Smith Mountain Lake State Park has been operating a live feed web camera of an Osprey nest for two seasons now. We’ve had limited success over the two years; this year has been better, though we still deal with obstacles. Internet service in a rural area has been challenging, this is a new system that we’re working out bugs with and the park has limited staff and resources to operate one of the busiest State Parks in Virginia; and the Osprey camera requires a good deal of time and attention. Our policy has been relatively hands off unless the birds are in immediate danger and we have the ability to help. This is unedited nature, and though it may be difficult to watch at times, this is the real world with wild animals. The lake has several other nests, though no others in the park; those other nests do not receive the attention, care and potential help that our nest does. So while this is nature our birds probably stand a better chance than most. This release is not meant to be a history of the camera or nest but facts of the last couple days.
On the morning of July 6, 2013 the camera was re-set and turned back on close to 8:00 a.m., when park staff arrived for work. Upon turning on the camera there were no chicks visible in the nest. All three chicks have been exercising their wings and getting close to fledging. This was also the July 4 weekend and the park has been extremely busy, and again we have limited staff and resources. It was assumed that the three chicks fledged and left the nest overnight or early morning. One staff member saw two chicks flying around the area during the afternoon. Later in the afternoon a staff member walked down to the nest area and discovered one chick on the ground below the nest. A plan was quickly put into action and phone calls were made to local rehabilitation facilities and personnel. A short while later three staff members walked down to collect the chick and discovered a second chick on the ground also. Both chicks were collected in suitable containers, handled with great care and handled in a manner consistent with professional recommendations. Both chicks appeared to be healthy with no obvious injuries. The third chick has not been seen and staff has thoroughly covered the ground around the area of the nest. We continue to hope for the best for the third chick.
A local rehab professional was contacted and the birds were transferred to them; they were then transported to a wildlife rehab facility in Virginia for further care. The facility is a reputable facility that is well respected in the field and State Parks have worked with them several times in the past. We have the utmost faith and confidence that the birds will receive the best care possible.
Park staff were faced with three choices for the chicks; 1) to place them back in the nest. This was impossible on a Saturday afternoon; the nest is on a 30 foot pole and the park does not have equipment on hand to do that. 2) to leave the chicks on the ground and hope for the best; the park has a healthy fox population and the birds likely would not have made it through the night, and typically Osprey do not feed their young on the ground. 3) to get the birds to a rehab facility as quickly as possible; this is what we did. This presented the birds with the best chances of survival.
The birds have arrived at the facility and will be evaluated and treated as appropriate. It’s too early to say what will happen or when. Ideally if the professionals feel they are able to survive on their own the birds will be released at the appropriate time, and possibly released back at the park.
We are not releasing the name of the facility at this time; given the huge amount of feedback we have received (both positive and negative) these birds are a bit of celebrities now, the facility needs uninterrupted time to do their job. It’s likely the name of the facility has already been made public from other parties. Please do not call and bother them; they need time to do their job.
This is the official information release from Smith Mountain State Park at this time. Park staff has already fielded numerous phone calls from concerned viewers; we are not trying to hide anything or ignore the birds, there is no conspiracy theory that some are quick to point at. We are a conservation department and have always, and continue to do all we are capable of to help these birds. Phone calls to the park will be given this same information and nothing else; we simply have no other information at this time. As we learn more about the health of the birds we will get that information out also. We are doing all we can to give these birds their best chances at survival; but we need some time to take action and then in turn release information. We hope our viewers will trust that we are doing everything we can and give us some time to continue working.