PHOTOS: Once nearly extinct, ospreys rally in Chesapeake Bay

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — Along the Lynnhaven River in Virginia Beach, ospreys build nests with just about anything: tree branches, stuffed animals, flip flops — even an opossum skull.

The abundance of nests is proof of the bird’s surging population in recent decades after the insecticide DDT nearly wiped them out last century.

But conservationists continue to tag ospreys while counting their eggs and nests. The protected species faces threats such as pollution and predators that also have rebounded from DDT.

For instance, great horned owls hunt osprey chicks. The owls are mostly to blame for 27 abandoned osprey nests found along the river this year.

On a recent morning, a crew from the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center and the Center for Conservation Biology tagged two young ospreys.

The Lynnhaven is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which has the largest concentration of ospreys in the world.

“It’s a great time for fish-eating birds on the Chesapeake Bay,” said Bryan D. Watts, director of the Center for Conservation Biology, a research group that’s part of the College of William & Mary and Virginia Commonwealth University. “But we have to maintain some vigilance about other forces that can cause some problems.”