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Bald eagles may go live late this month

Wildlife NewsFrom: The Redding Record-Searchlight

By Dylan Darling (Contact)
Thursday, November 6, 2008

Images of the north state's most famous pair of bald eagles could be coming to your computer screen by Thanksgiving.

The California Department of Transportation had hoped to have a webcam focused on the nest where the eagles have reared five eaglets over the past three years near Turtle Bay earlier this month - but it ran into some roadblocks.

"We've had some technical difficulties," said Tom Balkow, senior environmental planner in Caltrans' Redding office. He said officials have tried to fine-tune the resolution of the camera, planning what to do if there are problems and waiting for the eagles to be more active at the nest.

Made famous by their resilience - returning to their nest despite a plastic cone designed by Caltrans to shoo them away last winter - the eagles have been spotted near the nest in recent weeks.

Since their eaglets left last summer, the pair of eagles went their separate ways, but likely stayed close in the north state, said Bruce Deuel, a retired California Department of Fish and Game biologist. Deuel monitored the eagles' nesting near the end of his 16-year career that ended late last year.

Although he didn't keep tabs on the eagles as individuals when they were away from the nest, he said most along the Sacramento River don't fly far when not nesting because of the usual abundance of food.

"These eagles don't really have to go anywhere," he said.

He said activity at the nest, aside from some maintenance, likely won't pick up until around the end of December when the eagles will renew their courtship.

The cone was removed last December and the eagles - named Patriot and Liberty via an online Record Searchlight poll - raised their eaglets, Freedom and Conehead, also named by poll, this spring and summer.

A contract worker installed the webcam in the crotch of cottonwood branches about 4 feet above the stick nest on Oct. 15, but streaming video from the solar charged, battery-powered camera have yet to hit the Internet.

"We want it to be working completely before we put it online," Balkow said.

In studying the art of eagles and webcams, Caltrans workers have discussed cameras already installed at eagle nests on the Channel Islands off Southern California with the people at the Institute for Wildlife Studies that runs them.

The Arcata-based institute first put webcams up at eagle nests on the islands about seven years ago and now has five cameras, said Peter Sharpe, a wildlife biologist for IWS.

In that time, the institute's scientists have learned through trial and error.

"Just about everything that can go wrong has gone wrong," Sharpe said.

Fog has kept solar panels from recharging batteries, rain has waterlogged cameras and eagles have landed on cameras, shifting their angles.

And there's been a unique lesson on where to place the camera.

Despite having been positioned away from the nest, one of the cameras had a "white-out" caused, not by snow, but by eagle feces, Sharpe said.

"They can projectile poop 5 or 6 feet," Sharpe said. "...We've learned to get zoom cameras and keep them further from the nest."

Reporter Dylan Darling can be reached at 225-8266 or [email protected].

Reference Link:

http://www.redding.com/news/2008/nov/06 ... his-month/

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