A pair of feathered parents await the arrival of their third newborn – and just about everyone gets a chance to catch a glimpse of what’s going on live.
A University of Florida osprey camera is mounted above a large osprey nest atop an 80-foot-tall array of lights on one of the campus recreational softball fields. Run by the Department of Ecology and Wildlife Conservation, the camera has a website with a 24-hour feed to watch a family of ospreys with their two babies up close.
One chick was born on April 5 at around 4:45 p.m. and the second was born on April 6 at around 10 a.m. As of Friday afternoon, there is still one egg that has not hatched.
Department officials hope the third egg will hatch in the next few days, but remind people that this is a view of a wild osprey nest.
In the wild, things like “sibling rivalry, predators, and natural disasters can affect the osprey family and can be difficult to monitor,” according to the Florida Wildlife Extension website.
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“An osprey is a bird of prey, it primarily eats fish, and it’s a very efficient fisherman,” said Mark Hostetler, urban wildlife ecologist with the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. ‘UF.
Hostetler is the champion osprey. It also “directs” what is seen on the stream by moving the camera and zooming in and out.
The team noticed the first egg in the nest on March 1. Then two more appeared.
“We’ve been watching the two courtship for about a month now,” Hostetler said.
Over the past month, the male has flown off to fetch fish for the female as she tends to the eggs and prepares the nest, Hostetler said.
The early years of the osprey camera weren’t so successful.
In 2017, Hostetler won permission to install the first osprey camera on a lamp post at the former McKethan Stadium baseball field in UF. The first known chicks to hatch there fell through the nest and the osprey parents departed.
The following year, the 80-foot-tall pole was struck by lightning. The nest and the camera were destroyed. As construction on the new student athletic center began and McKethan Stadium was demolished, the osprey camera program was wiped out.
Earlier this year, the project was revamped with money from the Department of Ecology and Wildlife Conservation. Hostetler was able to get permission from UF to install another live camera on a new nesting area.
The birds are migratory and travel to Central and South America, then return to the southern United States in the spring to mate and raise their young. But the nest usually remains all year round.
When Hostetler was trying to set up the camera in January, timing was everything. He saw a pair of ospreys flying overhead, circling the nest where the camera was set up. He wasn’t sure if it was too late and if the birds would leave soon.
Luckily, by March the nest had eggs and the osprey parents had become a nature reality show.
“People’s connection to nature can happen in an urban area, nature is right around you,” Hostetler said. “It’s in the backyard. It’s in the neighborhoods. It’s even in the cities.
Karen Brown, president of the Alachua Audubon Society, said local birders didn’t know much about the web camera on the nest on the UF campus. But interest is growing. “It’s not often you see a large raptor sitting on a nest,” Brown said. “People are excited about it.”
The osprey camera works 24 hours a day and has infrared lighting so viewers can see what the osprey is doing at night. But don’t expect too much action in the late hours, as ospreys are mostly sleeping or just sitting in the nest at night.
Like most birds, they will be more active during the day. As the chicks begin to eat on their own, experts say they will be more visible as they move around. Soon they will start to have feathers and viewers might spot the young ospreys taking their first flights.
“Watching the camera from the nest will only get better as the chicks grow and mature,” Brown said.
To see the birds in action, visit bit.ly/37rk1Mm.