Saturday, March 31, 2007

Launch of New Website

By now many of you have seen our new website. We are very excited to change our look and make our site more accessible to more users. As we move to this new site we are also working on our live stream. This updating will take a couple of days. Please bear with us through his transition. I hope by the beginning of next week that the live stream will be back up and a higher quality.

Right now when you connect to the live video you may not get an image. Please try this link to get the live video. When connected to this video please limit your viewing to 2 minutes since this link can only handle a limited number of viewers at one time.

In regards to our sponsors, we have the same sponsors we have since the beginning of the project. Only with their support were we able to begin this project and keep it free to all users. Last year in order to keep the camera running, we had $2,000 a month in costs and our staff has worked through the weekends keep it working at an optimum level.

Thank you all for your continued support of the eagle cam and our contaminant research. We currently have more than 15 projects measuring mercury levels in birds and mammals across the country. We are currently working to publish many of our findings in scientific papers, which will provide citizens and policy makers with the most up to date information.

I will keep you posted as we update our website.

Wing Goodale, BioDiversity Research Institute

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Yesterdays Behavior

Good morning. As many of you witnessed yesterday afternoon, the birds left the nest for three hours. I’m not sure of the reason, but the behavior is one that should make us pause and consider the possibility that this years nesting attempt may fail. Nest failures are quite common for eagles and all birds for that matter.

This year the birds have weathered two intense storms within the first couple of weeks of incubation. They have been diligent, but the cold may have taken a toll. We simply don’t know.

I am sanguine that the embryos in the eggs are developing and that all is well. However, we should be prepared for the fact that the eggs may not hatch. Last year we were fortunate the birds successfully raised chicks. Eagles face many challenges as they defend territories, prepare nests, incubate eggs, and tend to their chicks.

Already, we have had a unique glimpse into the intimate lives of these birds. As we watch nature unfold in real time, we are seeing just how difficult eagles and other bird to raise chicks every year. This pair has been extraordinarily successful and they hopefully will be again.

On a technical note: we are working on the live stream today and it may not be accessible at all times. The ad that you are seeing is part of the work we are doing with a collaborator and will only be on the stream for a short period of time. It is apart of testing that we are doing today.

Wing Goodale, BioDiversity Research Institute

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Two weeks until hatching

Mark your calendars; April 9th is when the first egg may hatch. Although, I speculate that the hatching may be a couple days longer than the standard 35 days because of the very cold weather after the first egg was laid. We have observed that loons will actually not begin incubation of their first egg until the second is laid; I believe to help the eggs hatch around the same time. The loon eggs tend to hatch 12 hours apart even though the eggs are laid 24-48 apart.

With the eagles this year, the cold weather may have delayed embryo development and perhaps we may see the first two eggs hatch closer together. Perhaps there is a third chick as well we don’t know. If this is the case, it could mean that the first and second chick may be closer in size.

I wanted to update you on our fundraising campaign. So far it has been a great success and a huge thank you to all of you that have donated. Since last Friday we have had $1,800 in donations! This is a fantastic first step towards out $50,000 goal. If we keep up at this rate we are sure to reach our goal by fledging in July. If you have already supported our eagle research please encourage others to do so as well. Thank you!

Click here to donate

Below are some close up shots from this afternoon.

Wing Goodale, BioDiversity Research Institute

Friday, March 23, 2007

New Fundraising Campaign

BioDiversity Research Institute announces the beginning of a $50,000 fundraising campaign to support our eagle and contaminant research. Our goal is to raise the funds by the time the chicks fledge in July in order to keep the eagle cam running free of charge, support our eagle research, and help our research on mercury and other contaminants.

To donate please follow this link (your donation to BRI is tax deductible):

Or call 1-888-749-Loon (5666)

Your support will help us run blood and feather samples collected by Chris DeSorbo for mercury and other contaminants as well as characterize the diet of birds that we have samples from. Here is a link to a summary of his current results.

You support will also help up to begin to endow the eaglecam so that we have resources available if the equipment was to fail from a lightening strike or some other cause.

Additionally, your support will help our mercury and contaminant research. At BRI we are conducting mercury research on everything from water to eagles to songbirds to bats. Your support will help us continue and expand this research that recently has been used as the basis from national legislation from both republican and democratic senators and representatives. Here is a link to this research.

A huge thank you to all of you that have supported us. You support has literally kept us online, kept this project free to all, and helped us buy a new computer when we needed it most.

If you are able to donate, please let us know if you would like your name displayed on our website.

