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Birds of prey: Raptor cam livestreams ospreys’ return to Port of Ridgefield

Port worked with Clark Public Utilities, Ridgefield schools to livestream the raptors in their nest for the next six months

By Chrissy Booker, Columbian staff writer
Published: April 3, 2024, 3:55pm
5 Photos
An osprey soars through the sky with a fresh catch at the Ridgefield Waterfront.
An osprey soars through the sky with a fresh catch at the Ridgefield Waterfront. ((Taylor Balkom/The Columbian)) Photo Gallery

After six months in South America, two Ospreys have returned to Ridgefield to nest, rest and lay eggs — and the Port of Ridgefield is capturing it all on a livestream.

The port’s raptor cam, streamed from the Ridgefield waterfront, officially went live Monday. The project is a collaborative effort between the port, Clark Public Utilities and the Ridgefield School District’s Innovation Ridge CAPS program. The port hopes the livestream will offer a window into the biology of raptors and the natural ecosystem already thriving at the waterfront.

“The kind of thing we’re hoping for is to generate awareness and prompt discussions about being good stewards, which is something that’s a really important part of the mission,” Port of Ridgefield Chief Executive Officer Randy Mueller said. “The nest and the camera are really great opportunities for us to showcase what we’ve got going on at the waterfront.”

Osprey have nested along the Ridgefield waterfront for the past two decades, Mueller said.

Osprey, also known as the sea hawk or fish hawk, are birds of prey that can travel up to 160,000 migration miles during a 15- to 20-year lifespan, according to the National Audubon Society. The brown-and-white feathered raptors return to the same place every year after migration to Central and South America.

The pair at the Ridgefield waterfront are expected to lay eggs sometime this month and then will start their journey south around October, Mueller said.

The port took inspiration from Clark Public Utilities and Cowlitz Public Utility District, which are also livestreaming osprey at various locations.

“As residents of the Pacific Northwest, I think we all identify very strongly with our natural environment. We thought it would be great if we could give folks an up close view of how these animals are living their lives, raising their young and flying off eventually,” Clark Public Utilities spokesman Dameon Pesanti said of the utility’s Osprey Watch. “We’re in a position to help steward and preserve and protect those systems not only for the animals, but for us and for the future generations.”

The conversation about setting up the raptor cam started a year ago, according to Ethan Perry, director of operations for Port of Ridgefield.

Clark Public Utilities provided the port with technical and electrical advice, and six engineering students from the Ridgefield schools’ Innovation Ridge program helped configure the camera design and set up. Four volunteers from Clark Public Utilities helped set up the camera at the nest.

The port made sure the project was completed before the raptors returned from migration, so they wouldn’t be disturbed, Perry said.

According to the Audubon Society, the osprey population declined in the 1950s and ‘60s due to the effects of DDT pesticides, which were banned in the United States in 1972. Since then, ospreys have made a comeback throughout North America — Ridgefield included.

For all the dedicated bird watchers, the raptor cam will be streamed 24/7 for the next six months.

Additionally, Clark Public Utilities is hosting a contest for its Osprey Watch for people to guess when the osprey eggs on the utility’s raptor cam will hatch through a customer survey.

Winners will receive a prize sent to them in the mail, Pesanti said.

“We’re just going to enjoy them for the season,” Mueller said.