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
Possible hatch: Around 2/28
- 2nd egg
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.
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.