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Osprey cams give up close and personal view of a charismatic CT bird

A live stream camera set up by the Connecticut Audubon Society watches two ospreys sit in their nest at Milford Point, Connecticut.
The Connecticut Audubon Society
A live stream camera set up by the Connecticut Audubon Society watches two ospreys sit in their nest at Milford Point, Connecticut.

Ospreys are back in Connecticut to breed and raise their young after wintering in Brazil.

Audubon Connecticut and The Connecticut Audubon Society each have livestreaming nest cameras, which allow anyone to watch nature in action online.

The osprey pair featured on The Connecticut Audubon Society’s camera at Milford Point appear to be the same couple from the past few years, according to Milan Bull, the Society’s Senior Director of Science and Conservation, based on the birds’ plumage.

Ospreys are known to mate for life, but the male and female only spend about six months together when they are breeding in New England. They’ll migrate to South America on their own.

“So, like we say, the secret to a long marriage is separate winter vacations,” Bull said.

Bull said ospreys will return each year to the same nest, if they were successful in rearing young the year before.

Reality TV for birders 

Bull warns viewers not to get too attached to the osprey couples and any future chicks they watch on nest cameras.

“When you're watching a nest being destroyed, say by a raccoon, or you watch a young osprey being picked off the nest by a bald eagle, it's shocking,” he said.

Sometimes the problem is inexperienced parents or a chick out-competing its smaller nest mates for food.

“I'll get phone calls all the time, ‘she's not feeding the one in the corner, she's got to feed the corner,’“ Bull said. But in those cases, researchers let nature take its course.

The only time The Connecticut Audubon Society will take action is if the danger is from a man-made source, such as when an osprey has become tangled in fishing line, rope or plastic bags.

“One year we had a female bring back a blue teddy bear, and she would rearrange it in the nest every day,” he said. While that may be adorable to some, Bull said it’s also dangerous because of nest entanglement risks.

An important research tool 

Nest cameras function as an important research tool because they provide a look into the entire reproductive stage of a bird; from when eggs are laid and hatched to what birds are eating and how often.

Bull said how much the ospreys are eating is a good indicator of Connecticut’s water quality.

Ospreys only eat fish that they catch themselves. So if the ospreys are eating well that season, he said that generally means there’s abundant and diverse fish populations, which require healthy waters.

The state’s osprey population plummeted to only nine active nests in 1974 due to development and the insecticide DDT, which thinned egg shells.

But once DDT was banned, osprey populations began to rebound. According to volunteer data from The Connecticut Audubon Society, active osprey nests went from 210 in 2014 to 688 last year, when 881 fledglings were recorded.

This year’s new generation and their parents will leave their Connecticut nests in early October.

Jennifer Ahrens is a producer for Morning Edition. She spent 20+ years producing TV shows for CNN and ESPN. She joined Connecticut Public Media because it lets her report on her two passions, nature and animals.
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