Raptor Audience

How to Spy on Birds? Pitkin County's Osprey Cam

The Emma ospreys have returned for the season to their nest near Highway 82 in Basalt.

By Todd Hartley February 1, 2016 Published in the Midwinter/Spring 2016 issue of Aspen Sojourner

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Image: Sara Franklin

That new pole with a camera on it near Highway 82 in Basalt? It’s not Homeland Security run amok, but rather Pitkin County’s new osprey cam.

The video camera, whose feed goes live in March, is trained on the large osprey nest atop a telephone pole near the former Emma Store, on the highway’s north side. The nest, which has housed osprey couples for at least the past five years, received a new neighbor in December, when the camera was installed on a newly positioned pole less than 20 feet away.

A collaboration between the county’s Open Space and Trails and Technology departments, Pitkin County Healthy Rivers, Holy Cross Energy, and the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES), the camera will let viewers peep in on the nest during mating, egg-laying, and fledging seasons.

The camera was originally destined for a different location. “We were looking at doing a heron cam at Northstar [Nature Preserve],” says Pitkin County Open Space and Trails assistant director Gary Tennenbaum, “and that got people thinking, ‘Why don’t you do the osprey nest in Emma?’” As questions arose regarding the availability of cell phone coverage at Northstar, the logistics of placing a pole in the preserve, and whether the herons would even be in the right spot, the osprey viewer became the logical next choice.

Holy Cross erected the pole last October; the owner of the nearest house agreed to let the county piggyback on his WiFi network; and, voilà, the osprey cam was born. Tune in to see the raptors’ avian antics through the Pitkin County’s website or link to the cam from the sites for ACES and Healthy Rivers. Finally, reality TV that’s truly about the birds, rather than for them.

Updated (April 18, 2018):

Pitkin County has installed a new, more weatherproof camera this spring that also includes an enhanced zoom lens. For even more updates and photos, follow Pitkin County Open Space and Trails on Facebook


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