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Tuesday, March 15, 2022

A Bird’s Eye View of Westminster’s Largest Rookery

A Bird’s Eye View of Westminster’s Largest Rookery

There is a new way for the community to connect with nature at Standley Lake Regional Park. The much-anticipated Bird Island Cam is now active on the City of Westminster’s website. The 24-hour live camera gives the community a unique and never before seen view of a major area of wildlife habitat at Standley Lake. Located just 400 feet offshore, the island serves as a safe and protected home for a wide variety of birds who turn the small space into a nesting ground each spring. With the Bird Island Cam now operational, you can experience the sights and sounds of this seasonal attraction year-round.  

Tree on Bird Island full of nests that birds utilize in the springtime“If you need a break from your daily routine or want a quick and easy nature experience, check out our Bird Island Cam,” exclaimed Sully Tun-Ake, Senior Park Ranger at Standley Lake. “You never know what you’ll see or hear! It’s exciting to watch nature up-close and in action. [This camera] is a fun way to safely view and learn about local wildlife from the comfort of your home or office.” 

The new camera replaces the popular Eagle Cam, which for years provided users with an up-close experience into the world of the majestic birds that are considered the main attraction at Standley Lake. With the eagles nesting in a new area of the wildlife refuge that the camera cannot reach, relocating the camera to view Bird Island is considered the next best thing for avid birders like Mike Clark. 

“The way the eagle camera used to be, it was in some trees way out there and it really wasn’t highlighting the lake,” explained Clark, who is also a bird walk program leader at Standley Lake. “There is so much down by the lake, that’s the place to be! This camera is going to broaden the public’s appreciation of what’s down here at Standley Lake, because most people just think about the eagles, but now they’re going to see there are many other types of birds down here that are gorgeous.” 

What type of birds and other wildlife will I see on the Bird Island Cam? Cormorants and great blue herons on Bird Island

The most popular residents at Bird Island are cormorants and great blue herons. Clark estimates that up to 150 cormorants nest in the trees on bird island each spring. In addition, there are usually more than 60 active great blue heron nests. Users can also expect to see white pelicans, gulls, ducks and even Standley Lake’s resident great horned owls. During the fall and winter months when the lake freezes over, users may get a glimpse of rare park wildlife like moose, elk and bobcats. Don’t count out an eagle sighting either.  

“Eagles don’t utilize that space as much during the summer, but during winter and even sometimes in the spring, our eagles and others will perch on those trees and that’s a great spot to hunt,” Tun-Ake said. 

Standley Lake staff also have the ability to rotate the camera to view the bald eagle refuge or other areas in the park to confirm animal sightings from guests or staff.  

When is the most exciting time to view the camera? 

The most action on Bird Island occurs from April to August. Cormorants and great blue herons will begin arriving in March and April, and the birds will begin nesting by May. 

“Once they stop having their nestlings and leave the nest, that will be near the end of July into August,” Clark pointed out. “Some of the immature birds who aren’t ready to leave the nest may wait until fall, so you’ll still see them on Bird Island.” 

The best time to view eagles on the camera is between December and February. 

Time of day also plays a big part in the amount of action you’ll see on Bird Island. Standley Lake staff say birds tend to be more active during the mornings, but checking the camera around dusk can be a good idea too, as birds begin settling in for the night. If you time it just right, you can also enjoy the sunset over the lake. 

What’s the latest with the resident bald eagles and the new egg? 

After two years without a successful fledgling leaving the nest, hopes are high for the new egg(s) laid in February. Standley Lake staff say a volunteer with Bird Conservancy of the Rockies confirmed that the resident eagles are now nesting in an area deep in the wildlife refuge. Eagles can lay up to three eggs at a time, but the exact number of eggs currently in the nest will be unknown until later this spring. 

“We won’t be able to tell how many eggs were laid this season until they hatch. Then the eaglets have to get strong enough to hold their heads above the nest for us to see how many eaglets we have,” said Tun-Ake. Staff expect this to happen around early-May. 

Due to the location of the new nest and federal requirements for limiting activity near nesting sites, plans to construct the Standley Lake Loop Trail along the western part of the lake are permanently on hold. If the eagles change their nesting location in the future, these plans may be revisited. Instead, Standley Lake looks forward to solidifying plans to improve trails on the south side of the lake later this year. 

How to access the Bird Island Cam 

Whether you’re an experienced birder or just someone who loves to take in the view, Standley Lake’s new Bird Island Cam is a great way to experience the wildlife in our own backyard. You can access it 24 hours a day on our website by clicking here.

Standley Lake offers a variety of bird walk programs throughout the year including the Trail Feathers birding series. For more information and to register, visit our website: https://www.cityofwestminster.us/ParksRecreation 

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