Sandpoint's Answer to Reality TV
Sandpoint Online Osprey Cam Goes Live
Sandpoint’s War Memorial Field, located on Lakeview Blvd. on the south end of town and nestled up against the Pend Oreille River, is no stranger to cameras. Between Sandpoint Bulldog Football, Babe Ruth baseball, and the annual Festival at Sandpoint with its star-studded line-up of music under the August sky, cameras are a given.
And the ospreys who call War Memorial Field home are no strangers to cameras—or people—either. In fact, there are many who have observed the birds as they go about their day who would insist these raptors actually ‘pose’ for photographs.
But the inevitable blend of bird and film has taken a new step this spring, as Sandpoint Online and the city of Sandpoint, with support from Avista and Northland Communication, unveiled the new Sandpoint Osprey Cam, allowing those anywhere in the world the chance to observe these birds in our local habitat, in real time, any time of day. Just visit sandpointonline.com/ospreys.
An ongoing renovation of the field resulted in the installation of new light poles, a favored nesting spot for the osprey. The pole on which the osprey cam is mounted was installed last summer, and an existing osprey nest was moved to a platform at its top in August. This location is one of two active nests on the field.
“The opportunity to place a web cam on the Memorial Field nest arose when the city undertook replacement of the aging light poles at the field in Autumn 2011,” explains the crew at Sandpoint Online. “Two of the old poles held osprey nests, and their replacement poles were built with nesting platforms above the light arrays. The new light standards soar 90 feet above the field, and placing the web cam was a project unto itself.” The complete story of how the project came about is available on the website.
Ospreys are raptors—the most widespread raptor in the world, in fact—reaching up to two feet in height and with a wingspan that can spread six feet. Just a few decades ago the osprey, whose population had been decimated by the widespread use of DDT, were on the Endangered Species List. Today, they are a testament to recovery, and the osprey who live at War Memorial Field are an integral part of the Sandpoint experience for many.
Ospreys tend to mate for life, and male and female share in the raising of their young. Their diet consists almost completely of fish, which is why they find this spot next to the river so attractive. They are a diurnal bird, mostly active during daylight hours, though as night begins to fall they can often be observed in their nests, keeping a close eye on life in South Sandpoint. Although ospreys are noted for their apparent tolerance for life in proximity to humans, the ospreys at War Memorial Field seem especially adapted, their elaborate airborne ‘dance’ often triggering applause from those on the field attending an event.
Jane Fink, executive director of Birds of Prey Northwest, is a consulting biologist for the Sandpoint Osprey Cam and will be providing commentary and answering questions about our local birds in the blog that goes along with the osprey cam. She has prepared an extensive Q&A about the birds that is also available online, and includes information such as expected nesting behavior, and how to distinguish between the male and female bird.
Ospreys migrate during the winter to South America, returning in the spring to our area, and Jane writes the raptors, “have a high nest-site fidelity and return to previously existing nest structures each year. You are likely seeing the same pair if you observe two birds early in the season at this nest site.”
Although there was only minimal nesting material on the nest site as the birds returned from their travels, a pair has already made great progress in crafting a new nest atop the light pole in front of the camera.
Jane’s observations of the recent osprey behavior led her to remark: “The female osprey is spending increasing time at the nest and the male has been bringing fish to her regularly.” She goes on to explain more of the process the birds are undertaking as they prepare their nest to receive eggs, which all hope will hatch into the next generation of osprey on the field. Once the female lays eggs, Jane writes, “Some 35-37 days or so will pass and she will begin to incubate after the first egg is laid. She will be relieved of her parental duties by the male daily, as he takes his turn at keeping the eggs warm.”
To watch the birds in action or to access the enormous amount of information available on osprey, the Osprey Cam project, the Memorial Field renovation, the “community chat” about the birds and the daily blog, visitsandpointonline.com/ospreys/.