Friday, April 27, 2007

Nest Intruder

After being in the field until late last night and early this morning, getting a broad contaminant study off the ground I was excited to see 216 comments! What had happened?

I have reviewed your comments and have been very interested in watching your videos of the intruder eagle.

Territorial battles are quite common amongst eagle, loons, and most birds that are not colonial nesters. I have seen knock down drag out fights between all sorts of birds. And I have been surprised that we have not seem more behavior of this sort at this nest site, since it is in a prime location—relatively protected from weather and close to foraging areas. They are also common after a nesting failure.

There are a number of eagle nests in the area, and there are young adult eagles that are attempting to establish territories. This territorial battle is a good sign for a number of reasons.

First it demonstrates clearly that the pair are quite attached to the nest site and are defending it again intruders. This indicates clearly that the pair has not abandoned the nest site after the failure.

As many of you noted that the confrontation was between two males. In reviewing the videos it’s not clear to me which is the territorial male and which is the intruder. It is possible that we could be witnessing a mate switch. It is often the case with birds that they are more attached to the nest site and territory rather than each other.

If you can, please review the video from the beginning and see if you can see a difference between the males, and see as they change back and forth on the nest if you can tell if it is the same male at the beginning of the confrontation as at the end. It appears to me that one of the birds had more white feathers showing on the body.

Another reason this is positive sign, is that it shows that the eagle population as a whole in increasing and that young strong birds are trying to establish their own territories—often they will try and take over another rather than establishing their own. This younger cohort of eagles, are extremely important to the population as a whole. Since eagles live so long and reproduce relatively slowly, it is vital for a stable or growing population to have a large group of younger birds available to fill if a breeding adult leaves.

Finally, even though this battle looked intense to our eyes, birds, like dog, people, and most animals do every thing they can to avoid physical danger. In watching one of the videos a saw a lot of calling, dive bombing, and little if any physical contact. If you think about people, generally people yell at each a great deal before getting into a physical alteration—same with birds.

Keep up the great observations.

Wing Goodale, BioDiversity Research Institute

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Eagles bring in nesting material and copulate

As I write this there is a bird perched above the nest site and from the comments we have received the birds have been on the nest for the last three hours. They have brought in nesting material and have copulated on the nesting site. This suggests that the birds may be attempting to renest. Generally the rule of thumb is that birds will lay eggs 3-5 days after copulating. They may have been copulating out of the camera view as well.

Here is a video posted by Judy of the activity this morning

Please keep up your helpful observations. Watch for the female sitting in an incubation position, which is pre-laying behavior.

Perhaps these birds will continue to defy the odd and make another attempt.

Wing Goodale, BioDiversity Research Institute

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Latest Eagle Nesting in Maine

I have had an email correspondence with Charlie Todd of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. He told me that the latest date of eagle nesting in Maine was May 6th. This indicates, that although it is unlikely the birds will renest, that there is still an outside possibility. Please keep up all your great observations to let us know if the birds are visiting the nest site.

As far as the sound, what you are hearing is Internet noise. I have turned down the gain a bit, and perhaps it will be a little better.

Another update on our fundraising. When I made my earlier post, I was looking at the wrong numbers. Our actual donations are $12,500. This is a great start on our $50,000 campaign. Thank you for all your support!

I also wanted to let you know that we are exploring another project, which if the logistics come together, may be up and running next week. I will keep you posted!

Wing Goodale, BioDiversity Research Institute

Monday, April 23, 2007

Spring is here and amazing donations!

What a weekend. The migratory birds are streaming into Maine by the thousands. Practically by the hour I was hearing or seeing a new species. On Saturday morning I went to my favorite birding spot and saw a couple palm warblers and a ruby crowned kinglet—other than that not too much going. This morning, however, was amazing. There were literally thousands of birds, palm warblers feeding on insects over the water, white-throated sparrows flipping over leaves, winter wrens foraging along streams, and yellow-rumped warblers thick in the trees. These birds have been all waiting for the weather to break, and now that we have a southern breeze they are on the move.

