The new pan/tilt/zoom video camera positioned above a bald eagle’s nest near the Decorah Fish Hatchery is beginning to generate stunning footage of the eagles’ domestic life.
The PTZ camera, part of a major technology upgrade for the popular Decorah Bald Eagle Camera, will allow viewers to watch eagle eggs cracking open later this year, said Bob Anderson of rural Bluffton, director of the sponsoring Raptor Resource Project.
“You will be able to see saliva dripping from the beak of the mother eagle as she feeds her chicks,” an elated Anderson said.
Anderson said donations from Iowans, many of them Gazette readers, combined with a grant from Upper Iowa Audubon, paid for the upgrade, which includes two new cameras, two new modems, two new computers and “lots of cables.”
The response has been so overwhelming, he said, that the Raptor Resource Project was able to turn down an approved state REAP (Resource Enhancement and Protection) grant.
While the main nest camera is automated, Anderson said he manipulates the PTZ camera with a joystick from a nearby equipment shed.
Once the eagles start laying eggs, around Feb. 20, Anderson said he will operate the PTZ camera much more frequently. “Right now, they are in the courting and nest refurbishing stage, and they are not spending all that much time in the nest,” he said.
The eagle pair built the nest four years ago 80 feet up in a tree overlooking a trout stream and the hatchery. In the last three years, they have successfully raised eight chicks.
During last year’s nesting season, the site recorded more than 325,000 unique visitors from 125 countries, and nearly 3.9 million site visits as viewers logged in repeatedly to check the progress of the three chicks hatched there in early April.
The heavy usage maxed out the bandwith of the Luther College computer system that had hosted the site, causing service disruptions.
This year the site is hosted by a private company that provides the service in exchange for displaying a 30-second advertisement that precedes the live feed from the nest.To access the site, go to www.raptorresource.org and click on “bird cams” at the top of the page, or go to www.ustream.tv/channel/decorah-eagles