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Ospreys back on the air

Osprey were reintroduced to Iowa in 2001 by the Department of Natural Resources. Since 2010, one particular pair of birds return annually to nest. A live feed of the birds may be viewed at Submitted Photo1 / 2
Dickinson County Nature Center staff members hold two osprey removed from their nest in order to replace video cameras that were damaged during June’s storms. Submitted Photo2 / 2

OKOBOJI, Iowa — The Dickinson County Nature Center’s osprey cameras are back online following wind damage during June’s storms. 

The birds have been nesting at the center for over a decade and provide viewers a close-up look of nesting and caring for juvenile birds. According to naturalist Charles Vigdal, osprey have historically been linked to Iowa. While no written record exists, osprey have been attributed to the state in early pioneer days.

In 2001, the Iowa DNR decided to reintroduce the birds to the area. In 2001, two hacking towers were erected.

In falconry, hacking is a procedure where birds are taught to return to a specific lure or feeding site but are free to come and go as they wish.

Vigdal said the goal of the Conservation Board is to raise and release the birds so they will imprint on the area and return. The nesting platform at the Nature Center encourages this behavior. From 2006-2011, 20 birds have used the platforms. One particular pair of osprey, who are on the live camera feed, have returned to the area annually since 2010.

The storms in June wreaked havoc on the camera system. The nesting arm that holds the camera in place broke during the high winds. The storm also caused a pair of osprey who nest at Lower Gar Lake to lose their babies.

“I’m surprised it survived this long,” Vigdal said the camera arm. The Center takes the camera down during the winter when the osprey are not in the area and return it in the spring.

Dickinson County Nature Center staff encountered another stumbling block in restoring the camera service. At the time of the storm, the mother osprey was sitting on a nest of eggs. The staff did not want to disturb the mother or the eggs at that time, so the equipment was replaced after the osprey hatched.

When the chicks were 50 days old, the center hosted a two-fold event to replace the camera and band the birds for identification. About 30 people attended the event, during which the chicks were given a wellness check by Dr. Ross Dirks of the Dickinson County Animal clinic. Tim Waltz, an Iowa DNR Wildlife Unit employee, banded the birds with Iowa Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Service bands.

“We were very excited that everything lined up perfectly and we were able to get the two young birds down, have Dr. Dirks check them over and get the camera placed back on the nest,” said naturalist Karess Knudtson. “None of it would have been possible without the willingness of all involved. It shows a great collaboration of individual people toward common conservation-minded goals.”

People can view the live feed of the osprey nest at the Dickinson County Nature Center or online at

“Many people have already stopped in the nature center to watch the osprey camera, and several have been excited that it is back online,” said community relations coordinator Kiley Roth. “We hope everyone will enjoy watching the chicks as they try out their wings and get ready to fly in the coming weeks.”

Daily Globe Reporter Robin Baumgarn may be reached at 376-7323.