The ospreys are the stars!

Osprey nest tree at Foulshaw Moss 2015.  Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Foulshaw Moss osprey nest webcam is now streaming live. The story of our cameras from start to finish

What an achievement! Its only 4 months since I started this job, but already we have installed all the technology and have fantastic pictures of the osprey family broadcasting live to the world from Foulshaw Moss.

Watch from your PC, phone, tablet etc by visiting http://www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk/osprey-cam

Last year we installed a small camera that collected regular still images. This captured lots of wonderful moments, such as the return of the female (known as Blue 35 or Splash) from Africa in April (below), prior to her raising her first 3 chicks.

Still camera image of Osprey at Foulshaw 2014

Still camera image of Osprey at Foulshaw 2014. Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Knowing that video cameras would give nest security as well as wonderful views for everybody to watch, several Cumbria Wildlife Trust staff visited the Dyfi Osprey Project last year and came back armed with lots of information about the system they were using to show close-up nest footage to thousands of delighted visitors.

We bought a CCTV system with 2 high-definition cameras from 2020 Vision, professional installers who provided and installed the cameras, control units, software and cabling.

This has been made possible by the generosity of so many kind people who have donated to our osprey camera appeal. Foulshaw Moss is free to visit, and we rely on voluntary donations to continue to develop the site, so thank you to you all. I hope you enjoy watching the videos and photos that we can now capture and share with you.

All the credit must go to Rob Davies, who manages our IT system, and has project-managed the Foulshaw Moss osprey web-cams for us. Without his expertise and enthusiasm we would never have got this far.

Camera installation at Foulshaw Moss 2015

Camera installation at Foulshaw Moss 2015. Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Phase I of the installation began in February. The work around the tree needed completing before the ospreys migrated back from West Africa.

On a cold windy morning  I guided everyone out across the treacherous bog surface, crossing numerous hidden flooded ditches.

Two local tree surgeons from Radiata Tree Services climbed the swaying nest tree with ropes and installed the cameras above the osprey nest, with expert guidance from Duncan, technician at 2020 Vision, looking on safely from the ground. They also checked the safety of the nest platform and attached an addtional strut underneath to support it.

Camera installation at Foulshaw Moss 2015

Camera installation at Foulshaw Moss 2015. Cumbria Wildlife Trust

We also installed a box on site, away from the nest, with a computer server and various control units that I cannot claim to understand in detail. These are recording all the footage in high definition, allowing me to browse back through it and compile edited highlights for this blog.

These were not typical days in the lives of the technicians (or us, to be honest!). Cumbrian sleet and slipping into the bog meant changes of clothes for several brave souls.

Phase 2: the major part of this job was the practical challenge of connecting the Foulshaw Moss cameras to the outside world. Powerlines with electricity and phone cables run along the A590 past the nature reserve, but this is a long long way from the nest tree.

Installing camera at Foulshaw Moss electrical cabling 2015

Installing camera at Foulshaw Moss electrical cabling 2015. Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Our only option was to drag armoured cables by hand the full distance across treacherous flooded ground covered in tree stumps and holes, to then sink it into the moss. On delivery the armoured electricity cable reel proved to weigh three quarters of a tonne, with the fibre optic cable weighing in at a measly third of a tonne!

This was a team effort, rolling the huge reel along nearby quiet roads to undo it. then dragging the slack slowly out onto the moss, going back and starting again. I will admit to starting out nervous about the practicality of this, but we triumphed in the end.

For the benefit of my sceptical colleagues, yet again I've led  a foolhardy mission onto a remote Cumbrian bog without losing anybody (wet feet don't count, thats a basic initiation rite).

By the time Rob turned up to help, it was almost finished, no wonder he looks so pleased!

Phase 3 was digging a trench near the road. This was definitely the worst part, as we crossed a small gravel track that turned out to have 4 inches of tarmac underneath & I was armed only with a pickaxe.

The trench took the cables into underground junction boxes where the utility companies could connect them to the grid. Followed of course by a month or so waiting for them to come and do that!

Laying the cable at Foulshaw Moss 2015

Laying the cable at Foulshaw Moss 2015. Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Phase 4 simply required us to nervously wait and wait for a well known telecoms company to turn on our broadband connection. And yes, I can finally say it is actually working! We can move and control the cameras via the internet, and you can hopefully all see the nest too. 

Recently, for those of us involved it has sometimes felt like we were painfully slow getting the cameras finished, but our timescale was always incredibly tight. I have to remind myself that it really is amazing to get this technology working at all from such a remote location.

This is not quite the end of the story. Now we are developing a rota of staff and volunteers to watch the nest and talk to visitors, we are investigating ways to show the images live at Foulshaw Moss nature reserve.

I will of course keep uploading highlights of the ospreys' year for you to see in future blog posts at much higher definition.

Simon