STATE: NC Wildlife Federation’s live webcam offers view of nesting osprey on Lake Norman

Wildlife and nature enthusiasts from across the globe can watch NC Wildlife Federation’s live webcam of Reuben and Cherise, a beloved osprey pair that flew the coop from their wintering grounds and made their way back this week to their nesting platform on Lake Norman.

“It appears our famous feathered friends will be quite busy as they rebuild their nest in preparation for mating and egg-laying this spring,” said Tim Gestwicki, NCWF’s CEO. “The cameras have night vision, so wildlife lovers can tune in anytime for a bird’s eye view of the breeding and nesting process for these fascinating birds. It’s a unique opportunity for people to watch ospreys in their natural habitat.”

View osprey webcam live at https://ncwf.org/.

A grant from the Catawba-Wateree Habitat Enhancement Program and NCWF members and individual donors funded the installation of a solar-powered video camera for Reuben and Charise’s nesting platform. NCWF’s osprey nesting camera, along with its heron nesting camera, have reached audiences across the globe with millions of views.

Ospreys are prevalent along the 225-mile long Catawba River, running from western NC to South Carolina, but this wasn’t always the case. As late as the early 1980s, osprey populations on the Catawba River were non-existent or minimal, primarily due to widespread usage of the pesticide DDT, which weakens eggshells.

Their numbers have significantly increased through a concerted effort to re-introduce osprey populations. Previously, the birds built nests in Lake Norman atop old navigational markers that were precarious and unsafe for eggs and chicks during heavy summer storms.

Volunteers from NCWF, Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists and Piedmont Area Wildlife Stewards replaced the markers with 30-foot poles attached to metal platforms and deployed by barge. The platforms provide nesting sites on large open bodies of water and healthy prey options, primarily live fish. The unencumbered height of the platforms attracts ospreys while also protecting them against predators like black snakes and raccoons.

“Ospreys will catch fish from the water using their long, hooked talons. An osprey can plunge so forcefully into the water that it will completely submerge,” Gestwicki said. “When carrying prey back to the nest, an osprey will arrange the fish so it’s facing upright, head forward. Occasionally, they’ll catch and eat a snake, eel or even a frog.”

Additional platforms are installed in Lake James, Mountain Island Lake, Lake Wylie and Lake Norman – all reservoirs of the Catawba River. Nearly all the platforms support nesting ospreys year after year. The young birds fledge in the summer and often migrate to Central and South America in the fall (the females usually leave about a month before the males), and they return to their nesting sites every March.

“Supporting access to North Carolina’s wild places and opportunities to enjoy them is a vital part of our organization,” Gestwicki said. “The thriving osprey population on Lake Norman is a testament to how we can work together for conservation in North Carolina and have a lasting impact on wildlife and habitat for generations to come.”