When the Millers bought the land that is now Dunrovin Ranch in 1997, an osprey nest was already established at the top of a power pole.
Since that time, the nest has been used by osprey nearly every year. There was another nest within half a mile, right along the river, and the Osprey would occupy that one or the Dunrovin nest. When the property sold, the people who bought it took down the nest, and so, the Dunrovin nest was the only one left.
One year, a pair of Canada Geese took up residence and would not be moved by the returning osprey. A clutch of goslings resulted and were literally tossed from the nest, where they fell off the road and walked off to the river.Sometimes, osprey will compete for the nest, so we thought we’d put up another pole. However, no osprey would use it because it was both too close to the original pole and had high cottonwood trees around it. Osprey want their nests in open places with no higher platforms nearby from which predator birds can perch and attack their young or eggs.
If you enjoy the osprey webcam, please consider making a donation to help Dunrovin and the UM maintain and improve it so that we can broadcast these beautiful birds to even more people.
The web cam and the UM study
2010 was the first year for hosting a web cam at Dunrovin. The Millers are thrilled to be cooperating with the University of Montana on this study. As a wildlife biologist, Sterling Miller is very happy to be in the position to be contributing to the scientific studies on osprey.
In March of 2011, UM, with the help of Northwestern Energy, moved the nest from the power pole to a new pole in our arena and installed the original camera. The move helped to make the nest more secure and avoid electrocution and entanglement risks.
Then in July, we installed the new camera and, with the help of Dave Taylor Roofing, tagged the chicks.
Watch the birds in action on the West’s Best Nest homepage. You’ll witness not only the osprey, but the changing seasons in Montana and the comings and goings of the Dunrovin horses.
Dunrovin hopes that by hosting a live webcam, people will have an opportunity to learn about these incredible birds. We purchased the camera, so that UM can install their own camera elsewhere, to expand their study. We operate the camera year-round.
Each year, the nest is typically occupied by the same pair of osprey, whom we’ve named Ozzie and Harriet, have fledged one to three chicks. Ozzie and Harriet are not banded birds, so we can only theorize that they winter in Mexico or South/Central America.
However, in spring of 2011, it appeared that both Ozzie and Harriet returned, but one of them disappeared and a younger pair took over the nest. As a result, copulation, egg laying, and hatching occurred about two weeks later than another nest in the study.
In 2011, the two chicks were banded; #48 and #49.
In spite of high water conditions and resulting hunting challenges, the chicks thrived. It is possible that a nearby shallow lake and slack water sloughs near the Bitterroot helped Ozzie and Harriet.
In mid-September mother and chick #48 flew off, but father and chick #49 (the smaller chick) stayed around with father continuing to bring fish to the nest.
Chick #49 didn’t make it through the season, dying of natural causes. It is possible that he dove too deep in a shallow part of the river.
We have learned that bailing string is a threat to osprey as they pick it up and bring it to their nests, sometimes getting their feet tangled in it and also tangled in wires or trees, causing mortality unless rescued. When we moved our nest, SuzAnne happily climbed in the bucket and was raised up to clip off all the bailing string in it. Dunrovin staff has made it their practice and are very careful not to leave any bailing string from hay bales where the osprey can get it.
What the osprey mean to us
The osprey are a BIG part of Dunrovin and we eagerly anticipate their arrival every year. They attend all the weddings that are held out here and their calls punctuate our annual cycle.
When our kids were in Lolo School, there were times when they were late for school because we would be distracted by the osprey’s early spring aerial fights while they were courting or defending their claim against eagles—who are generally no match for the faster, more agile osprey.
Our riding arena has been littered with both sticks and fish that the osprey accidentally drop while “fluffing” the nest or bringing newly caught fish to their young. When the young get bigger, they become more aggressive and a fish sometimes gets lost in the tussle.
The osprey are a natural and integral part of our broader emphasis on nature and education at Dunrovin. They gracefully illustrate our mission and guiding principles, simply by residing alongside us. To know more about our personal connection with them, visit our blog.
The osprey have brought our community together and have made it larger. Dave Taylor Roofing and Northwestern Energy have been integral in helping us to move the nest and set up the cameras. We are so grateful to them.
And we are grateful for all the people, in Montana and around the globe, that the osprey have brought into our lives because of a mutual fascination.
If you would like to donate via PayPal to this worthy cause, please click the donate button below. Thank you.
Check out a fun book on Osprey that we found: Return of the Osprey: A Season of Flight and Wonder