Throughout the nesting season, I will keep you up to date on our progress towards our goal.

Thank you.

Wing Goodale, BioDiversity Research Institute

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Update March 22, 2007

I understand that there is concern about the male eagle and an injured talon. I have not had an opportunity to see the injury, but I suspect that if the bird is indeed injured the talon will heal on its own.

The goal of this project is to provide a unique view into the lives of eagles, where we all see in real time the birds in both fair and difficult conditions. Eagles across the country face the same challenges as these birds do, including storms, physical injury, food shortages, and contaminant loads such as mercury. This is unedited real footage.

These challenges are real for these birds, but they have adapted to these conditions and have amazing abilities cope with what they face in the wild. Watching these birds weather major storms to keep their eggs warm, cope with injuries, and feed their needy chicks, shows just how hard it is for eagles and other birds to successfully reproduce.

What we can do as citizens and researchers, is learn from these birds and see through them what other eagles, birds, and wildlife are facing. What we are observing with this camera is unique. This particular pair is extremely successful. They have raised 20 chicks over 13 years. This is not common and we are very fortunate that they have laid eggs two years in a row. It is common for eagles to take a year off from nesting, or fail.

Many eagle pairs across the country and in Maine try and fail to successfully nest. Birds will start on the nest and abandon because of disturbance, they may lay eggs but not have the strength incubate through bad storms, or their nest trees may topple over.

Additionally, eagles in interior Maine exhibit some of the highest mercury levels in the country while coastal populations are exposed to contaminants such as PCBs. Contaminants such as mercury, PCBs, and others are associated with a variety of impacts on behavior, immune response, and reproduction.

Consider as you watch, that eagles across Maine are facing similar difficulties as they try to nest.

Wing Goodale, BioDiversity Research Institute

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bald Eagle Research in New England

Hi, my name is Chris DeSorbo, I'm the Director of the Raptor Program at BRI. As many of you probably know, BRI has been studying mercury exposure in wildlife for several decades now. Recently, we've focused a substantial amount of time on evaluating mercury exposure and impacts on Maine's inland eagle population. After over three years of sampling and banding over 300 eaglets throughout the state, we've learned a lot about mercury threats to Maine's eagles - and have set the stage to learn a lot more about a range of topics. Now that birds are getting on nest again, it is a reminder that our time for eaglet banding and sampling is quickly approaching. Since folks are always tremendously interested in how and why we do this research, I thought I would try to outline some of that below. I will start today to give folks a sense of the “how,” and will follow up later with more info on the project background and findings.

A typical workweek starts by packing the truck the night before with a boat, motor, climbing equipment, blood sampling equipment, food, water, and lots of maps. Usually a late night or en route phone call with Charlie Todd (MDIFW) would update us on which birds were old enough for sampling (5-7 weeks of age) based on his aerial surveys the day or two before. Charlie is highly skilled at accurately aging birds from the air from a low-flying plane with a skilled pilot. Once we had our target nests lined up for that day, we (myself and typically 1-2 field assistants) would begin a long drive early in the morning heading for our first nest. We typically arrive at our first destination on a roadside, riverside, or boat launch 2-4 hours later. Many nests were not easily accessible from the road, however; many require hiking, boating, or a combination of the two to get to the base of the target nest tree. The canoe comes off the roof, motor mounted, spare gas can, a lot of heavy climbing and sampling gear is piled in the middle, and off we go. At this point we may be motoring along slowly for 5 minutes or 45 minutes. If we’re lucky, the nest is right along the water’s edge. If not, it’s deep in the interior of some wooded ridgeline, blowdown, or wetland. In the unlucky cases, we’re tromping through the woods with a map, compass, and GPS unit heading the general direction of the nest. We rarely have nest coordinates, as many are first-time visits. Once we’re in the general vicinity of the nest, we walk around the woods looking up the whole time. 95% of the nests are in big white pine trees, and many are not visible from the ground. Once we find the nest tree, I begin preparing my climbing gear and my assistant sets up a station to process birds on the ground that will be clear of falling branches. A picnic of banding and blood sampling supplies and datasheets are all spread out on a blanket on a clear, flat spot in the woods if we can find one. We use traditional arborist climbing gear and techniques to get up the trees. I’m on my way up the tree with rope dangling below me. Within 15 feet, I often leave all the mosquitoes and black flies behind to focus on the ground-based processing crew. Fifteen to 45 minutes later, I’m at the base of the nest. Many trees are 60-80 feet tall, with a few topping over 100 ft. Each tree is different, and I must say, many represent some of the most peaceful, scenic and tranquil places I’ve ever experienced (Can’t beat the company!).