I wanted to give you an update on our fundraising campaign. We are bowled over here at BRI; since we started the $50,000 campaign we have received $25,000 in donations! Absolutely amazing—we are half way there. Thank you all for your extremely generous support. And now it is looncam season.

I just received word, ten minutes ago that a pair of loons has returned to the lakes where we set up the camera. There is still skim ice in places, but it should be gone by the end of today. I was working last week to get the loon cam computers up and running and this week Lee Attix and I will complete our preparations for out installation next week. If all goes as planned we should have the camera live by the end of next week or the beginning of the following.

Lee Attix has a blog for the loon cam which is and the loon cam can be viewed at

Over the weekend there were some great question about mercury and why it may be higher inland than on the lakes. The short answer is that the mercury is less diluted in fresh water systems than the ocean. I wanted to provide you with two links to two of our recent reports which outline how and where mercury is concentrating. This first report explains what is currently known about mercury levels in the environment This second report explains the mercury hotspots in the northeast that we have documented

As far as the florescent lights that contain mercury. They are excellent lights that use significant less electricity, much of which comes from coal-fired plants. Since coal power plants can contribute significantly to mercury deposition and global warming these light reduce green house gas emissions as well as mercury pollution. They do contain mercury, and need to be recycled once they have died—usually after many years. Here in Maine, the state is working on expanding our mercury recycling stations.

I note about the eagle. I would expect them to generally stay around the nest site, and I would expect that you should continue to hear them and perhaps see them dropping by the nest to feed on a recent catch.

Here is a link to a great story written about the birds in this weekend's Bangor Daily News.

Wing Goodale, BioDiversity Research Institute

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Sunny Day

Finally the clouds have parted and we have sun, warmth, and no wind. This morning the migrants that are flooding into Maine are calling loudly, setting up territories, pairing up, and carrying nesting material. Eagles across the state are hunkered down incubating their eggs.

This camera gives us an insight into one pair of birds, their ups and downs, and while they are facing their challenges of predators, weather, and contaminant loads, so are other birds across Maine and the country.

Here are BRI we have focused our research on mercury levels and other contaminants in birds and mammals. We have document that mercury, likely paired with other contaminants, causes a decrease in reproductive success essentially because it makes birds less vigorous, physically and mentally.

What I have thought about as this eagle pair weathered extreme cold and harsh weather on the nest, was how other pairs of eagles might be holding up that have high mercury levels. This pair is on the coast of Maine, where eagle mercury levels tend to be lower than birds that nest near interior lakes. The results from Chris DeSorbo’s work here at BRI, demonstrates that the average mercury levels of adult eagles in Maine is the same as those found in birds living near a mercury mine. Consequently, this tough weather may have affected the interior eagle even more than those on the coast.

Many of you have asked about the looncam. We plan on setting it up in the first week of May. The lake were the camera will be set up still has ice. As soon as the ice is out the loons return and we will set up the camera. In the past the loons have nested in the last two weeks of May.

As far as the eaglecam, we plan on leaving it up and running so that we can continue our research—today I am meeting with a senior college student to start working on a scientific paper on what we have learned from this eagle pair. Will the birds renest; will they return to the nest site through the summer? We will be learning along with you. In the last 30 years only four pairs of eagles have been documented to renest by the Maine Department of Inlands Fisheries in Wildlife. Now it is getting pretty late for the birds, and it is unlikely that they would renest, but as I have said before this pair continues to surprise us. I would expect them to maintain their territory and visit the nest periodically through the year.

Many of you have asked about the adults. From what I have read in your comments and what I have watched myself, I can confidently say that both the adults are alive and well. This pair is extremely lucky that their nest survived the storm. It is well located close to prime feeding grounds and hopefully will prove to be a good nesting site in the future.

There was a question about how long the birds will breed for. I am not sure. Eagles tend to mate for life, providing they successfully produce young, and in captivity have lived up to 30 years. Assuming that these birds have been the same pair for 13 years, and that they first nested when they were five years old, they are probably around 18 years old—middle aged by eagle standards. We will have to watch and see how many years they have I them, but I am sanguine they have many more.

