To the right of the image, an osprey flies, wings outstretched, against a plain light blue sky.

Join Cumbria’s army of armchair birdwatchers

At Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve in Cumbria, England, they’ve got birdwatching down to a fine art, but there’s one pair in particular that have captured the hearts of twitchers the world over. The male known as ‘White YW’ (the name on his leg ring) and the female ‘Blue 35’ are Ospreys, birds of prey that are considered a rare bird in the UK. They’re of such interest that the reserve wanted to monitor their comings and goings – and Osprey Cam was born.

“At first, we simply wanted to add a webcam near the nest so that we could monitor the birds,” explains Mary Greenwood of the Cumbria Wildlife Trust, which operates more than 40 nature reserves across the county of Cumbria, England. “When we decided to provide a live feed to our website we were amazed at the interest from the general public”. White and Blue are one of only 250 breeding pairs of ospreys in the country and they return to the nature reserve every spring to breed. Mary and the team at Cumbria Wildlife Trust quickly realised that they would need to upgrade their Osprey Cam to ensure that fans of White and Blue could access high-definition video round the clock – regardless of weather conditions. “The network surveillance cameras from Axis Communications were the natural choice and together with the generosity of funders and individuals donating, live streaming from the nest was made possible,” says Mary.

The Trust had been working with Axis Communications for a number of years across their sites, mainly in a security capacity. However, the image quality they were seeing was perfect for keeping a close eye on the activity of the birds, capturing them in glorious detail. “Of course,” adds Mary, “there is an element of security here too, as the cameras also help to protect the nest from anybody who may want to disturb the birds or attempt to cause criminal damage to the site.”

An image of three osprey in a nest. The top of the image is dominated by the blue sky and the heads and bodies of the birds as they look out to the right. The bottom and front of the image is dominated by the many twigs and branches of the nest, which stretches across the photograph.
Watching osprey, such as these, and those at Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve, has been a source of great comfort to many during the pandemic.

Every spring, the ospreys return to raise their chicks at Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve, before migrating at the end of the summer. Over these few crucial months, a huge community of followers watch the Osprey Cam, using the chat function to talk to the team at the reserve. So far, the pair have fledged 18 chicks from the nest and for their global army of fans it can be quite the emotional journey, as they and staff alike watch the new chicks come into the world. “Sometimes viewers actually spot new behaviour patterns and tell us what they’ve seen, and even alert us to when the birds are returning to the nest. To be able to document these wonderful birds and their journey and share that with followers around the globe is a fantastic achievement,” says Mary.

The cameras are remotely activated, so during the UK’s lockdowns the feeds continued uninterrupted. At the same time, interest in birdwatching soared as skies and roads quietened and people began to take notice of – and comfort in – nature. During the peak of the pandemic the Osprey Cam’s viewing numbers rose by an incredible 78%, taking them to 687,000 unique views. “People have contacted us to say that watching the ospreys has really helped them to connect with nature and given them something positive to focus on and improve their wellbeing,” says Mary. “It’s heart-warming to think that we have made a difference to people’s lives in ways that we couldn’t have imagined when we initially decided to record the activities of the birds.”

For the Cumbria Wildlife Trust overall, the Axis solution has been a tremendous way to connect with the public, raising the profile of the trust and the work that they do. The Osprey Cam itself also functions as a valuable educational resource. Not only does it allow people to learn from the comfort of their homes, as it did during the pandemic, but it is “inspiring children to learn about the natural world and become our conservationists of the future”. To this end, Axis have donated a P3807-PVE network camera to the trust, which is able to capture a full 180° view from nest to roosting tree. When White and Blue return this spring, they won’t be the only ones with a spectacular view of Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve.

Tune in to the Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve Osprey Cam this spring or watch past clips of ‘White and Blue’.

Written by Madeline Robson, Communications Specialist, Axis Communications

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