For several years now, osprey lovers have been mesmerized by the Friends Of Island Beach's osprey cam next to the park's Interpretive Center on Shore Road
They've cheered the return of the adult birds in late March, waited eagerly for the eggs to hatch and were thrilled to watch the fledglings toddle around the nest high up in the air.
But nature can be cruel. There will be no chicks to watch this summer, says Ben Wurst of the New Jersey Osprey Project.
The male osprey has disappeared. He could be dead or injured. The female is off the nest most of the time and only the cracked eggshells are left in the nest, he said.
"Ospreys and other birds of prey have very high mortality rates," Wurst said. "A rival male could predate the young or eggs in the nest but it wouldn't eat them. I heard that the female was off the nest, with the male already gone. Then gulls and a crow came in and predated the nest. There are egg shells still visible in the nest."
The sad news comes after a banner year last summer at the nest, when four fledglings hatched and all four survived.
"On the positive side, at least there is a new male courting with the female," Wurst said. "They'll likely strengthen their pair bond now and raise young next year at the nest."