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Smith Mountain Lake State Park Osprey Cam



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It Takes a Village to Raise an Osprey Cam

Moving into the 8thseason of the osprey nest cam at Smith Mountain Lake State Park we expect this will be the best year ever.

Everyone from the die-hard birder to the 3 year-old watching the video feed from the nest has been excited about the program. 

Nate Clark, Assistant Park Manager, and John Mitchell, park Ranger, place the cam

Nate Clark, Assistant Park Manager, and John Mitchell, Park Ranger, place the cam

Osprey with first egg April 8, 2012

The osprey laid her first egg April 8, 2012

New osprey cam on it's mount high above Smith Mountain Lake

   New osprey cam on it's mount high above Smith Mountain Lake

It has been a rocky road at times but it looks as if we have finally found a fix to some of our camera problems.  The feed can also be viewed on the web and accessed from any computer or hand-held device that connects to the internet. 

The idea to put up a pole and platform in order to view nesting activities was proposed by Park Interpreter Shearer Rumsey in 2003.  With the additional osprey nesting activity on shoal and channel markers throughout the lake area she thought if the park could provide the opportunity (pole and nest platform) then the birds would do the rest.  Live camera feeds were also becoming more common and the thought was that it would be possible here as well.  Partnerships were established with Appalachian Power Company, the Virginia Society of Ornithology, and the Friends of Smith Mountain Lake State Park to provide funding for the project.  Other volunteers provided barges, pile driving, and even some materials. 

Everything was in place for the first nesting season at the park in the spring of 2004.  The major challenge over the years has been keeping a camera operating.  Most often, by June we had experienced a summer storm with enough lightening activity that the camera would be “fried.”  Staff would change cameras if the activity in the nest had not progressed enough to endanger the chicks.  Often the chicks were of the age that we could not risk disturbing the nest and we just had an outage through the rest of the season leaving people wanting to see more.  

We had many willing technical advisors helping us in some of the obvious challenges by adding grounding rods and other items.  Many ideas were tried but nothing seemed to work.  Over the last couple of seasons Fred Lochner of Imperial Multimedia, the same company that has provided our electronic kiosks, digital media that improves the way we are able to interact with our guests and a partner in many other projects has helped search for a new system that would provide the same excellent quality picture and something that would last through lightening storms.  Fred and his crew came up with an idea of trying to use fiber optic cable that would be free of metal.  They provided a new camera, housing, fiber optic cable, and system to get the feed to the web.  

Even our internet provider, B2X Online has helped with some upload issues and we are now streaming 24/7 except we can’t see much at night.  A camera upgrade might be in order in future years but we’re guessing the birds do enjoy just a little privacy.

The live feed from the nest can now be viewed on the web through the technical assistance provided by our partner Imperial Multimedia.  The nest is located on a point just past the park’s Discovery Center or in the area of the R-16 channel marker on the lake’s “S-curve” of the Roanoke River Channel of the lake.  Access to the nesting site is restricted but one can see it from a viewing platform on the park’s Lake View Trail or from the water. 

Over the years many people have participated in our guided osprey tours, viewed the live feed, thought and learned much about these raptors.  Most of them come away from this experience with a greater understanding and appreciation of our ecosystems and how we are all interconnected. 

Warning to passing boats
Warning to passing boats 

Another conservation theme resonates from our efforts as we lost a fledgling in the summer of 2006 due to the parents putting a piece of filter fabric used for erosion control in the nest for what they thought was soft nesting material.  After a valiant rescue attempt the bird succumbed to its injuries.  This bird was mounted by a local taxidermist and is now part of our new exhibit in the Visitor Center.  Visit the park to learn more about the Osprey, the park, its history, our offerings, and the rescue attempt to save the fledgling on that action packed night back in 2006.

LOCATION: The park is on the north shore of Smith Mountain Lake in Bedford County, approximately 40 miles from both Lynchburg and Roanoke and 140 miles from Richmond. To get there, take U.S. 460 to Route 122 South to Moneta, then go east on Route 608 to White House. Next go south on Route 626 for two miles to park entrance.

Latitude, 37.079625. Longitude, -79.610993.

PARK MAP: Trail guide (PDF). Facility guide (PDF).

For camping or cabin reservations click here.

Published: 04/14/2012

I just love this cam. I check in almost every day to see how the 3 babies are doing. Thank you so much for this cam. I for one just love it!!!
- Susan Woods, 06/04/2013


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