It is probably fair to say that this year we have observed an osprey family like no-one has before. Four 1080P High Definition cameras gave us unprecedented angles, literally, of the lives of Monty and Nora and how they fought against all the odds to raise a son. This week we took all of the cameras down for winter testing and storage.
The image below, taken by Camera 2, is from April 6th, four days after Monty arrived back from Africa. Nora had already been waiting nine days for him, she was back March 24th. As they started the 'nestoration' work and pair bonding for another summer, little did they know that the weather that day was hardly going to get any better during the months ahead.
(click images for larger size)
Come back a little earlier next year Monty - never a good idea to leave a woman waiting
As the four of us approached the nest we were struck by how autumnal everything looked. Apart from myself there was volunteer Al Davies, and Andy and Oly from CCW Solutions who are our IT experts for the cameras and live streaming.
After all the goings on in the nest over the last six months or so, there was a solitary magpie there to greet us. How ironic.
The ash tree perch and Camera 1 (left) are 10m away from the main nest
While Andy and Oly were sorting all the electrics in the green boxes below, Al soon had all four cameras down after several trips up a three storey ladder.
These cameras are designed to be fully operational in all weathers. They are actually tested to - 40°C; even in Wales it doesn't get that cold! They have intricate heating systems and fans inside them however, (that's why you never see condensation on the video images) that require electrical power at all times. We couldn't take the risk of a power cut say in mid January, potentially harming the electrics inside.
Al carefully takes Camera 3 down - this is the camera we used for all the live streaming this year
Considering that these cameras are very new on the market and represent cutting edge technology in terms of High Definition PTZ (Pan/Tilt/Zoom) cameras for external use, they have performed extremely well. There are a few issues however we need to improve on and test over the winter. We'll be back next March to reinstall the cameras and make some fine tweaking.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of Ruth and Hefin's company - they farm some of the fields around Cors Dyfi and Monty and Nora's nest site, including some of the wetlands where Monty sometimes eats his dinner on an electric pole.
Hefin took us high up on the south side of the Dyfi River where Monty has another favourite perch. This one is a lot more inconspicuous and is hidden away, next to a forestry plantation. He used to spend a lot of time here as a single bachelor, scanning around for any female ospreys that would pass through his territory.
Ospreys have between four and six times the visual acuity of humans. Think of it this way... you're having an eye test and you have perfect vision. You can see the very bottom letters (the smallest) clearly on the chart from 10m away. An osprey would have roughly the same visual acuity as you but from four to six times further back, 40 - 60m away. The minute Nora came within a few miles of his nest, Monty would have been down like a shot from his high vantage point on April 9th last year.
A perch with a view, with the mouth of the Dyfi on the left as it meets Cardigan bay
The best landscape photograph I've seen this week however, was not taken by me. Once he'd taken all four nest cameras down on Wednesday, Al set up his own camera in the nest. And I mean in the nest!
On a small mobile tripod placed right in the middle of the nest where Nora spent much of her time over the summer, Al took a series of photographs, moving the camera a few degrees across the horizontal axis as he went along. He then digitally 'stitched' these images together to represent a 180° view, just like the ospreys would have seen. A stunning panoramic image.
A big thanks to Andy, Oly, Ruth, Hefin and of course, Al.