Looking forward to next year, we are already looking to install two more cameras. One I hope will provide a look into the nest bowl, so that we can see how many eggs the birds have laid, the hatching process, and prey that the adults are feeding to the chicks. We are also looking into installing a high definition camera that would provide daily clips in HD from the nest. Currently, HD cannot be streamed live, but we would be able to provide two minutes clips. Also I am looking seriously into setting up a camera on a peregrine falcon nest and an osprey nest.

I intend to keep this blog running through the year. As I am able, hopefully once a week or more often, I will write in about the research here at BRI, about my field experiences coming up—I am slated to spend most of the summer on remote islands in Maine—and about bird natural history.

Later today I hope to give you an update on our fundraising campaign

Thank you all for your wonderful comments and your caring.

Wing Goodale, BioDiversity Research Institute

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Storm Damage and the Future

Yesterday I was on site at the nest; the landscape looked as though a tornado had torn through. There were trees uprooted, massive limbs from the nest tree snapped off, and splintered trees everywhere. It is fortunate that this important nesting site survived the storm.

While on the site, I checked in periodically and did not see any chicks or feedings, and the nest was empty for most of the day. Last night and this morning I reviewed your observations and they confirmed that the birds had been absent from the nest both during the day and the night. This evidence indicates that the eaglets likely didn’t survive the storm.

This storm came at the most vulnerable time for the chick(s), during there first week of life. At this age they are very susceptible to exposure and need to be constantly fed small meals. The adults protected the chicks as well as they could in the hurricane force winds and driving rain, but the weather likely made if difficult for them to hunt, and the wind and rain worked its way under the adults sitting on the nest.

What is next? We will have to wait and see, and I will depend upon your observations. I would not expect the birds to renest, but these bird have certainly surprised us in the past.

I am off to a meeting for most of the day, but will write more later.

Wing Goodale, BioDiversity Research Institute

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Morning Update

I am about to drive up to the site and work on the Internet connection. If the feed goes off during the day, it is because I am reworking the computers. As far as watching. With our partnership with National Geo, we hope that you all can watch without having to stop after 2 minutes. However, if the servers become over loaded we may have to some limits.

I don't believe that any donations were lost.

We do hope to have a DVD made at some point.

Wing, BRI

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Secure Server Down

Just a quick note that because of the storm our secure server is down for making donations. We are working with our web hosting company to fix the problem.

However, if you are interested in making a donation, you can call 1-888-749-5666.

or send a donation to

BioDiversity Research Institute
19 Flaggy Meadow Rd.
Gorham, ME 04038

Thank you all for your wonderful gifts. They are vital to keep the camera running and most importantly help us with our research which is currently being used for national legislation.

Wing Goodale, BRI

White Pines and Strong Nests

Good morning. There are still 125,000 Maine homes without power this morning, including mine. Fortunately, we are back up and work and miraculously the camera is still on line. There was hurricane force wind here yesterday.

The birds have weathered the worst of the storm, but have a tough couple of days ahead. The wind will quiet to 25-35 mph with gusts to 40 today with rain. Over the next couple of days the chance of rain will decrease from 90% to 60%.

One of the reasons that these birds were able to weather the storm is that their nest is in a large, healthy, white pine. These large trees are extremely import as eagle nesting sites. Last summer, when I was working with Chris DeSorbo banding and taking blood samples from eaglets, we both noted, that almost without exception, that the eagle nests were in the largest trees in the area. This storm shows just how important these trees are.

We have also seen the importance of have a strong nest that has been reinforced over the years. If I zoom the camera out, you would be able to see that this nest is around 15 feet deep. The adults work on the nest the entire year, adding sticks. This storm has demonstrated how important this maintenance is, and why protecting existing nest site is so vital. If the birds were forced to start over because of disturbance, their nest wouldn’t be nearly as strong and would be susceptible to being destroyed by the storm we have had.

Wing Goodale, BioDiversity Research Institute

Monday, April 16, 2007

Storm Notes

Good morning all. Power out all across Maine, including my house and work. Writing from a coffee shop with the wind howling outside. For the moment there is still power at the eaglecam site, although I would expect it to go out at some point today.

