Welcome to the 2016 Eagle Cam Season

Two-egg clutch for 2016 season

Two-egg clutch for 2016 season

We want to welcome everyone to a new season on the Blackwater NWR Eagle Cam. For those who are new to the cam, we’ve been following this nest since the 2004-2005 season. We don’t band eagles at Blackwater NWR, so we don’t know if this is the same couple each year, but adult eagles can live long lives, are very loyal to each other, and are also loyal to their nests, so we’re sure that for quite a few years, we’ve likely seen the same birds.

Cam watchers have also asked if this is the same pair that is seen on the Blackwater NWR Osprey Cam. We do know that sometimes our Eagle Cam pair visits the osprey platform (we’ve seen them take food from one nest to the other), but we have a lot of eagles at Blackwater — one of the largest populations in the lower 48 states — so sometimes the eagles on the osprey platform might be different birds.

We have a two-egg clutch for this year. Bald eagles normally lay two or three eggs, so this is a normal amount. Below is our scorecard:

  • 1st egg
    Laid: 1/24
    Possible hatch: Around 2/28
  • 2nd egg
    Laid: 1/29
    Possible hatch: Around 3/4

There was a longer delay between the two eggs than we normally see, and we’re not sure why that is. Also, the parents appeared to delay the incubation of the first egg, which is a technique for ensuring the eggs hatch closer together (this might impact the potential hatch dates). We did see the parents off both eggs the other night, and we were a little worried even though it was mild. A cam watcher helpfully pointed out an interesting article from Duke Farms about eagle eggs left in the cold, so you might want to check it out.

The other reason we’re a little more nervous this season is because last season did not end well. Normally our eagles on the cam are rock-solid parents. We’re accustomed to seeing big drama from the Osprey Cam birds — everything from newbie parents abandoning the eggs during a long rain storm, to parents leaving the eggs unprotected around fish crows, to a male osprey abandoning the family, possibly to take up with another female. But over the years, our eagle adults have been incredibly efficient, brave, and loyal in their parenting, even protecting the eggs with a foot of snow on the nest. However, last year we saw something odd. The male adult left a new chick outside the nest cup and it froze to death. The chick was right beside him, but he didn’t seem to respond to the chick’s attempt to get back under him, and then it was too late. We’ve never seen anything like it with our eagles. He might have been a new parent with little experience or he might have been an intruder who had driven away the resident male off camera and wanted to get rid of the chicks that weren’t his — we’ll never know. But it’s left us a little nervous regarding how our parents will do this year.

So this season will be a bit different in that we’re not as confident as we normally are about our parents being the unflappable pair that gets the chicks through anything nature can throw at them. But then again, that’s why we watch wildlife cams. We never know what to expect, and that is what makes it exciting.

Technical Note

Before we wrap up, we did want to say something about our technical issues. As our loyal cam watchers will remember we had hoped to have streaming video for this cam season. There has been a delay in getting broadband service out to the rural area where Blackwater is located. We have heard that the new Harriet Tubman State Park Visitor Center (across from Blackwater NWR) is getting broadband, so we’re hopeful that this means it will soon be available to us at the Refuge. We’re keeping an eye on the situation and we’ll do our best to upgrade our technology when we are able.

Until next time,
Lisa – webmaster
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Categories: blackwater nwr, eagle cam, eggs | 1 Comment

No Chicks for the 2015 Season

No chicks

No chicks

As we mentioned on the Eagle Cam page, last night we witnessed an odd sequence of events where after the sole chick was fed, the adult on the nest sat on the unhatched egg and did not make an effort to get up and cover the eaglet from the cold. At this stage, the eaglet wasn’t able to regulate its own body temperature yet, so after about an hour of being exposed, the eaglet perished. The eaglet seemed to make an effort to get back under the adult, and at one point it appeared the chick was in the view of the adult, but the adult did not get up.

We know that other eagle cam nests have struggled with parents who did not live up to their responsibilities as well as they should, but we were surprised that the adult on the nest seemed to be more focused on covering the egg than the eaglet that was not in the nest cup. In years past, the parent has always seemed to be aware when the eaglets were not properly covered, and we’ve never had an issue with the chicks being left on their own to the elements. As some cam watchers observed, on February 24 we did see the adult leave the sole chick uncovered, but then after a few updates, the chick was back under the parent, so we didn’t think anything of it, although it did look odd to see a chick that young out of the nest cup while the adult was laying in the middle of the nest.

So what could have happened? Our first guess is that we might have a newbie parent (likely the male) and this might be his first brood. The other less likely option is that our male has been replaced with an intruder, who is not motivated to take care of this brood, although we think that’s not likely, otherwise the male wouldn’t have tried to incubate the remaining egg. And the reason we’re guessing it’s the male is because during the two events, it appeared that the smaller eagle was on the nest.

As for the remaining egg, it’s too late for it to hatch now, and it’s too late in the nesting season for a second clutch, so this will be the end of our season. At some point when the weather warms a bit, we’re going to zoom out the camera to a wider view, and we do plan to keep the camera on in order to observe the adults.

If over the coming weeks, we collect any more information about what happened at the nest, we’ll pass it along. We want to thank those who have followed the nest this year — even when the camera was having technical difficulties — and sent in photos for our gallery.

Our ospreys will be returning in a few weeks, so we look forward to that event and the arrival of spring after a long, cold winter.

Until next time,
Lisa – webmaster
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Categories: eagle cam, eaglet, eggs | 3 Comments

A One-Chick Nest

One chick in the 2015 nest

One chick in the 2015 nest

Just when we think we know what will happen on our Eagle Cam nest, we get a surprise. During the 11 years that we’ve been broadcasting from this nest, we’ve always had at least two eaglets in residence in a given season, but this year it looks like we’ll have just one.

Because we’re having issues with the camera in the tree (and we can’t fix it while the chick is small and needs protection from its parent), we have to make an educated guess as to when the hatching happened. Based on our observations and what we were hearing from cam watchers, as well as volunteers at the Refuge, here is our scorecard.

  • 1st egg laid: 1/7
    Hatch: 2/15
  • 2nd egg laid: 1/10
    Hatch: 2/17 2/19 (died around 2/23)
  • 3rd egg laid: 1/13
    No hatch

Our third egg is very late and we don’t expect it to hatch. Even if it did, the chick would be so far behind the older chick, that the younger chick would probably have a hard time getting much during meal time, so it’s probably best that it not hatch now.

As for the second chick, he seemed to be doing well, and there was plenty of food, so we don’t know if the chick had health issues or maybe it was an issue with the cold, but he didn’t last long after hatching.

Rabbit in eagle nest

Rabbit in eagle nest

The remaining chick seems very active and is already visibly growing, and there has been plenty of food in the nest to feed it, despite the bad weather. We’ve seen multiple fish in the nest at one time, in addition to a duck or two, and a rabbit, which you can see in this photo.

So the good news is we have a chick to watch grow up and eventually fledge. And assuming our chick is healthy, he should have a good life in the nest, since the parents are excellent providers.

We’ll update the Gallery soon, but in the meantime, if you’d like to see some of the photos that were shared from the nest over the last week, be sure to check out our Facebook page. And thanks to all those who sent in images while we were trying to determine if the hatching was really happening.

Until next time,
Lisa – webmaster
Support the Blackwater Cams
Contact Us

Categories: eaglet, eggs, hatching | 2 Comments

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