Welcome to the 2014 Eagle Cam season at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge! We want to welcome back all our cam watchers who have followed our birds over the years, and also welcome our new cam watchers who just found us on the Web.
Blackwater NWR is located near Cambridge, Maryland on the Eastern Shore and is not far from the Chesapeake Bay. The Refuge is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, which is the only group of federal lands in America that are devoted to protecting wildlife. The Friends of Blackwater are a non-profit citizens group that supports the efforts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff, who are in charge of maintaining Blackwater NWR. We are an all-volunteer group, and we’ve been running the Eagle and Osprey Cams for over 10 years now.
Our Eagle Cam is located about 80 feet up in a loblolly pine tree on the Refuge. This nest has been active since we first started broadcasting in 2004, and we’ve had at least two eggs each season. If you’re interested, we keep all our previous cam galleries on our website. We also have a Bald Eagle Facts page and an Eagle Cam Q&A page. We don’t offer streaming video on our cam, since we don’t have a very fast Internet connection at the Refuge, so we offer image updating instead. Note that we will decrease the image updating time — and also zoom in our camera view — once the hatching gets closer.
The Refuge staff don’t band birds at Blackwater, so we’re not completely sure that we have the same adults year after year on the cam, but bald eagles are very loyal to their partners and to their nests, so we expect that we likely have the same pair at the cam nest for most seasons.
Some folks have commented that our eagles seemed to nest early compared to birds on other eagle cams. The eagles in the Chesapeake Bay region do not migrate, as some other eagles do, because they can find plenty of food in the winter, so our eagle population doesn’t move far from their nesting sites. Also, we believe our current pair is an experienced couple, and experienced birds tend to nest earlier, which gives their young an advantage, since it means the eaglets will have more time to improve their fishing/hunting skills before the next winter.
As for our 2014 couple, they were a bit early with their eggs, but that wasn’t surprising, since we think they’re the same pair from last year. During the 2013 season, we had three eggs and all three hatched, but the last chick hatched very late, and it didn’t make it, which was the first time we’d lost the last chick in a three-chick clutch. Hopefully in 2014, all our chicks will hatch in a timely manner. Here is the 2014 scorecard:
Possible hatch: 2/17
Possible hatch: 2/20
Possible hatch: 2/23
The possible hatch dates might be off by a couple days either way, since sometimes eggs hatch a bit early or late. There was a small chance that we’d get a fourth egg. We’ve never had it happen on the Blackwater Eagle Cam, but it does sometimes happen in the wild, and sometimes all four chicks survive, although it’s a rarity. We sell a book in our Eagle’s Nest gift store at the Refuge that follows a four-chick nest from Montana, and it’s titled Bald Eagle Nest: A Story of Survival in Photos.
As for our parents, they do share in the incubation duties, although the female does it most often and usually she’s the one on the nest at night. The female is about a third bigger than the male, and if you see them together, you can often see the difference in size. Being the bigger bird, she’s definitely the more dominant bird in the pair.
We’ll talk more about hatching in the next blog post, but when it starts, the female will stay with the chicks for a large amount of the time, and the male will do most of the hunting. But as the chicks get a little bigger, both parents will share in the hunting duties. As for food, the eagles do prefer fish, but if fish are hard to find in the colder months, the eagles will also bring in rabbits, squirrels, and sometimes a duck as food for the family.
We thank you again for joining us for another year. We’re hoping that next month about this time, we’ll have three fuzzy eaglets to enjoy.