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For Decorah eagles fans, two nest cameras are twice as nice

With live streams from two nests, viewers will get more chances to see eggs hatch

The nest of the Decorah North eagles is exceptionally large, weighing an estimated 2,100 pounds. (Raptor Resource Project photo)
The nest of the Decorah North eagles is exceptionally large, weighing an estimated 2,100 pounds. (Raptor Resource Project photo)
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With online access to two Winneshiek County nests, fans of the Decorah eagles will have twice the opportunity this year to observe the heartwarming family ties of their favorite birds.

It remains to be seen if the second nest, known as Decorah North, will attain the popularity of the original, which became an Internet phenomenon and the most viewed live-stream of all time with 250 million views in 2011.

“We will certainly get a feeling for that as the season goes on,” said John Howe, director of the Raptor Resource Project, which established the first nest cam, near the Decorah hatchery, and operates the second in partnership with Explore.org.

How that plays out is of no concern to Charlie Annenberg Weingarten, founder and director of Explore, which operates more than 100 live wildlife cams.

“I have no tricks up my sleeve. I don’t go by any metrics. It’s not a popularity contest,” he said.

Howe said the Decorah North eagles are about three weeks behind the hatchery eagles in their reproductive cycle. Mom, the Decorah hatchery female, laid the last of her three eggs on Feb. 25. Mom North laid her third egg of this season on March 18.

Given that incubation takes about 35 days, the original Decorah eagles can expect the hatching of their first chick sometime late next week, while the Decorah North pair’s first arrival likely will not occur until April 22 or later.

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“Hatching is one of the viewership peaks, so fans will get to see that play out over an extended period this year,” Howe said.

With their three-egg clutches, both Decorah nests are in the upper range of productivity. About 79 percent of all bald eagles lay two-egg clutches, while only 4 percent lay three-egg clutches, according to the Raptor Resource Project website.

The Decorah North eagles built their exceptionally large nest in fall 2013 in a white oak tree overlooking a stream on private property north of Decorah. With its maximum length of 9 feet, maximum width of 7 feet and its 5.5-foot depth, the nest is estimated to weigh 2,100 pounds.

A climber examining residue in the nest found raccoon skulls and the leg bones of turkeys and a fawn.

Howe said the high-definition live-stream camera is set back 18 feet from the nest, which enables viewers “to see some awesome fly-ins.”

Weingarten said the Decorah North eagle nest is consistent with Explore’s mission “to help people fall in love with the world again.”

“I call them ‘pearls of the planet.’ They allow people to observe nature up close and personal in its purest form,” he said.

During an interview Tuesday, Weingarten said he was watching the Decorah North nest on one of the two computer screens on his desk. “I’m kind of a wildlife cam junkie. Watching them makes me happy,” he said.

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Weingarten said the online feeds help people relieve stress and reconnect with nature, which encourages them to protect it.

“They form deep emotional attachments with the animals they are observing. It’s almost like they become pets,” he said.

Weingarten said the partnership on the North Decorah nest cam had its beginnings in a meeting a few years ago with the late Bob Anderson, the founder of the Raptor Resource Project.

“We really just hit it off. We talked about some projects we could do together. In a way I feel like I am a steward of Bob’s vision,” he said.

The Decorah North nest can be viewed at raptorresource.org(clicking on bird cams at the top) or here.

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