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Incredible Action at the RVA Osprey Cam!

If you were up early watching the RVA Osprey Cam, you would have seen something truly amazing. Our adult ospreys, Maggie and Walker, back for a third year of nesting and chick rearing, were busy doing what they do: taking turns sitting on the three eggs Maggie recently laid.

Maggie was on the eggs just after 7 a.m. when she decided to get up, maybe to go fishing. Who knows? But the eggs she laid were resting on an old green sweatshirt the birds had brought in as nest material. As she rose, her talon got stuck on the sweatshirt. She appeared to hesitate, knowing the sweatshirt was attached to her. Then she flew off! Two of the eggs slid off the sweatshirt and came to rest back on the middle of the nest. But the third, caught in the sweatshirt’s hood, was deposited at the very edge of the nest on the outer most branches.

Click here to see the incredible video.

Now, hours later, Maggie and Walker have both resumed their incubation duties, but only on the two eggs in the middle of the nest. The third egg remains on the nest rails.

Y’all, who needs Animal Planet when we have this incredible natural pageant around us every day?

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RVAOspreyCam Back in Action…and so are the Birds!

This past Friday our old friends Maggie and Walker returned to Richmond from their long sojourn south (where exactly, we don’t know; possibly South America). They immediately set to work rebuilding the nest on an old bridge piling in the James River that the RVAOspreyCam has showcased live for the past two nesting seasons.

Their timing was impeccable. Just two weeks earlier the RichmondOutside team was on top of that old bridge stanchion making some fixes to our camera setup, switching out the battery, etc. I’m not sure our osprey friends could have chosen a spot that better showcases what makes Richmond unique. It is simply amazing to stand out there, 40 feet above the river, and take in the James River Park and the city behind it while walkers traverse the nearby T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge and boaters pass below you on their way to ClassIII/IV rapids.

When I got home that day, I looked back at my notes from last year and found that Maggie laid her first egg on March 16. We look to be on a similar schedule in 2019. You can follow the action at WildStreaming.com, where our our other bird cams are featured. We’ve got a peregrine falcon cam on a nest in Newport News, a camera on the Cooper’s island eagle nest here in Richmond (though no eagles returned this year), and an eagle cam on a nest in Md. across the Potomac River from Quantico. That one is particularly exciting because the female is sitting on three eggs, the first of which should hatch March 7 (tomorrow)!

So, head over to WildStreaming.com to follow all these wonderful raptors in various stages of nesting/egg laying/chick rearing.

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Just 80 Miles from RVA, Widewater Becomes Virginia’s 38th State Park

Governor Ralph Northam today officially opened Widewater State Park in Stafford County, the Commonwealth’s 38th state park. Widewater State Park covers 1,100 acres, including two miles of water frontage along the Potomac River and Aquia Creek.

Widewater State Park in Stafford County is just 1 hour and 30 minutes from Richmond. Credit: Va. State Parks

“Virginia’s state parks attract millions of visitors each year, serving as affordable vacation destinations and adding to the economic vitality of the communities where they are located,” said Governor Northam. “With the dedication of this new state park we build upon Virginia’s legacy of conservation and environmental stewardship and expand opportunities for the public to experience our Commonwealth’s natural beauty and renowned system of state parks.”

The property was originally purchased by Dominion Energy as a site for a proposed power plant. The property was later approved for development of 700 residential units, a resort conference center and extensive infrastructure. Dominion sold the property for $1 million less than the assessed value in 2013. The Trust for Public Land and Stafford County assisted in the transaction.

“The development of a low-impact state park on waterfront property significantly reduces the possibility of increased water quality degradation,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler. “More than 73,000 acres of Virginia are protected as state parks, and only a small fraction of the property is ever improved or developed. We are pleased that this land will be protected for generations to come.”

The visitor center at Widewater State Park. Credit: Va. State Parks

Funding for the $6.1 million property was from Virginia Public Building Authority bonds and a federal appropriation of $225,000 secured by Virginia’s congressional delegation through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program.

“State parks host 10 million visitors each year,” said Virginia State Parks Director Craig Seaver. “Widewater State Park allows us to provide water access in one of the most heavily populated areas of Virginia while maintaining the serenity people expect when they visit one of our 38 state parks.”

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RVAOspreyCam Season 2 Wraps Up; Eagle Cam Coming Soon!

A closeup of Maggie on the RVA Osprey Cam.

It was another successful season at RVAOspreyCam.com, one that is now winding down as ospreys all over the region begin their annual migration to South America. You might still see a few here or there, but in a month to six weeks most will be on their way south.

For the second year in a row, Maggie and Walker, the pair we feature at the osprey cam (ospreys return to the same nest location every year), produced three eggs, two of which hatched and became viable chicks. Like clockwork, the parents returned to the nest in late February (early in the season compared to most local ospreys); the eggs were laid in mid-March; and the two chicks hatched in late April. While it was a wet spring and early summer, fishing was good in the James River, and Maggie and Walker had no trouble feeding this year’s offspring. The chicks grew steadily and fledged in June.

Maggie feeds the two chicks just days after they were born in April.

Every year presents its own technical challenges for an endeavor like this, and 2018 was no exception. We added a microphone to our setup this year, but on rainy days the mic cable would pickup a local radio frequency so viewers would be listening to a radio station if they turned the volume on! We’ve remedied that we hope with a different microphone for next year.

Another issue we ran into was a Virginia creeper vine that reached mammoth proportions and covered about a third of our solar panels for about the last quarter of the viewing season. That meant the panels couldn’t collect as much solar energy as normal and the batteries that powered the camera would die every evening. The next morning we’d have to wait as the sun climbed high enough to re-fill the batteries and turn the camera back on. Good old, Mother Nature!