Despite the challenging weather, this pair and I believe two chicks, are going to face in the next couple of days, they are in a very sturdy white pine with a well built nest. Last year the birds weathered some very strong storms and protected their chicks through it—if any pair of eagles can handle this storm these are the ones.

The worst of the wind is supposed to taper off by eight tonight, but it will still rain and be windy for a couple of days. This nest and the tree that the camera are in, I know have at least weathered 70 mph winds and fortunately the worst that is expected is 60 mph gust today.

Keep in mind as your watch these birds, that there are 400 other pairs of eagle across Maine that are hunkered down as well. The birds along the coast will face wind and rain, while those up north are also facing driving heavy snow.

In reviewing the videos it certainly does appear that the adult is feeding one chick while you can see another. Please keep observing and posting videos—it will be very telling when we see two heads.

I was quite interested to read your comments and watch the video of an owl, most likely a great horned, fly by the nest. I will need to research if great-horned owls have been identified as nest predators of eagles. I was also fascinated to read your comments about both of the adults sitting on the nest over that night. Again, a phenomenon I have not heard of before.

We may loose power where I am and I may not be able to update the blog until tomorrow.

Wing Goodale, BioDiversity Research Institute

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Fundraising Campaign Update

Good morning all. Just a quick note that I will not be able to update the blog until Sunday night.

Yesterday we were working on installing a T-1 internet connection on site and I will be visiting the site on Tuesday to set-up some additional equipment which I expect will increase the image quality. I will keep you posted on our progress. This new installation should also allow users of Real Player to watch the birds and should increase the frames per second from 15 to 30.

A huge thank you to all your donations this past week. We are making real strides towards our $50,000 goal. Since we started the campaign we have received $7,700. You support is absolutely wonderful and not only is going towards the camera, but it also going directly towards our contaminant and eagle research. The staff at BRI are gearing up for an exciting field season where we will be catching everything from bats to thrushes to seabirds to osprey to look at mercury levels. We will also be initiating a first of its kind contaminant study where we will be measuring the levels of 102 different compounds in birds from multiple habitat types across Maine.

To donate please follow this link: .

Thank you again!

Wing Goodale, BioDiversity Research Institute

Friday, April 13, 2007

Notes on the chick(s)

I was just reviewing our notes from last year and noticed that the first chick was spotted on April 12, 2006. Yesterday, April 12, 2007, we spotted the first chick. This consistency is quite remarkable. Last year the birds laid their first egg on March 6th, this year it was the 5th.

For most of the next couple of weeks this chick(s) will be out of view in the nest bowl and covered almost constantly by the adults because the chicks cannot maintain their body temperature. However, with enough food the chicks will be gaining about 100 grams per day. The female will be on the nest site around 90% of the time and the male 50%. After about two weeks the downy chicks will start to develop black pin feathers.

This next two weeks is a critical time for the chick(s). If the adults are disturbed from the nest site, the chicks could be prayed upon by crows or ravens and the chicks could be exposed to cold wet weather. It looks like the birds will face challenging weather over the next five days: rain/snow/wind and temperatures in the high 30s are predicted.

The eggs are generally laid 48 hours apart and the chicks will hatch at about the same interval. We know that there are at least two eggs, and there certainly is a chance for a third. Since the chicks are so small and below the nest bowl, we may not be able to see them for several days after they hatch. The best indicator we will have of a second or third chick is the adult feeding in two locations on the nest. Please post a comment if you see this behavior.

A realistic scenario is that the chick we have seen is actually from the second egg laid and that the first one failed because it was laid in extremely cold weather (-17). However this pair has been full of surprises and we very well might see another eaglet.

On another note, BioDiversity Research Institute is extremely pleased to announce a brand new venture with National Geographic and the eagle cam. This collaboration will improve the project in all ways. With joint promotion, we'll be able to bring the live video to more computer screens, we can offer all viewers unlimited viewing time, and plans are well underway to use new technology to make the image quality even better. We'll let everyone know when the new technology is operational. This is really exciting. Stay tuned for more information.

