the winter apart. Ospreys even may be waiting at the nest for their sweetie to arrive.

The marsh on either side of the trail and 64th street is known as Osprey Heights by many of us osprey followers. Osprey Heights is an old fashioned osprey neighborhood where the birds nest high as they can get in dead tree snags, or a tall pine when a snag is not available.

No man-made osprey platforms or navigation buoys for these traditionalists! Males bring sticks in to repair the nests after winter wind and rain and females perch on the nest passing judgement on the stick placement.

Take a walk along the trail from the parking lot at the Narrows. As you walk, you’ll be greeted by the scraggly little native shad bush with its pretty white flowers. It is so named because it begins to bloom when the shad fish run upriver to spawn.

Listen for high pitched osprey calls overhead. Look up and when your eyes adjust, you might see several of the big birds flying high in the sky.

Make a stop on the overlook off the left of the trail, not too far from the parking lot. Look to your left across the marsh for a nest in the top of a dead tree.

Further down, on the left side of the trail, a nest in the top of huge broken off pine will surprise you it’s so big. You may see both ospreys at home, looking smug and comfy as if to boast our nursery’s all really to go.

Along the way you also may see yellow buds draping some of the trees, signs that the bright yellow Carolina jasmine vine is getting ready to bloom. Before too long the forest floor will be littered with petals dropped like pats of butter from vines high in the treetops.


Walk on to the long bridge across the marsh and look out in all directions to see remnant nests in need of repair and ospreys checking out the neighborhood.

Not too long after the marsh bridge, the trail becomes more wooded, and you are leaving Osprey Heights behind.

But on a day when traffic is light, and you feel safe, try a walk to search for nests in the marsh to the north of the road itself. You should see not only ospreys but also nesting great blue herons and a pair of disruptive bald eagles.

The eagle pair that moved into Osprey Heights last year, causing havoc in the good old neighborhood, is back in town. The bullies will occasionally make their jet fighter flights across the skies, threatening the ospreys, causing no end of consternation.

Still, I felt like the delinquent eagles are not making the trouble they did last year, or maybe the ospreys are more used to their noisy intrusions. I sure hope so.


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