The day after Salish elder Louis Adams died, life began anew at a place steeped with his personal history.
That’s when Iris, the osprey whose nest Adams blessed while he was participating in ground-breaking ceremonies for the future Missoula College building two years ago, got a new mate. A streaming webcam has made Iris world-famous, and her audience of fans had been wondering what would happen after long-time mate Stanley failed to return with her this spring.
“Iris came back all dressed up and ready to go, but no Stanley,” said Erick Greene, a University of Montana ornithologist who set up the webcam. “We suspect he died over the winter. They’d been coming for 15 years. Louis Adams died in late April, and the next day, this new male osprey showed up.”
Fish-hunting osprey typically mate for life, although they will take on new partners if one dies. While Iris has been one of the most successful breeders Greene has monitored, the new bird has faced a steep learning curve.
“She’s laid five eggs so far,” Greene said. “A raven got the first one, and the second got chucked out before the new male got back. But now she’s got three in the nest, and she’s incubating away.”
The male has taken a while to learn the proper size of stick to bring to the nest that won’t fall out, and how to take his turn on the eggs so Iris can do some fishing of her own. But he also appears more comfortable perching on river-crossing power lines to target fish than Stanley was.
Residents of the Riverside Healthcare Center next to the nest have a dedicated monitor in the lobby to keep a close eye on the osprey. Center life enrichment director Tammy Beloc said the live feed was one of the most popular activities at the skilled nursing facility.
“The word spreads all through the place as soon as the birds return,” Beloc said. “We have people from out of town stop by to see the birds, and they get Christmas cards from all over the world sent to us here.”
Greene said he sought and got permission from Adams’ family before announcing the name for the new male on the nest’s Facebook page.
“Louis was a revered elder and an amazing man,” Greene said. “When he blessed the osprey nest, he told us about when his grandmother was born in a tepee right across the river from where the nest is. There are about 200 countries around world watching that camera. I thought it would be neat to name this new male in honor of Louis Adams. The family was excited, and they gave their blessing to name the new male Louis.”