MILFORD >> More and more ospreys are being tracked as they live, nest and reproduce in Connecticut, and the Connecticut Audubon Society needs more volunteers to help count all of them.

The state saw record numbers of ospreys nesting in 2016, with 337 active nests and 490 fledglings, or baby ospreys.

Osprey are fish-eaters, 21-25 inches long, with a wingspan of 54-72 inches. They have rebounded since 1969 when DDT exposure almost knocked out the population.

They are beginning to migrate north again to breed, and Connecticut Audubon is offering volunteer training two times this month, in Essex and Milford.

The 2016 data was reported by Osprey Nation, a group of citizen science volunteers tracking the osprey population.

In past years, an increase in the number of birds reported by Osprey Nation has been attributed to a greater number of volunteers out looking for the birds and keeping track of active nests found.

DATA NEEDED

But for the most recent count, the increase reported may be a result of osprey population growth in the area, said Tom Andersen, communications director for the Connecticut Audubon Society.

“We are pretty confident that there are more birds,” Andersen said. “Until we get more data, we can’t say with any scientific certainty.”

Osprey Nation has been operating since 2014 and volunteers collect data on osprey nest activity and the birds born in them.

Volunteers are asked to spend 15 minutes per nest in their area every two weeks, taking notes and sending in data.

In 2014, more than 100 volunteers recorded 414 osprey nests spread between 42 towns in Connecticut, according to a release from the Connecticut Audubon Society.

Volunteers were only able to monitor 174 of those nests and recorded 78 ospreys that successfully fledged, the release said. By 2015, there were more than 140 volunteers and more than 200 active nests monitored.

“Every year, we are looking harder with more volunteers,” Andersen said recently.

Eventually, the Connecticut Audubon Society would want enough volunteers to be able to verify the increase in osprey population, Andersen said.

MORE HELP

The 2016 Osprey Nation report said more volunteers are needed to help continue monitoring the osprey.

“Even though the osprey population appears to be thriving, we must continue to observe it,” the report says.

“Osprey are predators that rely on a complex food chain and healthy aquatic environment. Their success in upcoming years can tell us how the environment in Connecticut is being upheld in the face of threats such as habitat degradation and climate change,” it says.

To volunteer for the season, training is offered by Milan Bull, Audubon senior director of science and conservation, at 10 a.m.-noon Feb. 18 at the Essex Public Library and on Feb. 25 at the Coastal Center at Milford Point.

To reserve, email mbull@ctaudubon.org.