Twenty years ago, the river that dissects the District of Columbia was choked with pollution. The Anacostia had few fish and no ospreys—the big, yellow-eyed fishing birds that often thrill waterside observers. But a group of residents pooled their money and time to form the Earth Conservation Corps, a key helper in cleaning the river, and when ospreys began to show up as summer residents in the capital city, the nonprofit decided it would learn more about them, according to a recent account in the Washington Post. Locals funded a $20,000 project to track the creatures when they migrated. Transmitters, placed on the birds after volunteers netted the ospreys near bridges, revealed that the new avian residents of D.C. wintered in South America. One local osprey traveled 2,900 miles from western Venezuela over a three-week period; another flew about 3,500 miles from its winter home between two tributaries of the Amazon in Brazil. D.C.’s top cop is one of the citizens donating her time to the osprey-tracking cause. Police chief Cathy Lanier climbed to the top of bridge abutments to help catch ospreys for the transmitters. “They’re amazing birds,” she told the Post. Indeed. Ospreys can sleep and migrate at the same time, using only half their brains for flight. The satellite paths showed they usually travel at 25 or 30 miles per hour, several thousand feet in the air. We have much more to learn about these birds as they rebound in their historic habitat, and thanks to local philanthropy, we’re on our way to doing that.