This spring, when ospreys begin to migrate northward from South America, they will have a new nesting site located near the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club in Galloway. Chris Borkowski, a graduating Environmental Studies and Photography major at Stockton College, helped to build and install a nesting platform for our college mascot in Dr. Daniel Moscovici’s Environmental Issues capstone course.
After studying natural habitat loss, Moscovici gave his students a challenge. “I asked the students to choose a local species, identify where on campus it would live and to build its habitat,” said Moscovici, an assistant professor of Environmental Science and Geology.
Groups chose animals ranging from bats to bluebirds, but Borkowski, of North Cape May, and his teammates Keith Mulligan, of Tabernacle, and Kelsey Thomas, of Cherry Hill, chose a species with close connections to the college.
The osprey was named the college mascot in the early 1970s when it was listed as an endangered species. Thanks to help from conservationists who provided manmade nesting platforms where trees no longer stand, the species has rebounded and is no longer listed as endangered. “Their numbers have rebounded significantly since the ban of DDT,” said Borkowski.
“My group and I choose to use an old pallet made out of white pine for the foundation of the osprey nest,” he explained, adding that the decision to work with used materials was a conscious effort “to be more environmentally responsible.”
They also attached sides to the platform “to lessen the likelihood that the fledglings (young) will get injured,” he explained.
After the construction phase, Borkowski and teammate Keith Mulligan were able to team up with Ben Wurst, habitat program manager at the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, and Dr. Moscovici to install their platform in the saltmarsh. They were joined by two classmates, Bridget Blood and Chris Martin.
Ben Wurst chose the platform site, which is viewable from Ocean Avenue, so that students can actively monitor the activity during the nesting season and report their observations on www.osprey-watch.org.
“It was awesome to see all of our hard work come to fruition. Spending the day with Ben Wurst, Dr. Dan, and a few of my fellow students made the installation…that much more special,” said Borkowski.
We asked Borkowski to share some interesting facts about our mascot.
“Ospreys, unlike other hawks and falcons, have the ability to move their outer toe to the front or back. This allows them to grasp fish more easily. They rely exclusively on fish; however, they are generalists when it comes to a particular species,” he said.
In his spare time, Borkowski volunteers with the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge where he has banded American Woodcocks and Canada Geese and tagged and surveyed horseshoe crabs. He serves as a bird walk leader for the Friends of Cape May National Wildlife Refuge and has worked with the New Jersey Audubon Society to remove invasive plants. He’s also a professional nature photographer and particularly enjoys capturing images of birds, butterflies and dragonflies. To see his images, visit cborkowskiphotos.com.
After Borkowski receives his diploma on Sunday, Dec. 15, he hopes to pursue a career that works to preserve natural land. He leaves behind a valuable opportunity at Stockton for students to get involved in osprey population monitoring.