Once the nest is reached, I set up shop to allow me to quickly lower the bird once captured to the processing crew that’s been waiting patiently on the ground among many biting insects. Slow movements and a sometimes lengthy period of allowing the birds to acclimate to my presence allows me to slowly grasp a nestling’s leg and then quickly tip them into my bag that’s splayed out in the nest. Within a minute or two, the bird is standing upright in a bag as it’s sent down through the branches to the ground.

Luckily for us, Bald Eagle adults are generally quite passive and do not attack climbers (unlike many other raptors). There is also little risk of the adults abandoning the nestlings due to our visit, if timed correctly. The Eagle Cam demonstrates best what these birds have gone through (since early March!) to get to the point that their young are 5-7 weeks of age, generally sometime in June. Think of the time, patience, endurance, and energy expended to incubate eggs, and care for young during blizzards, rainstorms, 90 degree days, and blackflies! Like many birds, the more time they’ve invested in their young, the less likely they are to abandon it due to intruders. This again demonstrates why nest visits too early in the season could be devastating without properly coordinated nest visits. Additionally, it is often the case that only one adult ever knows we were there! You gotta wonder what they think when they arrive “home” and see their young are now wearing “bracelets”…
As soon as the bag is within the grasp of the processing crew, the processing begins and we try to get the bird back into the nest as quickly as possible. The bag is unclipped from the rope and immediately weighed. The bird is slowly removed from the bag and placed on it’s feet for a few measurements and banding. Many eaglets are surprisingly calm at 5-7 weeks of age don’t necessarily have the power in their talons to do much harm if they happen to grab onto you. As Charlie often puts it, “they don’t yet know the weapons they’ve got.” We draw blood samples for contaminants and genetics analyses from a vein on the underside of the wing. A few breast feathers are clipped, a few more measurements, and the bird is back in the bag again ready to be sent back up the tree. A little advance notice from the ground crew often allows me enough time to send the second nestling (if there is one) down just as they are finishing the first. We do a quick trade; bird #2 arrives on the ground just as #1 is ready to go back up.

Within a couple minutes, the first bird is back in the nest no worse for the wear, but now displays it’s new leg bands. All birds in Maine for this project have been banded with one silver USFWS band, and one red band with a unique code that is often readable from a distance with a spotting scope and some luck. These red bands have allowed us to see where these nestlings go to after fledging and will continue to provide us with all kinds of data on Maine’s eagle population for decades to come. For example, birds banded as nestlings during a similar project conducted during 1991-1992 are still turning up throughout the state and elsewhere.

Once the second bird has been processed, it is returned to the nest with its sibling. Often times, I open the bag, and eaglets simply stumble out and take their place next to their sibling where I found them. The nestlings are always less tense to my presence after they’ve been put back in the nest, allowing for a quick photo before I duck back under the nest and start rappelling back down to the ground. When I’ve reached the ground, the processing crew is ready to go and we make our way back to the boat, then the car, and start thinking about the next nest up for the day. If it’s not a long drive, and we can potentially fit in 3 or rarely 4 nests in a day. The sun is usually setting by the time we are finishing our last nest for the day, and all we want then is hot food, a hot shower (you’re generally covered in sap and grime by the end of a day climbing trees), and sleep in a random motel hopefully close to where we plan to begin the following day. Unfortunately, there are samples to organize, label and process, and logistics to arrange for the following day. I have never slept so well as I do during this fieldwork.

This is the day in / day out routine of our eagle sampling crews for a roughly six week period during the summer. None of it would have been possible without endless support, assistance and guidance from Charlie Todd (MDIFW). Similarly, Bill Hanson (FPLE Maine Hydro) provided initial tree climbing and eaglet handling guidance early on, and continues to play a major role in these efforts every year. Many thanks are also owed to Steve Mierzykowski (USFWS), and Barry Mower (MDEP), and countless others. What have we learned from the study? That Maine’s eagle nests are not always easy to get to! I will follow-up later with a summary of some of the project findings and interesting tidbits… We’ve learned a LOT about Maine’s eagle population during this study, particularly their exposure to mercury contamination and impacts on the population. As with any good study, however, we’ve raised a lot more questions along the way, and we look forward to continuing to answer them in upcoming years!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Second Egg Laid

I have just reviewed people's comments and recorded video and I feel fairly confident that the second egg was laid on March 8th at around 3:30 pm. Blogger Willpat caught the laying on video. Please see the link below.

