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Debbie's Digest:Webcam offers eagle’s-eye view of nest

Thanks to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, I took up eagle watching a few years ago. It was an obsession back then - I just didn't want to miss a single egg turn. I clicked onto the webcam a couple days ago and found momma eagle (I ...

Thanks to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, I took up eagle watching a few years ago. It was an obsession back then – I just didn’t want to miss a single egg turn. I clicked onto the webcam a couple days ago and found momma eagle (I presume it was momma)  sitting and fussing on the nest. She was moving sticks around and in general looked like she was preparing the space for many days of sitting.

I love that I have a bird’s eye, er, eagle’s eye view of these majestic birds nesting somewhere around the Twin Cities, all from my computer desktop.

Three years ago, I clicked open an email in my in-box, alerting me to the webcam, which was focused on the eagles. And so began my eagle watch, sans binoculars. (If you want to check in on the eagles, visit www.webcams.dnr.state.mn.us/eagle )

The year that I started watching the birds was the second year the webcam was in position. The first year, the eagles laid eggs, but according to the DNR, it was too early, and the parents, being rookies, weren’t as attentive as they should have been to successfully hatch their eggs.

The scond year, the

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DNR believed the same eagles as the previous year took up residence in the webcam nest and laid three eggs. One eaglet didn’t make it that year.

Last year, the parents laid another three eggs; One eaglet died within days of hatching, but I believe the other two survived and flew away.

A few days ago when I checked the nest, I didn’t detect any eggs, just momma making the nest comfortable and warm. It really just looked like she was fussing around.

The momma eagle has typically laid her eggs around the 20th of January, give or take a few days. So I suspect we’ll see some eggs in the next few days, perhaps by the time you read this. And so will begin another year of watching our national symbol raise its young.

When I first started watching, I was prepared to be bored, but they are quite busy. Being rather squeamish about the violence of nature and carnivores, I wasn’t sure I could handle feeding time in the nest, or if one of the babies was booted over the edge. But instead, I found it fascinating.

I watched the parents pull bits of meat from carcasses to feed their babies, often saw the dead rodents, fish and rabbits laying on the edge of the nest, and wasn’t grossed out.

I wondered about their “bathroom” habits and was amazed to watch the birds go to the edge of the nest to do their duty over the side.

Watching momma and papa sit on the eggs, they would get fidgety. Do animals get bored? That’s what it looked like to me.

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The parent sitting on the eggs will get up periodically and turn the eggs before fluffing its feathers and settling back down.  I saw the partner bring in food for the sitting eagle and watched them switch off incubating duties.

The eggs hatch around mid to late March – they incubate for about 35 days according to the DNR -- and the eaglets fledge, or fly from the nest in June.

Once the eaglets hatch, it’s almost like watching any other animal babies. They are cute, fuzzy and busy learning about their world. They instinctively know to stay away from the edge and how to take food.

Nearly extinct in the 1980s, with fewer than 300 breeding pairs in Minnesota, eagles have made a comeback with help from endangered species laws and a ban on DDT, a pesticide that had a negative impact on the majestic birds. There are now about 1,300 active nests in our state. Alaska is the only state with more eagles.

About 137,000 people from 100 countries have watched the pair rear their young on the DNR webcam. How lucky are we to have the technology and the funds to have this “up-close” encounter with nature?

The Xcel Energy crew who threaded a boom through the trees several years ago to set the camera up should be thanked, along with the people, who through their taxes, and donations to the non-game wildlife fund, made this webcam possible. I’m certainly hooked and hoping for the best for this new crop of eagles.

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