Osprey cam goes live with raptors’ return to Emma

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
A breeding pair of osprey that returned to Emma over the weekend appear to be house cleaning Monday at their nest by the old white Victorian.
Courtesy image |

They might not supply all the drama of the Kardashian family, but a breeding pair of raptors are expected to supply some drama of their own this summer on a live webcam.

The osprey, believed to be prior residents of Emma, returned to the same nest in the middle Roaring Fork Valley over the weekend. That prompted the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails team to flip the switch to an “osprey cam” positioned a few feet from the nest. The camera was installed in December.

Both osprey were engaged in what appeared to be house cleaning between 11 and 11:30 a.m. Monday. They came and went frequently. They have nested at the site for years, so open space officials anticipate the camera will catch the action of the laying of eggs, hatching of the chicks and rearing of the young.

Pitkin County sent out an email Monday alerting subscribers that http://www.pitkin​ went live at 10 a.m. By 3 p.m. there were 867 hits, according to an open space official. The number of views topped 1,100 by 4:30 p.m.

Jim Kravitz, director of natural programs at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, was among those who checked it out. He said the center will alert its members and visitors about the website via social media and a blog. He anticipates it will be popular, especially among residents and visitors of the Roaring Fork Valley.

“It’s so cool to see something that’s local, in our valley,” Kravitz said. “They’re our neighbors.”

The website might have to include a disclaimer, he suggested.

“Sometimes what happens in the nest isn’t always pleasant,” Kravitz said.

Indeed, the osprey cam could provide drama. Jonathan Lowsky, a wildlife biologist and owner of Colorado Wildlife Science LLC in Basalt, said sometimes chicks don’t hatch and sometimes there is competition among hatchlings. The eggs are laid and typically hatch a day or so apart, he said. If food is in short supply, the oldest or largest chick might eliminate the competition, Lowsky said.

The osprey also must guard against predators. Magpies, crows and eagles are all threats from the air. They are always on the lookout to score a meal from the nest. Raccoons and even bears have been known to raid nests from below, Lowsky said.

Osprey couples mate for life, he said. They tend to return to the same nest year after year as long as the habitat remains healthy. The Emma site is along an undeveloped stretch of the Roaring Fork River. Kravitz noted that osprey like open water and a supply of fish, both of which they have in abundance at Emma.

Once the hatchlings emerge, the smaller male will hunt for food while the larger female will actually do the feeding and guard the babies, according to Lowsky.

He sees the osprey cam as a great opportunity to educate interested people about wildlife and riparian habitat.

Gary Tennenbaum, assistant director of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, said he thinks the osprey cam will generate a “ton of interest.”

“We’re hoping people will share their observations with us if they see something extraordinary — like an eagle swooping in to nab one of the nestlings or something,” he said.

The osprey nest is located on a pole near the old Victorian house in Emma, right off Highway 82. Holy Cross Energy relocated the nest off an active power pole several years ago. The utility teamed with the open space program, the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams, and the county’s Information Technology Department to raise $8,000 in December to install the camera and related gear on a pole adjacent to the nest.

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