Wing, BRI

Thursday, March 08, 2007

New server up, please use new link

Now that it warmed up I have zoomed in a bit. It is hard to connect to the live stream right now because of the number of people trying to connect. We have over 1 million request this morning! Tomorrow we will be creating a new live stream in the afternoon which should make for a better image and make it easier for more people to connect.

Wing, BRI

Nearly have the new server installed--Photos from the last ten minutes

Here are some images from the last hour

Server Bogged Down

Hello all--

A quick note that our server is getting so many requests that it keeps slowing down. We are working hard to open up more band width and hope to have it cleared up this morning.

Also we are going to be transferring, probably tomorrow to a Real Player set up for the live video, so that we can have more band width and increased quality for the live video. This may require some of you to have to download for free a new video player, but it should make for better quality all around and should be better on Macs as well.

I will keep you updated.

Wing, BRI

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Eagle lays egg

Yesterday afternoon, March 5th, the female laid the first of up to three eggs. We have confirmed this by her constant presence on the nest through the night. Over the next 3-4 days the female will potentially lay two more eggs. We can now start the count down to hatching—35 days.

During this unusually cold weather the birds will be very diligent on keeping the eggs warm. Temperatures across Maine today are going to be in the single digits with below zero wind chill.

You will see that the birds will periodically stand up and rotate the egg. This is an important part of incubation and keeps the embryo from becoming stuck to one side of the egg. Also keep an eye out for the male bringing food to the female and also taking over incubation from time to time. The female does most of the incubation.

What is very interesting is that the birds have laid their first egg exactly 24-hours earlier than last year. Last year they laid their first egg in the afternoon of March 6th.

Wing Goodale, BRI

Below is a post from the blog on March 6th 2006 by Mark McCollough of USFWS and Charlie Todd of MDIFW.

“March 6 notes: incubation begins! The eagles completed nest building last week. For several days they carried grass, sprigs of pine, and other fine materials to line the center of the nest. After home improvements were finished, the female began laying prone in the nest for short periods of time. Late last week the duration of incubation behavior increased, and we knew that egg-laying was not far away. She remained prone for 30% of the time during a 4-hour period on February 27, but periodic absences indicate that eggs had not yet arrived.Bald eagles have spectacular courtship displays in the weeks leading up to egg-laying. They soar to great heights, lock talons and cartwheel at dizzying speed to the earth, breaking apart just before they hit the ground. They may chase each other, lock talons, roll together in the air, and continue their tandem flight. These behaviors are part of an annual courtship ritual to strengthen the pair bond and encourage mating. Copulation may take place on the nest or a perch nearby. During the last week, we often heard the eagles vocalizing from the nest tree, but out of view of the camera. Our eagles were discreet, and we didn't observe mating. We suspect the couple spent a romantic weekend somewhere on the coast of Maine!By the morning of March 6, both birds were at the nest for extended periods of time but still left for varying intervals. Charlie stopped at the USFWS office that afternoon to pick up several eagle carcasses sampled by Steve Mierzykowski, our contaminants biologist. We tuned into this web site and were thrilled to see that the female had resumed incubation posture in the nest. A clear, starry night revealed the adult's white head in that same position long after sunset. Nothing had changed by first light March 7. It seems certain an egg was late March 6!Management comments: Some observers of nesting eagles get the mistaken impression that they are no longer present when, in fact, incubation is underway. One member of the pair is almost always attending the eggs and out of view. Its prone posture is usually not visible from below. The mate may be ranging widely for food or watching nearby but is also less conspicuous to most. Seasonal privacy near the nest is their priority and a good strategy for those who want to co-exist with nesting eagles. -- Mark McCollough, USFWS, and Charlie Todd, MDIFW”

Monday, March 05, 2007

Birds are close to egg laying

Greetings all!

Last year the birds laid their first egg on March 6th, so keep a close eye on their behavior over the nest couple of days. Since we cannot see into the nest, the best way for us to know for certain that an egg has been laid is that the birds stay on the nest for the entire night. Once the eggs are laid, there will almost always be a bird incubating.

The birds have been observed copulating a number of times on the nest in the last couple of weeks. A rule of thumb is that eggs come a couple of days later. It is also likely that the birds have been mating off camera as well, so I would expect the birds to lay eggs within the next couple of days.

Wing, BRI