Boulder County has a strict non-intervention policy with osprey and other raptors. Staff will not act to aid or assist raptors, including osprey on nesting platforms. Intervention causes extreme stress to raptors and could inadvertently cause harm or death. It is always best to minimize disturbance to wild animals as amplifying the challenges they already face in trying to survive is rarely beneficial. However, there are rare extenuating circumstances when intervention may make sense if, in the opinion of professional wildlife biologists, the risks associated with the intervention are deemed worth taking. These instances would need to have a clear and safe benefit to the raptor, coupled with no risk to the humans enacting the intervention. This camera is a look into nature and shows how harsh it can sometimes be.
Citizen Science Project
A citizen science project is being conducted to report and compare fish counts, fish species, and other important observations from data collected from osprey nest video cameras to establish these parameters as predictors of breeding success. The project is being conducted by a researcher with The College of William and Mary in Virginia. Observers are asked to report whenever a fish is delivered to the nest.
This is one of several osprey nests in Boulder County. In the spring of 2003, this osprey pair began nesting on a light pole at the Boulder County Fairgrounds and returned each year. In 2009, wildlife biologists moved the nest to its current location just east of the Cattail pond for the birds’ safety. The pair shifted to the new location with ease. Our biologists believe that the local surge in nests may be offspring returning to their previous habitat area.
In 2014 and 2015, a female osprey with a metal band around her leg was seen. We reported the band number to the United States Geological Survey Bird Banding Program and received the band report. This banded female osprey is not the resident female and may have lost her mate and/or was looking for a new partner.
In 2015, three osprey chicks fledged. In 2016, one osprey chick fledged. In 2017 and 2018, three osprey chicks fledged. See the interactive timeline above for specific dates and other significant events.
Camera #1 is an Axis P5635-E MkII network camera that can pan, tilt, and zoom. A microphone is positioned under the camera to record sound. They are powered directly from a building that is approximately 750 feet away but the video and audio feed are transmitted wirelessly.
Camera #2 is an Axis P5515-E network camera that can also pan, tilt, and zoom. It is located approximately 100 feet from the nest on the ground looking up to the nest. It uses the same audio source as Camera #1. The camera is provided by Boulder County Parks & Open Space Foundation.
The nest is illuminated at night using an infrared light. The infrared light is powered using a battery that charges during the day with a solar panel. Infrared light is undetectable by ospreys so it does not disturb them.
A lightning rod, two lightning suppression units, and shielded cables are used to protect the setup from lightning strikes.
A huge thanks goes to View Into The Blue, a company in Boulder County that specializes in streaming webcams, for helping us with our osprey cam setup. This is our eighth year running the camera and our first few years were plagued with technical difficulties. View Into The Blue was instrumental in helping us with our camera setup.
Osprey migrate far to the south every year to Central or South America. The male, female, and offspring all go their separate ways. The male and female migrate and winter separately but return to the same nesting site each year. Offspring usually remain at their wintering grounds for their entire first year before beginning a migration and nesting pattern. There are no markings to indicate which osprey is male and which is female, but the females are generally larger than the males. They show up around the first of April and complete mating and egg-laying within the first two weeks after both have arrived. They leave between September and October, after the chicks have fledged.
Other birds utilize the platform whether the osprey are present or not. Magpies and blackbirds have been spotted on the platform or camera when the osprey were on the nest. Smaller birds can nest in the nest material and are usually ignored by the osprey. One year we saw a Great Blue Heron perching frequently on the platform with no apparent disruption to the osprey
The osprey is the only local raptor that almost exclusively hunts fish. On rare occasions, they will eat squirrel or muskrat. Osprey will sometimes scout for fish from its nest. Once a fish is spotted, the osprey will drop down in the water fully submerged. Their dense and oily feathers allow them to come back out of the water and fly away. They are successful just over half the time on that first dive. Some of the public places you can see them fishing are: Fairgrounds lake, Twin Peaks golf course, Lagerman Reservoir, Izaak Walton Pond, Golden Ponds, and Pella Crossing.
The nest is mainly used for the osprey’s offspring. The nests have to be wide enough to support up to six full-sized birds. Osprey nests weight an average of 400 pounds and are amended yearly. No one knows why they collect all the different things that they do for their nest (including trash), other than to make the lining soft and to keep eggs from falling into voids in the stick nest. Osprey chicks only have a 50% chance of surviving their first year.
Learn more about osprey at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Classrooms and school groups are encouraged to watch the osprey. We can provide you with educational materials to support learning about osprey and other wildlife in Boulder County. If you are a teacher looking for more information, please contact Deborah Price, 303-678-6215.
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