Thank you all for all of your wonderful comments.

Wing Goodale, BioDiversity Research Institute

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A note about the storm

As many of you have posted we are in the middle of a strong spring storm with wet snow. If you see the image all white tomorrow that means the lens is covered in snow. The camera is also is a rural area that frequently looses power. If power is lost on site then the camera will be off line until it comes back on.

If the camera is off line I will work to get it back and running ASAP, but I we may all have to wait until power is restored.

Lets hope none of this happens!

Wing, BRI

Close-up video of chick

Here is a link to a close-up of the chick this morning.

Thank you Judy

Wing Goodale, BRI

Huge Surprise!

With absolute certainty I can say we have a chick. This is certainly an instance of the scientists learning along with you. This really is amazing and defies what we know about eagle natural history. In theory the eggs should not have survived the amount of time the birds left them unattended. The bird behavior gave every indication that they have failed—copulating on the nest site, prolonged absences, moving nesting material. Plus they must have covered the eggs during the aerial survey on Saturday. All the evidence we had indicated that they had failed.

And we were completely wrong. Nature is always humbling.

This is amazing. These birds have demonstrated why they are the most productive pair in the state with their steadfast incubation through terrible storms.

Here is a video from this morning recorded by Judy. Look for the chick at the bottom on the screen.

Wing Goodale, BioDiversity Research Institute

We have a chick!

More to follow in a minute . . .

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

More Observations Requested

Thank you all for your helpful observations. From your notes, we know for a fact that the bird has remained on the nest overnight. This certainly confirms that they are very attached to the nest site.

Now as many of you observed, the bird did make motions like it was tending to an egg this morning. It stood up, looked down, appeared to adjust something underneath it and then settled back down. I looked through today’s images and it appeared that the bird had made several of these type of motions this morning. Since we cannot see into the nest we must be guided by the bird’s behavior.

Eagles like all birds, must rotate eggs to keep them viable and they will do this at a somewhat regular intervals. I would not expect for the birds do this type of motion if they were only “practicing” incubation as they would in pre-laying behavior.

I am hoping that as a group you can comment on the time and perhaps capture video of this “egg tending” behavior. If some of the viewers who are watching throughout the day could actually keep a running log of this behavior (time, date), it would help us determine what may be happening in the nest. This should occur once ever 1-3 hours. Below are a series of picture of the type of behavior I am describing.

Also note if the birds leave the nest for any length of time.

Thank you.

Wing Goodale, BioDiversity Research Institute

What’s Next?

This has been an interesting 24-hours. The birds have been observed copulating on the nest site at least twice, the bird (female?) held her ground when a fourth year juvenile eagle stopped by, and the birds continue to attend to the nest and sit in the prone incubation position.

What should we make of this? One of the joys and excitement of science, is realizing how little we know and how much there is to learn. This is certainly one of these instances. Yesterday there were many conversations at BioDiversity Research Institute about the bird’s behavior. In addition I spoke with Charlie Todd of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and wildlife. Our conclusion was that we didn’t know exactly what was going on.

We know that the birds are strongly attached to the nest site, copulating, and that generally birds will lay eggs 3-5 days after mating. We also know that renesting is rare, but the behavior we have seen does indicate pre-laying behavior. The next week will be very telling.

A couple things you can help us with.

Have you observed the birds on the nest at night?

Have you observed the birds looking like they are laying an egg? (please watch this video captured by a viewer of what I believe was the second egg being laid:

Have you observed the birds bringing in nesting material?

Have you witnessed anything unusual?

Here is a link to a couple of stories about the birds today.
Wing Goodale, BioDiversity Research Institute

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Nest Failure

I have just confirmed that the birds have failed in this nesting attempt in a correspondence with Charlie Todd from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries Wildlife. An aerial survey was conducted on April 7th (as some of you noted) and the observers got a good look at the nest. They did not see any eggs in the nest.

The birds may have been tending to nonviable eggs from the beginning after the storm in March and may have buried the eggs in the nest. Charlie noted that this eagle pair now joins 99.9% of the other eagle nests in Maine with an imperfect breeding record.

