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UM Osprey Project Live Cameras Up and Running

People interested in bird watching can now view live video of two osprey nests on the Clark Fork and Bitterroot rivers.

Hosted by the Department of Geosciences at The University of Montana, the video is online at The Project Osprey team studies the day-to-day lives of the birds through the video, which also is streaming in the lobby of the Riverside Health Care Center. 

Graduate student Molly Stats’ thesis is on how mercury moves through the food chain in the greater Clark Fork River Basin, and one of the missing links she was trying to close were the pieces, size and amount of fish that osprey chicks in the area consume. Therefore, Heiko Langner, the director of UM’s Environmental Biogeochemistry Laboratory, asked last year if they could set up a camera near one of the osprey nests at the Riverside Health Care Center.

The health care center gladly accepted, and the research team set up the first camera, donated by Raptors of the Rockies, near the Clark Fork River.

“It was a great success for our scientific purpose,” Langner said. Through their studies they’ve so far learned that mercury is a top contaminant affecting wildlife in the Clark Fork River Basin, and it’s been moved up on the list of contaminants addressed through river cleanup.

They’ve also learned that the largest source of mercury in the watershed is in Flint Creek, entering the Clark Fork River near Drummond, now targeted as an important cleanup area. 

The project evolved further than anyone initially expected and has taken on a life of its own. The health care center liked the camera so much that they donated a new one and built a large pole for it to stand on, and Raptors of the Rockies upgraded the health care center’s lobby laptop to a large HD-TV screen. The initial camera was moved to a nest on the Dunrovin Guest Ranch on the Bitterroot River, and live video from both cameras can now be watched on the Internet.

Project Osprey is headed by Langner and biology professor Erick Greene and supported by the Raptor View Research Institute. Staats will present her thesis May 6, but she will be succeeded by other students who will continue to use osprey data from the cameras.

For more information call Langner at 406-243-6553 or email