Emma osprey cam going live in spring | AspenTimes.com

Emma osprey cam going live in spring

Wildlife lovers will turn the tables on ospreys in Emma and get a bird's-eye view of the raptors and potentially their chicks starting in the spring.

Pitkin County Open Space and Trails teamed with Holy Cross Energy and a number of other partners to install a remotely controlled camera on a power pole Monday. The pole is located fewer than 20 feet from a separate pole where an osprey nest has been located for the past several years. It has been home to one or more couples that have hatched eggs each spring and fledged the young.

The osprey cam will go live next spring to capture the return of the raptors and monitor their activities into the fall. People will be able to track the activities in real time.

The sprawling nest, which has twigs and branches poking out in the every direction, is visible from Highway 82 near the old Emma Store and adjacent Victorian house. The ospreys leave the site for the winter but have returned to the same nest year after year.

"It's a pretty smart bet that they will return next year," said Gary Tennenbaum, assistant director of the open space program.

Ospreys leave North America to migrate to Central and South America each winter, according to http://www.allaboutbirds.org.

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Couples typically mate for life. The males collect sticks and other materials for the nest and the females are the carpenters, the website said. Their natural lifespan is 15 to 20 years.

The eggs don't typically hatch at the same time. There can be a gap of as many as five days between the first and last hatch, the bird website said, so viewing could be intense for that period. Both birds help feed the young.

The site in Emma is popular with the osprey because it's so close to the Roaring Fork River. Ospreys also are known as fish hawks because fish are important to their diet. They are regarded as excellent anglers and are very adept at diving feet-first into shallow waters, http://www.allaboutbirds.org said.

The white camera was installed far enough away and will be quiet enough that it isn't expected to spook the osprey, according to Tennenbaum. The camera will go live once the ospreys return. Viewer access will be through http://www.pitkincounty.com, with a link from the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and possibly other sites.

"It's going to get a ton of viewers," Tennenbaum said. Viewers likely will want to see the adult ospreys return and settle in, mating, egg-laying, hatching and fledging. Then there is always the chance for nature's curve balls.

"If an eagle comes and grabs one of (the chicks), it's going to be huge," Tennenbaum said.

The plan was hatched when officials with open space and partners talked about the possibility of installing a camera at North Star Nature Preserve east of Aspen to view great blue herons that nest there. They decided to pursue a different project first and the osprey nest seemed like a great option.

Pitkin County Healthy Streams, Pitkin County technology department and the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies agreed to help Open Space and Trails purchase the $7,000 camera and related gear. Holy Cross Energy jumped aboard with the willingness to install the camera. A Holy Cross crew relocated the nest from one pole to its current roost five years ago, noted Craig Tate, member-services representative. Company officials didn't have to confer long to decide to contribute the use of its bucket trucks to install the camera.

"We say, 'You know what, we're all about environmental stewardship,'" Tate said.

The nest is at least 25 feet off the ground, so use of Holy Cross' equipment was vital.

The camera is capable of zooming in and out. The images will provide a tangible connection to the natural world, according to Aspen Center for Environmental Studies CEO Chris Lane.

"This spring will be an exciting time as the camera goes live for the first time, providing a window into the world of ospreys as they transition through brooding, hatching, feeding and fledging," Lane said in a statement. "Will chicks fledge successfully? Tune in to wait and see."

scondon@aspentimes.com

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