A nesting osprey pair on the Mystic River with two offspring. Sun file photo

A nesting osprey pair on the Mystic River with two offspring. Sun file photo

WESTERLY — The Watch Hill Conservancy will host a talk next week with Dr. Richard "Rob" Bierregaard, a researcher considered to be the foremost authority on osprey conservation and ecology today.

Bierregaard, a research associate of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, where he focuses his research on the ecology and migration of ospreys in eastern North America, has titled his talk, "Journeys: The Annual Cycle of New England Osprey — From Our Shores to South America and Back."

A Yale graduate who received his Ph.D from the University of Pennsylvania, Bierregaard directed the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Projects — which lies in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon and has been described as the largest and most ambitious ecological experiment ever undertaken — while working with the World Wildlife Fund and the Smithsonian Institution. 

In the late 1980s, Bierregaard taught ornithology and ecology in the biology department at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte before returning to his true passion — birds of prey, according to conservancy board member Walter Tomenson.

Tomenson, who said he first met Bierregaard last spring in Florida when "he spoke to a packed audience and garnered much, much applause," said Bierregaard has deployed satellite or cell-tower transmitters on 61 juvenile and 47 adult Ospreys and spends most of his time analyzing the data from his "flock" of ospreys as they move back and forth between North and South America.

In the summer of 2013, while waiting to trap a young osprey at its nest, someone suggested to Bierregaard that he write a book about his favorite osprey, Tomenson said in a statement. The idea started him down a winding road that led to the publication of “Belle’s Journey” in May of 2018.

Tomenson, noting that copies of "Belle's Journey" will be for sale after Tuesday's talk, said Bierregaard will discuss the studies of local osprey "that helped unravel the mystery of their amazing annual cycle."

Tomenson said he plans to ask Bierregaard why the osprey family in Watch Hill, "whose nest is just off the 12th tee at the Misquamicut Club," decided to turn theirs into a condominium.

Tuesday's presentation is underwritten by the Watch Hill Conservancy, is free to all and includes refreshments. Tomenson said the talk should last about an hour. For more information, visit https://thewatchhillconservancy.org.

— Nancy Burns-Fusaro

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