The bird behavior in the last couple of days is characteristic of pre-laying behavior. In particular they have been sitting in an incubation position and copulating on the nest site. Charlie told me that captive eagles have renested 21 days after eggs were removed which is likely the least amount of time the birds would need. However, in the wild renesting in Maine is very rare. In the last 30+ years there have only been 4 documented.

In regards to collecting failed eggs. This would only happen with approval and guidance from Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the landowner. If the state and federal agencies felt collecting eggs was appropriate, it would only occur in fall when we have documented no eagle activity. Disturbance at eagle sites during the entire year, but particularly in the spring can cause a pair to abandon a nest site permanently. Gathering information from addled eggs is helpful, but not at the expense of disturbing the birds.

We have had the opportunity to have a unique view into the challenges that eagles face as they try to successfully raise chicks. This pair has been extraordinarily successful over the years. Failing as they have done this year, is quite common.

What should we expect now? Well, we are in uncharted waters and we will be watching along with you. The birds continued attendance to the nest site and copulating does indicate that they are still attached to the nest site. Will they renest? Their behavior in the next couple of weeks will tell us.

I urge you all to keep a close watch and continue to provide your extremely helpful observation on the blog. We literally count on your observations to help us understand how the birds are behaving.

Wing Goodale, BioDiversity Research Institute

Monday, April 09, 2007

Possible Scenarios

Hello all. I wanted to write and give you an idea of what may happen over the week.

The eggs hatch. At the earliest this could happen today, but don’t be surprised if the first chick doesn’t hatch for a couple of days. Even after the first egg hatches we may not be able to see the chick because it would be tucked low in the nest bowl. We would, however, see a change of behavior in the adults. When the adults are covering young they will be slightly more raised over the eaglet than they would over an egg. The real confirmation will either be the observation of a chick or the adult feed a chick.

The eggs fail. An obvious sign that the eggs have failed is the adults leaving the nest. We have seen the birds leave the nest for up to thee hours. I would say we could confirm a failure if the birds are gone from the nest for 12 solid hours. It is also possible that the birds will over incubate the eggs and remain incubating the eggs past when they are due. Then at some point the bird’s hormones will tell them that the eggs are nonviable and they will leave the nest. In either case of the birds abandoning the eggs, Chris DeSorbo from BRI would climb the nest and collect the eggs. We would then run these eggs for at least mercury, but as funding permits, possibly 101 other contaminants including PCBs, DDT, flame retardants (PBDEs), and water resistant chemicals (PFCs).

If these eggs do fail to hatch, there is a very, very slim chance that they would make another attempt this year. These eagles are one of the earliest nesting pairs in the state and there might be time for them to try again. However, this is not common with eagles and most likely they would wait until next year.

Keep up all your great and helpful observations.

Wing Goodale, BioDiversity Research Institute

Friday, April 06, 2007

Monday 9th Hatching Expected

I wanted to write and give you an update. The birds have weathered some substantial storms over the last 35 days and they were observed leaving the nest for three hours 10 days ago. After they left the nest, we were concerned that the birds might abandon the nest. However, since then they have not left the eggs for any extended period of time. When they did leave the eggs for the three hours, the temperature was 39 degrees on site. This is fairly cold, but above freezing. There is no way to know if the eggs are viable—only time will tell.

Over the next week observe the birds carefully and blog in any activity that appears different. Especially look for eggshell fragments. Many birds will remove the shell after the chicks hatch: eagle may or may not, we’re not sure. Because of the depth of the nest bowl, we may not be able to see the chicks right away, especially because the adults will be cover the chick. Watch for the adults bring in food, and for the adults to cover more of the nest bowl with their wings.

I also wanted to update you on our fund raising. We are doing very well and have raised $3,700 since we started the campaign. Thank you all very much for your support, your contributions are directly funding our research and assisting us keep the camera free for everyone. Keep up the great work and we have a great start on our $50,000 goal.

To contribute, please follow this link.

Have great weekend.

Wing Goodale, BioDiversity Research Institute