Monthly Archives: February 2013

As We Wait for Hatching

three eggs on 2013 Blackwater NWR Eagle CamWe wanted to give everyone an update on the status of the eggs and the cam.

As you can see on the cam pages, we’re making progress on the images. We got our new web cam software up and running and now we need to find the right combination of settings with our equipment to minimize our remaining issues — such as the dropped images and enlarging the source image. It’s a bit challenging getting all the pieces to play together nicely, including the field camera, the microwave equipment, the PC, the capture cards, the web cam software, the satellite dish service, and the web host – not even mentioning the eagles themselves! But just know we’re still working on ironing out the final issues.

One tip I did want to point out regarding the dropped images: If you see the image go blank, refresh the page, and often the image will appear. This issue is related to the timing that is going on between our satellite service and the web server, but sometimes the refresh will bring up the new image. We hope to fix this issue soon.

Also folks often ask why we don’t have streaming video. Due to our limited internet bandwidth out at the Refuge, we do not have plans to go to streaming video, so we’re working to make the still images the best they can be.

Despite our technology adventures this year, the eagles are moving along nicely with their efforts at producing a new set of eaglets. Based on our predictions for the first hatching, we would expect to see cracking either today or tomorrow. Our parents seem healthy and we’ve never had an egg not hatch in the eight years of this Eagle Cam, so we would expect the first egg to produce a healthy chick.

As a reminder, before the actual hatching occurs, the chick will be moving inside the egg, and making noises as it chips away at the shell. The parents will hear the chick and will know before we do that the eaglet is coming, so we can watch the body language of the mother to determine when action might be starting. We did see the father bring in a fish for the mother yesterday (see the photo on our Facebook page), and she took it off the nest to eat it. In the past, the father bringing a meal was a sign that he knew a chick was coming.

GHO eggs and bald eagle eggWe know folks are curious about the size of the eggs, since it’s hard to judge size on the cam. Recently at the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge Eagle Cam in Oklahoma, they had an intruder eagle that disrupted the nesting season for the resident pair. An abandoned eagle egg was left in the nest, and a Great horned owl took over the nest and laid two of her own eggs alongside the eagle egg. They posted a photo of these eggs together in the nest, and I’m sharing it here. You can see how large the eagle egg is compared to the Great horned owl eggs. Here is the size/weight difference of an average egg (note that first eggs can be a bit larger):

GHO egg: 1.8″ wide, 2.2″ long, 1.8oz weight

Bald eagle egg: 2″ wide, 2.7″ long, 4.5oz weight

We also wanted to remind folks that on March 9, we’re hosting our 13th Annual Eagle Festival at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, which is where our Eagle Cam is located. The Eagle Festival is our biggest event of the year, and it’s a great time to come out and see the Eagle Cam video on the monitor at the Refuge — especially if we have chicks. We’ll have plenty of fun events for adults and kids, including a special Harriet Tubman guided walk. For those who don’t know, the state of Maryland will break ground on the new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park in March, and it will be located in the field across from our Wildlife Drive, so you can learn more about Harriet Tubman’s remarkable life when you come to the Festival. It should be a fun time for all, so please join us. You can find a program of events and other useful information on our Eagle Festival page.

Until next time,
Lisa – webmaster
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Welcome to a New Season!

Three Eggs on 2013 Eagle CamWelcome to all our cam watchers — whether you’re a new viewer or a loyal cam watcher from previous years. We’ve had a rough road to the 2012-2013 season, as those who have been watching the cam surely realize, and we thank folks for all their patience over the last 11 months.

The drama started last season in February when we had an intruder male eagle land on the nest and attack our two week-old eaglets. Our eaglets did not survive, and this was the first time in eight seasons that we lost an eaglet on the nest. Some cam watchers are likely wondering if we’ll have drama on the nest this year. It’s impossible to know, but my guess would be that whatever happened last year has played itself out resulting in either the male intruder being chased away or the intruder taking over as our female’s new mate. We’ll never know because our birds aren’t banded, but I would think this year will be quieter.

After our sad end to last season, we had other challenges to face. Our Visitor Center is undergoing renovation, and we had water damage in our PC room from a leak during the roof replacement. Then our long-time tree climber passed away, our partner at WildCam quit, and we developed a very nasty static issue with the cams that was hard to eliminate.

The good news is that our cam technician recently spent two days replacing all the wiring for the two cams, and the static is largely gone. You might see a little on the Eagle Cam nest as cars go down the road near the nest, but the new wiring has helped tremendously.

In addition, we bought a new camera for the Eagle Cam nest with pan/tilt/zoom capabilities, but then we discovered that it required much more power than our solar battery could provide, so we had to call out the electric company and get them to hard-wire the cam, which took more time and added cost. And now we’re working on setting up a new software program that will allow us to get the images we see on the monitor up on the website for you. Right now the image is not good, so we need to move to a new program that will help us let you see what we see at the Refuge. And that should be the last hurdle — we hope.

To give you an idea of the view we’re getting from the new cam on the Visitor Center Eagle Cam monitor, I recorded a quick clip from Sunday showing our parents in action along with our three eggs. The items the parents are moving around in the nest appear to be either cattails or corncobs.

As for our hatching schedule, the cam was not operating when the first eggs were laid, but based on previous years, we think we can guess what the dates will be, so here’s the scorecard:

1st egg laid: 1/20
Possible hatch: 2/24

2nd egg laid: 1/23
Possible hatch: 2/27

3rd egg laid: 1/26
Possible hatch: 3/2

We want to thank everyone again for their patience — and ask for a bit more as we work on our new software to improve the image you’re seeing. But trust me when I say we’re working hard on this end to get the cam to a level that will allow all our cam watchers to enjoy a new season of watching eaglets grow into healthy bald eagles.

And a note for our teachers: If you have any issues viewing the YouTube video, submit a comment and I’ll post a non-YouTube version on the blog.

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

Categories: blackwater nwr, eggs | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

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