A pair of North Fork ospreys have become the East End’s hottest expecting parents this month—sorry Alec and Hilaria—as hundreds watch and wait for their three eggs to hatch.
George and Gracie, as the ospreys have been named, became instant local stars when a webcam of their nest went live on June 1, and the birds’ fan base continues to build as their eggs move ever closer to the inevitable hatch.
“The babies will be born any day,” says Paul Henry, one of two men responsible for the nest and ospreyzone.com, a site where enthusiasts can watch the birds on 24-hour, live streaming video. “We’re all on the edge of our seat.”
As of 4:50 p.m. Thursday, one of the three eggs appears to have a small hole in it. At least one osprey chick’s hatch is clearly imminent.
Henry, a property tax consultant, explains that his neighbor and friend for 45 years, Tommy Aprea, first saw the ospreys standing atop an 80-feet former television antenna and screeching, as if begging to nest there—so Aprea hired a guy to install a suitable nesting platform up there. The webcam followed in short order, but at first Aprea and Henry simply captured video of the birds building their nest, bringing fish back to eat and doing whatever it is birds do.
And they got some incredible video.
But it wasn’t until this year, when Gracie laid three eggs, that they began figuring a way to film the nest in an around-the-clock live stream. Henry, who ran the East End Student Film Project, already had a background in motion pictures, but he said working out the technology end of things has excited him most. We believe the technology we’re using right now has unlimited scalability,” Henry says, noting that the live stream recently had 1,000 viewers watching simultaneously.
Those viewers include housebound and disabled people, who have expressed sheer delight at being transported outside and into the birds’ intimate world, office workers who can’t stop watching, and several schools. “Teachers are making assignments over the summer for watching the birds and writing reports,” Henry says, explaining his interest in expanding ospreyzone.com’s usefulness as an educational tool.
In fact, he and Aprea are exploring all sorts of ideas for their video stream. They already have highlight clips available to view separate from the live footage and, Henry says, “We’re putting together a whole documentary story,” featuring George and Gracie building their nest, their babies hatching, learning to fly and whatever happens after that.
Anyone who visits ospreyzone.com will notice the large sponsorship by Henry’s company, Tax Reduction Services, which he says came about as a way to afford all the time and money that goes into maintaining it. But he makes it clear—this site has never been about exposure, drumming up business or making money. “I have a boat named Osprey and I own a marina called Osprey Zone,” Henry says, demonstating that he’s long been passionate about these birds. “It’s more a community service than anything else.”
Watch George and Gracie live at OspreyZone.com.