The Sidney Nest Dilemma -- Ma & Pa have moved to a new nest!
Generally the challenges of life are exciting and what drives us forward, but sometimes the issues are beyond our control, don't fit into our previous life experiences, and become frustratingly insurmountable. The decision of Ma & Pa Sidney to relocate their nest to another property has precipitated one of the most disappointing outcomes in my entire life.
First, I do not think we could go through a general public comment period as this issue has no winners and would devolve into division and no resolution. Therefore, I have decided to take the personal comments of a few key players, the Sidney Ground Observers, the Foundation Admins and a couple of the key Sidney sponsors and make a final decision. Thank you all for the comments and support. Here is the story.
Sidney Nest Background:
As most of you know the Sidney nest is home to the world's most famous pair of bald eagles. Back in 2006 the broadcast of their successful nest life to over 500 million people (and added to each year since!) changed how the world viewed live wildlife cams, how live streams could reach millions of people and school children simultaneously and how an industry, from distribution technology to incorporation of then unknown streaming ads into live streams, could offset broadcast costs. We bankrupted our first two distributors and only kept ourselves afloat due to key Directors support and then the increasing donations from the public. Ma and Pa were a prime stimulus in the world development of live streaming cams that now proliferate every news and social media worldwide.
Once again, as in 2007, our Ma and Pa have decided to build another new nest. As in 2007, when they revealed they may have known things we did not understand, as indicated by the total nest falling from the tree that next summer (when chicks were safely in their new nest!), we may again be witnessing something for the good. But now their change to a new nest site is quite frustrating.
The very successful 2011 fledge of three chicks was happening, the fundraising campaign to raise enough money to install high quality HD cams for the 2012 season was being fully supported by the viewers, then the unexpected. One of the Ground Observers saw Ma and Pa carrying sticks to a new tree along Pat Bay shoreline to the west. Could they be abandoning the dead tree and again starting a new nest? A few twigs don't a nest make! So the Ground Observers set up a watch to learn more. Within 10 days, just before the adults departed for the north, a measurable nest structure was appearing in the new tree top.
We had just ordered the new cams, the new micro transceivers, new encoders and storage hard drives. If a new nest was constructed I felt obligated to also try and have a cam placed at this new site.
Over the previous 5 years I had met the landowner and staff at this farm and had been impressed how they loved the eagles and gave us immediate access to the property if we needed it. So we ordered another cam and supportive system.
The next logical backup was for me to go visit the Vancouver Island site, evaluate the new tree for access by crane, lift or climber and see if the tree could be reached by electricity and support a cam. I tried to meet with the landowner on that visit but he was not available. Then during the next few days our Ground Observer team learned that the landowner, while he loved the eagles, he and his wife did not want the intrusion of the public into their private lives or assume the risk of the public leaving his farm gates open at the loss of his horses etc. In short his concerns for privacy and liability were primary. They felt our few Ground Observers were welcome but that to broadcast the site would simply expose them to more attention and liability than they could cope with.
The Ground Observer team got a decided "no" for placing a cam in his tree. Heaven forbid. Here was the world's best known eagles, with not just a following of adults but school children around the world being brought up on this pair of eagle lives. For many kids it was their initiation to nature. Chaos. What to do? I felt I had to make a personal presentation to the landowner before I could comment to you our supporters on this final outcome. I was able to go to the Island Wednesday (Sept. 7).
But Wednesday was not terribly successful -- but did end with a hint for hope. The landowner family felt the publicity of the nest (unfortunately largely by my encouragement to our Ground Observers to talk with them and follow what was developing at the new nest) had them worrying about the dangers of people parking along the narrow adjacent road, possibly negligent people leaving farm gates open and any resulting liability to the landowners was simply something they could not reasonably assume. They loved the eagles but their view of potential liability did not make the cam an attractive option. Wednesday the landowners confirmed to me a definite no for the cam -- this year. So here is a small window of hope -- says optimistic David! If all goes well this year, they will possibly reconsider the cam option for the following year. But for this year there will be no cam at the new site. It is difficult to have to deny you all viewing the Sidney eagles that have become so important in our lives.
I tried the logical presentations of the educational and scientific value etc. of telling the world about these eagles and of the thousands of followers who already only know eagles because of Ma and Pa coming into their lives, due to some news broadcast, or all of the other reasons for allowing the cam to exist. However, their worry of invasion of their privacy and even of assuming some additional liability if an overly enthusiastic eagle watcher left a gate open, is not something I can even begin to discuss. These are all "in-the-head:" issues and not really subject to rational discussion and we simple have to let them hopefully come to another evaluation in the near future. I know of people who won't fly, who won't walk to a public place. Indeed people are killed in airplanes, murdered at the corner store and if this becomes a pre-occupation then that reality is real.
With hopes for the future broadcast of Ma, Pa and their eaglets' lives.
Some further considerations:
Do we carry-on and replace the cams at the old dead tree site? How do we deal with the thousands of Sidney supporters and viewers who want to know something about their old friends?
Considering that Ma & Pa have previously started another new nest while fledging young back in 2007, and then carried on and nested in the new nest in 2008, it seems likely the same will happen this year. It would seem an initial investment of nearly $10,000 into the old nest is not valid. Then to finally get the old site rewired and new encoders and microwave equipment installed if the birds came back, ads another near $5000 to the costs. This position seems impractical. We will try and find an alternative site.
How best to keep the Sidney fans informed for next season? Since we cannot be encouraging, against the landowners wishes, any observations from the adjacent roads due to the traffic dangers, we have decided to allow observations of Ma and Pa only at their Pat Bay feeding grounds. I am certain our Ground Observer crew will do you all well.
We particularly wish to thank Sylvie of Epicure Selections (www.epicureselections.com), who not just welcomed my initial suggestion of the cam in her eagle nest but has kept supporting us each year since.
And to those of you, from the local school children who named the eaglets this past year to eagle supporters around the world, not to mention those of you working the web tirelessly to answer the world's questions on eagles or more specifically on Ma and Pa, and even the values of living in the Victoria - Sidney area, I have to both say thanks and say we will hopefully have Ma and Pa back next year. In the meantime we have given the challenge to the Victoria -- Sidney Ground Observers to come up with another bald eagle nest in their area that can support a cam. Furthermore, we have several other marvelous pairs of eagles viewable from live web cams at:
Hancock Wildlife Foundation