Point Loma Peninsula struck by string of Osprey deaths – some suspicious

by on December 19, 2011 · 16 comments

in Environment, Ocean Beach, Popular, San Diego

Male osprey on Sunset Cliffs Bridge

Osprey on Sunset Cliffs Bridge (photo by Stephen Rowell, August 2011)

An osprey was found dead near a Point Loma roost on Wednesday, December 14, just one week after an area resident saw another osprey dead on Sunset Cliffs Bridge.

The two recent osprey deaths on the peninsula come after a dead osprey with a dart in its chest was found this summer, also on Sunset Cliffs Bridge.

Shawn Steele, who lives near Robb Field and frequently observes birds in the area, was driving across the bridge when he saw an osprey carcass in the road on the afternoon of December 7.

“It did not look like it was hit by a car,” Steele said via email. “No loose feathers. I stopped my car and got a good look at it and could not tell the cause of death.”

After parking at Robb Field and calling the police, Steele walked back to the bridge “and no osprey could be found.” He recalls being gone only 10 minutes.

Separately, on December 14, Sarah Whorley of Project Wildlife said the animal rescue group took in an osprey that appeared to have died earlier that day in Point Loma, near a roost by San Diego Bay.

“We scanned the body for metal and didn’t find any,” Whorley said in an email. The osprey “was bleeding from its mouth, but this could be indicative of any number of injuries (head strike, internal injuries, etc.).”

birders at Robb Field

Birders observe ospreys at Robb Field in 2009 (photo by Shane Finneran)

Steele said in the two days before he spotted the osprey, he saw about a half-dozen dead birds “about 1,000 yards to the west and within 100 feet of each other. Three western grebes, one bufflehead, one pacific loon and three seagulls. Cause of death unknown.”

“In the ten years I have been birding in the area, I have seen a total of two dead birds in the river,” Steele said. “In the last month, I have found 10.”

Long-time Ocean Beach resident Stephen Rowell has photographed the ospreys at Robb Field extensively. Rowell said that back in April, the ospreys’ light-post nest at Robb Field was found on the ground, and “Mom and Dad were sitting on a bare pole up above it.”

Osprey female with three chicks

Osprey with three chicks atop Robb Field lightpost (photo by Stephen Rowell, spring 2010)

Rowell suspects the nest was knocked down and chicks inside were taken. A similar appraisal of the incident appeared in a post on local birding bulletin board CALBIRDS.

On a happier note, Rowell said a young female osprey appeared to establish residence in a recently vacated Robb Field nest on December 14. The female drew three male suitors, who engaged each other in “an aerial battle.” After one of the males managed to chase off the other two, he and the female flew toward the San Diego River together.

“He had to go maybe get a fish or something,” Rowell said.

Whorley of Project Wildlife mentioned an osprey was “found shot” in Rancho Santa Fe in mid-November. That bird — apparently the victim of a pellet gun — sustained a broken wing but survived and is recovering at a wildlife refuge.

Whorley said it’s not uncommon for Project Wildlife to see “raptors that have been shot from all areas of the County.”

April osprey nest found on ground in Robb Field; chicks missing
August or Sept. osprey found dead with dart in chest on Sunset Cliffs Bridge
mid-November osprey found shot by pellet gun in Rancho Santa Fe (survived)
December 7 osprey found dead of unknown cause on Sunset Cliffs Bridge
December 14 osprey found dead of unknown cause near roost in Point Loma


In spring 2009, I took my camcorder over to Robb Field and filmed “Mom and Dad” as well as a special moment featuring one of their chicks. Stephen Rowell provided commentary:

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

beach head December 19, 2011 at 3:00 pm

I will gladly take an assault charge to beat the F#$% out of who ever did this.


On Probation December 19, 2011 at 7:20 pm

The MAN can come after me again, if I ever figure out who would dare to hurt these beautiful birds!


Debbie December 19, 2011 at 10:03 pm

OB Rag thank you for posting this story. These birds are precious.

A light has been missing for years on the bridge crossing the SD River where an Osprey was always on the lookout.

It’s sad to think that someone may be killing these birds and its sad that our city is neglecting to maintain so many things….but Sanders is going to push for a new stadium….SICK!


Christopher Moore December 20, 2011 at 12:39 am

Thank you for covering this story.
I’ve seen the Ospreys around here a few times in passing, and they’re awesome birds.
OB will be diminished by their loss.


A Reader December 20, 2011 at 8:23 am

This should have attributed their story to the OB Rag. They quoted extensively from it.
San Diego Reader


Patty Jones December 20, 2011 at 9:27 am

Dear Reader, it was posted by the same author, Shane Finneran, who is a Ragster and a Reader stringer.


jim grant December 20, 2011 at 8:43 am

When , where and who found a dead Osprey on the cliffs with a dart in its chest …I never heard this ??
I have many photos of them diving at the cliffs and at the river ….I saw the one at the bridge as well that looked like the one that perched on the bridge daily…he looked sickly for a number of months.


Dixon Guizot December 20, 2011 at 11:20 am

I’m still hoping to get more information on the osprey found with a dart in its chest, and will share the info if/when it becomes available. But for now, all I know is it did happen, apparently some time in August or September, and at least one law enforcement agency is aware of it.


jim grant December 21, 2011 at 9:46 am

who is aware ? i could not find one word on the incident anywhere….
I saw the osprey on the bridge as well…….i also saw another one dead on 5 south right at Gilliam drive yesterday….


Dixon Guizot December 21, 2011 at 1:23 pm

I can’t disclose which law enforcement agency I spoke with, as the rep did not have permission to speak on the record. I don’t believe the story had been reported until this OB Rag article was published.

Sorry to hear you saw another dead osprey yesterday. I don’t know of a Gillian Drive — maybe you meant Gilman Drive? In any case, that would be at least the third osprey found dead just this month.


jim grant December 21, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Ok this is not a federal case ….whatever. That agency must have a PIO right …


Annie December 20, 2011 at 9:21 am

How completely sad. Thank you for bringing awareness to the topic; I hope the person responsible is caught or has a change in heart. I’ve never understood why some people enjoy hurting those who are incapable of defending themselves. Maybe they weren’t hugged enough as a child.


imominous December 20, 2011 at 10:49 am

As times get harder, I expect more nests will be robbed and the chicks sold; not just osprey but other raptors as well.

There has always been a black market trade in local wildlife, but now I think it can only get worse.


Eleanor December 20, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Thank you for covering this story. I think of ospreys as a San Diego bird. I know they live elsewhere, but they have that spirit of this area and anyone who harms them is hurting the people who live here too. I hope we will here a follow-up story on whoever catches these people.


Brenda McFarlane December 24, 2011 at 8:53 am

This makes me sad. Every morning for a couple year I went over the Sunset Cliffs Bridge with my husband and I always looked for “our” Opsrey who was almost always on the lamp post high above. I loved seeing that bird, made me very happy!


Andy Rathbone December 29, 2011 at 10:38 pm

Are the OB ospreys really gone? Anybody seen one this month?

On Nov. 8, I snapped some photos of one bringing a fish to its perch on the Robb Field lamp post, but I haven’t seen one since.


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