Posted: Sunday, April 17, 2016 8:30 am
By LYNNETTE HINTZE/Daily Inter Lake | 0 comments
There’s love in the air in Evergreen.
On top of a 60-foot pole that towers above the fishing ponds behind Snappy Sport Senter, a young pair of ospreys are getting to know each other. And the public now has an opportunity to watch the romance unfold.
Snappy’s osprey webcam went live recently at www.snappysportsenter.com, offering round-the-clock video footage of the birds’ nest.
“The birds are behaving beautifully,” Snappy’s owner B.J. Lupton said proudly. “There’s some serious romance going on. Mother Nature is definitely doing her part. The betrothal process is well underway.”
The osprey webcam is something Lupton has had his eye on for some time. A year ago Snappy’s contracted with Rocky Mountain Construction to erect a pole topped with a 5-foot-diameter hexagonal nesting pad and two perches. Getting the project to the finish line has been a group effort, Lupton noted, with staffer Kirk Rasmussen handling the bucket truck that enabled the camera installation. Snappy’s General Manager Dave Toelke has been “key in encouragement,” Lupton added.
The nest didn’t attract any ospreys last year, and a string of camera failures hampered the project as well. The initial video camera quit working after just three days, then another two camera trials failed as well.
Lupton’s son Jon, a part owner of the sporting goods store and the information technology guru of the business, did all the research for the camera system and zeroed in on the current model that is now working well. He is handling the technology side of the webcam and plans to do a rolling blog of milestone events in the young ospreys’ lives.
“I’ve been dreaming about this for years,” the elder Lupton said. “The inspiration goes way back, of seeing the interest around the country” in bird webcams.
It’s not uncommon for hundreds of thousands of people to tune into webcams for eagles, ospreys, hawks and other birds. There are a couple of osprey webcams in Missoula, including the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s webcam that has drawn close to 635,000 Facebook likes.
Snappy’s webcam is a first for the Flathead Valley, said Doug MacCarter, an educator and wildlife biologist known for the osprey studies he and his twin brother conducted on Flathead Lake. MacCarter has been offering advice and encouragement for Snappy’s project and has been monitoring the birds via the webcam. He and his brother Don designed the nest platform for Snappy’s.
“The female arrived April 1,” MacCarter said. “I’m thinking it’s a brand new breeding pair.”
MacCarter said he’s impressed with the quality of the video provided by the webcam.
“I’m seeing things I’ve never seen before, even when we were doing the osprey studies,” he said.
There was a temporary scare when one of the osprey’s talons became tangled on a piece of baling twine because twine can injure the birds.
MacCarter has worked hard to educate farmers and ranchers about the danger of leaving twine in the fields or hanging it on fence posts, where it’s easy picking for ospreys who favor the soft material for nest building.
Everyone was relieved when the Snappy’s osprey got free of the twine.
MacCarter said if all goes as expected, there will be eggs in the nest in May, and they will hatch by early June. It takes eight weeks for the chicks to fledge.
The webcam will give spectators a bird’s-eye view of the nest activity and the birds as they dive into the fishing ponds at Snappy’s.
“It’s much like a missile hitting the water,” Lupton said.
Ospreys routinely perch in the cottonwood trees because they are drawn to the fish-filled ponds that have been part of the Snappy’s experience since 1998.
In addition to the webcam, there will be interactive activities for viewers such as the naming contest.
There are five name choices for the pair, with Duke and Duchess currently in the lead, followed by Fred and Ethel, Barney and Betty, Verne and Kay, and Carson and Mrs. Hughes.
“If we do get eggs, then there will be a contest for when the first [chick] will be born,” Lupton said.
There also will be a naming contest once the chicks arrive.
“This is a wholesome family thing,” Lupton said. “Snappy’s has always tried to contribute to the community. This is something moms and dads, kids, seniors, everyone can get involved in ... watching the ospreys’ behavior is quite delightful.
“It’s a bit of a departure from retail,” he added, “but this is who Snappy’s is.”
To access the osprey webcam, go online to www.snappysportsenter.com and click on the photograph of the ospreys.
Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or by email at email@example.com.