We sent a crew out to the cam site a couple of weeks ago, and pulled out the vines (after getting attacked by a swarm of wasps also nesting up there!). We hope that problem is fixed for next year.

The osprey cam setup is located just downstream of the T. Tyler Poterfield Memorial Bridge near Brown’s Island.

All in all, it was another rewarding year showcasing these beautiful raptors which choose to make their summer home in downtown Richmond. But they’re not the only raptors for whom that’s true. Starting this fall you’ll be able to watch the Cooper’s Island bald eagle nest just upstream of the Nickel Bridge. That’s right, we’re adding an eagle cam!

Bald eagles return to their nests sooner than ospreys — like before Thanksgiving. So we’ll have the eagle cam up and running by next month. There are only two bald eagle nests in city limits, so this promises to be exciting. You’ll be able to find all of our cams (including our Newport News peregrine falcon cam) at WildStreaming.com.

We will certainly have more on the eagle cam project during and after the install. Stay tuned!

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Riverrock, Wildlife, and Supporting Your ‘Friends’

It was fun to head out to Riverrock on Saturday and Sunday to take in all that RVA’s adventure sports scene has to offer. In a couple of hours on both days, my kids and I watched bouldering, slacklining, bmx biking, kayaking, standup paddleboarding and dog jumping. And the kids participated in a number of those disciplines through the “Interactive Village.”

Of course, it was also fun to peak over at the RVAOspreyCam.com site that’s clearly visible from the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge. A couple of people asked me what I was pointing at to my kids, and were blown away when I explained. There’s nothing better than opening people’s eyes to the wild wonders of Richmond, especially when they can experience those wonders right in the middle of downtown.

I mentioned to those folks that the osprey cam wouldn’t exist without the generous support of the Friends of the James River Park and sent them to find the Friends’ Riverrock booth at Tredegar to learn more. And, of course, supporting our RVAOspreyCam effort is just the tip of the Friends’ iceberg. That’s why I’ve included the above video. It’s part of the group’s Science in the Park push to show people, through video camera traps, all the incredible wildlife that’s right under our noses in the amazing 550-acre series of greenspaces called the James River Park. Check it (and all the other videos) out and considering becoming a member!

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Strange Happenings at the RVAOspreyCam

There have been some interesting developments at the RVAOspreyCam this morning. Around mid-morning we decided to use our camera’s sweet zoom function to get a closeup of the two chicks being fed by Maggie, their mother. All of a sudden Walker, the father, came into the picture with a large mat of grasses and placed it on top of the two chicks and the third egg that has yet to hatch. There has been much speculation in our chat room about why an osprey adult would do that, but no consensus opinion has emerged. Currently one of the chicks has been able to wriggle free enough to receive a feeding, but the other has not.

Very strange stuff…

Part of one of the chicks can be seen below the mat of grasses in this picture. The other, and an egg, are underneath.

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First Egg Hatches at RVAOspreyCam.com!

Yes, indeed, folks, we have good news to report. Some time last night one of the first two osprey eggs showcased at RVAOspreyCam.com hatched. We don’t know if it was the first or the second egg Maggie (the female osprey) laid because they were both within the 34-40-day window in which osprey eggs usually hatch. Here are some pics. And there are two more eggs that could hatch, so keep checking back!

 

 

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Hatchwatch 2018 Begins Today!

New born chicks from last year’s nest waiting for a meal.

The hatching of osprey eggs happens like clockwork: Once an egg is laid, it will hatch in 34-40 days. That makes today a big day at the RVAOspreyCam. Today is Day 34 for our first egg, which Maggie delivered on March 16. Hatchwatch 2018 has begun, and these next few days are going to be very exciting!

For those scoring at home, Egg No. 2 was laid on March 18 and Egg No. 3 was laid on March 21st. Last year, our pair, Maggie and Walker, laid three eggs but only two were viable. Let’s see how things go this year.

Check out (and listen to) all the action at RVAOspreyCam.com.

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Stopping by Osprey Cam on a Snowy Day

You have to wonder if Maggie and Walker are cursing their early return from South America today. To update: RVA’s favorite osprey pair are taking turns sitting on two eggs (with possibly one more to come) through the snow and wind. The good news is that they are evolutionarily adapted to handle this. Man, it sure looks cold, though! Follow the action at RVAOspreyCam.com.

Here are some pics:

Maggie on the nest this morning.

 

For a few moments, the eggs were left unattended when Maggie left to go hunt (presumably).

 

Then Walker flew in to take over the incubation duties.

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RVAOspreyCam.com is back…and so are the birds!

If it feels like spring is somewhere around the corner, well, Richmond’s most famous raptor pair agrees with you. Remember Maggie and Walker, the osprey couple showcased for the first time last year at RVAOspreyCam.com? How could you forget, right? Well, they’re back from their sojourn in South America, ready to mate, nest and raise young on that same bridge piling in downtown Richmond again.

One of the peregrine falcons in a nest box on the James River Bridge in Newport News. Credit: Wildstreaming.com

And the osprey cam is back, as well, with some sweet upgrades. This year we’ve added audio, so you can hear the birds’ vocalizations, and infrared for nighttime viewing. It’s going to be a lot of fun again, and it’s all thanks to the Friends of the James River Park, whose support continues to make this effort a reality

But, wait, there’s more!

Bryan Watts at the Center for Conservation Biology invited us to put up a peregrine falcon cam on the James River Bridge linking Newport News to Isle of Wight County. Last year there were less than 30 nesting pairs of peregrine falcons in Virginia. You can follow both cams — the falcons and the ospreys side by side at WildStreaming.com

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