People all over the world are experiencing empty nest syndrome. Not because their children have flown the coup, but because the three osprey chicks living in the nest monitored by the Smith Mountain Lake webcam have disappeared. The Friends of Smith Mountain Lake State Park Web site streaming pictures of the chicks each year gets faithful views from places as far away as Finland, Germany, and Spain.
Park Manager Brian Heft said the three chicks were well cared for by their parents and while the chicks squabbled among themselves as siblings often do there was nothing out of the ordinary until the disappearance.
“We figure it was probably an owl,” said Heft. “Most likely it was a grey-horned owl. Those birds are a pretty good size. It happened overnight. The camera we have is not a night vision camera, but you can always see a channel marker and every now and then if you looked closely you could see motion in the nest. Somebody on the social side of u-stream posted that they saw a lot of commotion on the nest.”
The parents put up a fight, Heft said. He added that Osprey cannot see well at night giving a decided advantage to the owl, but we will never really know for sure what happened.
Ospreys are federally protected birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The pesticide DDT nearly exterminated them and many other birds in the 1960s and 70s. Since the banning of DDT the osprey population has rebounded nicely.
Park officials started talking about the osprey program around 2003 and the nest camera was in place for the 2004 breeding season. Ospreys like to build their nests in the open on poles, channel markers, and dead trees, often over water. Since the program at the lake started more nests have been cropping up around the lake because ospreys tend to return to the place of their birth when they are old enough to nest.
Ospreys do well around humans. These raptors live off of a diet of live fish and are amazing hunters who dive to catch their prey.
Osprey Web Cam
Smith Mountain Lake State Park
1235 Road 888, Huddleston, VA 24104