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Early History of the Sidney Nest Cameras

Victoria/Sidney Nest

Hancock Wildlife's most prolific and best known eagle pair, mom and pop Sidney, started out as the fall-back pair for our 2006 nesting season. The Hornby Island eagle nest camera had drawn huge numbers of viewers; far more than either David or I had expected. We were expecting maybe 100 researchers and students at universities around the world to be interested. Instead the numbers grew to the point where we had to stop letting more concurrent sessions watch - at 40,000 simultaneous viewers.

As the time of hatching came closer, then crept hourly past his first estimates, David Hancock grew more and more fearful that the eggs would fail - and he started the process of finding another nest we could all watch.

As it happened, he knew of this Sidney nest and knew that chicks had already hatched, literally the day the eggs at Hornby were to hatch. He contacted the property owners, got their blessing and then arranged for an old truck-mounted crane to be donated to the cause. We could not climb the tree to install a camera - that has to be done when the eagles are not in the area, during their Fall trip to the salmon spawning grounds after the chicks fledge. The good thing about this tree was that there had been people working in the field close-by it all the while they were re-building, laying, incubating, and now raising their chicks. There was every indication that us going in and putting a crane 50 feet from the tree would not cause them any major angst.

I was given the task of organizing the install from the hardware point of view. We had arranged with the owners to get access to a telephone line in their office building about 1000 feet away from the nest tree. Telus supplied us with an internet feed there, and I installed a computer with video encoder card in it. Bob Chappel, our Victoria-based video camera expert, supplied us with a pair of power/video adapters that would drive power to the tree and return video and audio through a single piece of cable. All I had to do was bury the cable from the office, half-way to the tree across a cultivated field. The other half of the distance is native brush and blackberries so the cable could sit on the surface.

Did I mention it was hot? Spring of 2006 was excellent - unless you were out in the sun in the middle of a field, digging a trench and trying to strap a weather-proofed video camera and pan-tilt-zoom head to the top of a crane boom. It took several days to get things finally in place, tested and working. By this time the Hornby watchers were pretty sure the eggs had failed; one of them after the chick was seen pecking at the shell - disaster.

We quickly cut over to the new Sidney camera with the images of its two 10 day old chicks and the world breathed a sigh of relief. They again had something to watch and listen to and were able to forget the failure of the Hornby eggs.

For the next 3 months plus the world watched the Sidney chicks - learning all the while of sibling rivalries, what a full or empty crop looked like, how submissive the second chick was to the first, and all the things that scientists had seen but few others had about how eagles rear their chicks.Hat and Bow - Sidney Chicks - Hancock Wildlife Foundation Fuzz turned to feathers and wing-ercising, then branching, and finally fledging - all the while watched by millions of people, 40,000 at a time. As soon as one person dropped off the stream another would take their place. 
The viewers learned how to do screen captures and stream captures, posting them to the discussion forum.They learned how to use their graphics programs to embellish their screen captures and make us laugh. Some of them became moderators and helped others learn, and all the while we were enchanted by this spectacle of nature unfolding before our eyes. The postings in the discussion forum topic for the camera were fascinating - unfortunately they were not on posting on our site because at that point, Hancock Wildlife Foundation had not yet been formed, that would come a bit later.
We've lost access to the original postings to the discussion forum for 2006. If any of you have images from that time please put them into the Media Gallery. But be that as it may, the fact is that the following of the Sidney nest chicks from a few days after they hatched through to when they fledged pretty much drove David to found the Foundation. As he's now fond of saying, "The number of people we reached and taught through the live streams of 2006 were so far in excess of the number I'd lectured to over the 50+ years I've done that, that we simply had to switch to this wonderful new medium to carry on our work."
The rest, as they say, is history. Today Hancock Wildlife Foundation has built a reputation for providing a balanced look at eagles and other wildlife. With your help and donations, we'll continue in this new and exciting networked world.



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