The Real World: East Marion

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Gracie fed her three babies fish retrieved by George on Wednesday morning. Photo courtesy ospreyzone.com

One new family on the North Fork have gotten a lot of attention so far this month. George and Gracie, a pair of ospreys who spend their summers on top of an 80-foot radio antenna in East Marion, watched their three eggs hatch this week—and so did thousands of people over the internet.

Just a few weeks ago, ospreyzone.com, a website offering a live, 24-hour video feed of the nest, was launched. Paul Henry, the president of Tax Reduction Services (TRS), which sponsored the website, described the footage as “addictive and hypnotic.”

As the story goes, Mr. Henry’s friend and neighbor, Tommy Aprea, a retired commercial fisherman, saw ospreys landing on the top of an antenna on his property. He had a stand built at a local welder’s, but once it was placed 80 feet up in the air, he realized that he couldn’t see what was going on. And that’s when he decided to put a camera up in the nest.

According to Mr. Henry, Mr. Aprea was giving out the camera address to his friends, so they too could get a glimpse into the secret lives of ospreys. The address could only handle five or 10 people watching at one time before it would crash, and that’s when TRS decided to sponsor a website to allow people all over the world to watch the George and Gracie (plus three) show. “We thought it was a good match,” Mr. Henry said. “This is really Long Island.”

When the website launched two and a half weeks ago, there were three eggs in the nest, as viewers watched Gracie keeping them warm. By the end of last week, the first baby raptor had hatched. Viewers from all over tuned in on Monday when the last of the three eggs hatched, and have been able to witness George flying back up to the nest with a freshly caught fish in his beak.

“It’s pretty cool,” Mr. Henry said. The current website, he explained, is just the beginning of their plans. They are collecting their footage and have plans to hire interns to help them edit down the story of George and Gracie’s new babies: growing up, learning to fly, and eventually, leaving the nest. They also have plans to give the feed to hospitals to use in their waiting rooms. “We’re getting a lot of feedback about it being therapeutic,” he said. Some ambitious plans involve editing the footage together to have ornithologists narrate and explain some of the behavior the birds.

Interested birders can check in on the raptors live by visiting ospreyzone.com. You can also view highlights of the past few days including “First Love,” “Dinner is Served,” and “Little Brother.”

 

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