Although unwilling to say the exact location for fear that curiosity seekers might rattle the birds and cause the pair to flee, Hugh Carola, program director of the Hackensack Riverkeeper organization, said the pair had settled into a nest located in southern Jersey City.
One or more of the birds may be the offspring of a pair of nesting osprey that have made Shooter's Island in Bayonne their home.
PSE&G's Richard Dwyer (a Bayonne resident) and Jennifer A. Connell said an outreach program of PSE&G had installed the nest eight to 10 years ago at various locations, with the hopes of providing the raptors with an incentive to nest here.
Volunteers from the Palisades Electric Division and Hudson Generating Station of that utility have created a partnership with the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission and environmentalists including the Hackensack Riverkeeper program.
Dwyer said this is the fourth at-risk species that has rebounded in the Meadowlands, partly due to the efforts of PSE&G and the environmental community. Along with the osprey nest program, the company has helped provide nesting-arrangements for wood ducks, tree swallows, and eagles.
According to John R. Quinn, the former Natural Resource Specialist, the last mating pair of osprey seen in the Meadowlands district that runs from south Bergen County to the top of Newark Bay was early last century.
DDT cut them down
Carola said the use of DDT in the years following World War II, contributed greatly to putting the Osprey had risk. Dr. Paul Muller discovered that dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) quickly killed flies, aphids, mosquitoes, walking sticks, and Colorado potato beetles, resulting in the saving of hundreds of millions of lives. For this, he won the Nobel Prize in 1948. While DDT saved human lives, overuse of the insecticide has a disastrous effect on the environment, thinning the egg shells of some birds like the osprey so that the eggs were crushed during incubation.
In 1972, the use of DDT was banned, and Carola said the environment slowly because to recover. PSE&G installed about towers in Secaucus, Jersey City and Kearney with the hopes of encouraging nesting. There were constructed by PSE&G environmental team and the Urban League Youth Built Program.
The raptors were sited over the last four years, but only for hunting.
"We put them out like a welcome mat," Dwyer said.
This changed last July when environmentalists in the area saw what Carola called "an immature pair." But the pair did not nest. Usually the raptors lay their eggs at the end of April.
Then, in late April, Riverkeeper Bill Sheehan spotted the nesting pair on one of the towers in Jersey City.
Sheehan once said this would be a significant sign that the Meadowlands is in recovery, if raptors were to begin nesting here.
Sheehan and others are cautious about providing an exact location for fear of spooking the birds.
But Dwyer said Sheehan calls with regular reports from the river.
"This is like I'm a grandparent," Dwyer said.
The birds have been actively building their nest and coming and going for food. Carola said he believed this was an immature pair of osprey. The birds apparently tried to nest on some wires in Kearny. Fortunately, the nesting materials wouldn't stay in the wires and the raptors moved on. Carola said the one or both of the birds may be descendents of a nesting pair on Shooters Island in Bayonne. Osprey tend to return to the area where they were hatched, and if the nesting pair finds the area safe, they will return again year after year.
Osprey born here travel to South America and remain there for about three years until they mature, then come north to mate. They usually return to the area where they were hatched. There are currently 366 pairs nesting in New Jersey, although prior to the banning of DDT in 1972 the numbers were well under 100.
Although these birds are still building their nest, they are expected to lay eggs. These will require 32 to 43 days for incubation, then the baby birds once hatched will require 48 to 59 days before they can fly.
"When we started to do this we knew the river was going to get better," Dwyer said. "This is an opportunity for people to believe that we can make a difference. We need to keep it going."