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
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Categories: eaglet, eggs, hatching | 2 Comments

Preparing for Hatching

Three Eggs Up Close

Three Eggs Up Close

Well, we think we have some good news on the camera front. Our cam technician and ranger spent a good bit of time Saturday inspecting and replacing the last possible pieces that they could think of that might be malfunctioning and causing the darkness on the cam, and it looks like they were able to fix it. Keep your fingers crossed that this was the solution, and that it means there is nothing wrong with the camera at the nest.

As you likely noticed, we’ve also zoomed in our pan-tilt-zoom camera so that we have a front-row seat for the hatching, which could start sometime from Wednesday through Saturday. If you’re new to this process, the way it will work is that the chick will begin moving and eventually vocalizing from within the egg before it hatches. The parent will know before we do that something is happening, and we’ll be looking for signs of the parent getting up a lot and looking at the eggs. Another sign that hatching is starting is if the male eagle suddenly brings a meal and leaves it on the nest.

Eventually the eaglet will pip a small hole in the egg (using its egg tooth, which will fall off after hatching) and then slowly turn inside the egg and peck until it has created a crack that is big enough that the eaglet can push its way out of the shell. This is a very slow process (maybe 24 hours or more), since the eaglet will take a lot of breaks to rest.

Once the eaglet has hatched, it will be wet and tired, but it will quickly dry off and maybe even try to stand up for a meal, although the eaglet doesn’t have to eat right away — the chick absorbs what remains of the yolk before hatching and doesn’t need to be fed immediately.

The first eaglet out has a big advantage because bald eagles are the fastest growing birds in North America, and the first chick to hatch will be big enough to establish itself as the dominant chick and will have the advantage of being at the top of the pecking order. The sooner that the second and third eaglets can hatch after the first, the better for those chicks.

In the last two seasons, our female has not had good luck with her third egg, with one hatching late and the chick later dying, and then one never hatching at all. So we’re hoping that this year the trend is different and that the third egg will produce a healthy chick.

Before we finish this entry, we wanted to share a short video showing some winter scenes from Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. If you haven’t been able to visit this winter or if you wonder what the eagles are seeing when they fly around the Refuge, this will give you a taste. The final shot of the eagle on the Osprey Cam nest is possibly one of the parents from our Eagle Cam.

Until next time,
Lisa – webmaster
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Categories: blackwater nwr, eagle cam, eggs, hatching | Leave a comment

State of the Camera

Our parents are doing well, and fortunately all has been quiet at the nest. We captured a short video of one of our dedicated parents (I think it’s the male) in the rain not long ago, keeping the eggs warm and relatively dry. When the male eagle stands up and moves to the edge of the nest in the video, I think he’s relieving himself over the side before retaking his position on the eggs. The action on the cam right now is kind of slow, but it’s the kind of action we like to see at this time of year — uneventful incubation.

Update on the Camera

As our cam watchers know, our cam image went bad a couple days ago and now has temporarily improved, although we’re still getting a dark image on occasion. We’ve been online with our Eagle Cam for 11 years now, and we’ve never had an issue with the camera equipment at the nest itself during that time. We have had the eagles hit the camera and nudge it out of position when flying in and out of the nest (an issue we eliminated when we migrated to a pan-tilt-zoom camera), but we’ve never had cabling or camera problems around the nest that we couldn’t access.

When the dark image problem first appeared a few weeks ago, we did some maintenance on the ground and it seemed to fix the issue, but then it came back a few days ago with the colder weather. Over the past few days, we tried swapping out and improving most of the connections on the ground, but the image did not improve. It did improve, however, when the weather warmed a bit. This makes us a little concerned that something might be wrong with a cable near the nest — which of course we can’t visit while the eggs are there or even when the chicks are small and need their parents nearby. It’s possible a squirrel has chewed on the cable or a crack has developed, but right now about the best we can do is hope the clear image stays with us. If it is affected by weather, then we’re hoping that at hatching time, the weather is like it is now, which seems to allow for a good image most of the time.

While we’re talking about our cam operation, it seems like a good time to mention that this weekend we had a visit from WildEarth.tv. We’ve been in talks with them about possibly moving our operation to streaming video. As some of our long-time fans know, the reason we haven’t moved to streaming video before this is because affordable broadband was not available out at the Refuge (which is in a very rural location), and so we didn’t have the technology available to get streaming video up to the Internet. That situation has improved, and a partnership with WildEarth.tv would give us some added benefits that might make streaming video possible. We’re still in the early stages of exploring this partnership, but the meeting this weekend went well, and I’m feeling hopeful that this might happen and be in place for next eagle season. If it did happen, it would mean we would have a small banner ad to help pay for the broadband, but we would have high quality live video and sound online, and also an online archive of videos that cam watchers could view if they missed any action on the nest. We’re also exploring an additional ad-free feed for schools to use, since we know we have several classrooms that tune in to watch the eagles during the season.

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

Categories: blackwater nwr, eagle cam, incubation | Leave a comment

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