Haines: Camera takes close-up look at nesting eagles

Posted: Sunday, July 07, 2002

Ever wondered what eagles do all day, but don't have the time to scout nests and spend hours watching the raptor in the wild through a pair of binoculars?

Rest easy, because the American Bald Eagle Foundation has made observing the national symbol as easy as a visit to the facility or a click of the mouse.

This week, the foundation unveiled its eagle cam - a remote camera mounted atop a 65-foot pole that beams images of an eagle family to a receiver and television for public viewing at the facility. Within the next couple of weeks, the images will be broadcast on the World Wide Web.

"I'm really excited about the project," said foundation executive director Richard Cooper, a professional videographer who is spearheading the effort. The first images were captured Tuesday, showing a pair of eaglets. "You can see them bobbing their heads around."

The camera, equipped with a 300-millimeter telephoto lens, records the action from the nest, in a tree on private land about a mile from the foundation. The device is about 200 feet from the nest, and sits inside a waterproof, weather-tight heated enclosure to ensure reliability.

Cooper said he'd like to move the camera to the Council Grounds to capture images of the annual autumn and winter congregation of bald eagles.

"It's hard for people to comprehend what 3,000 eagles look like," he said. "With the camera, people from all over the world will be able to see."

The eagle cam is paid for through a $4,500 grant from the Atlanta-based Shirley Family Foundation that was applied for by former director Dan Hart. "It was considered in the past, but he wanted to get it going this year."

Ed Shirley, an eagle foundation trustee, heads up The Shirley Foundation.

"We're very thankful to the foundation for the funding," Cooper said. "It will help us show the world about one of the area's best features."

The director said the camera's benefits are numerous.

"We get 300 to 500 hits on our Web site each day, and that's achieved without much effort," he said. "I think we'll get thousands of people to look at the Website after we start broadcasting."

The device, he said, also could help spark a renewed interest in the foundation, bring in new members, attract more visitors to the area and help the foundation share its education programs about eagles with a global market.

In addition, the project will "help people in general, and perhaps researchers, better understand the eagle's environment and habits in the wild," Cooper said.

In an effort to preserve the raptor's habitat, the foundation was careful not to intrude on the eagles while placing the camera, Cooper said.

"We wanted to be as far away from the nest as possible, so we wouldn't disturb the eagles," Cooper said, adding the camera was mounted during spring, before the eagles occupied the nest.

Wildlife biologist Mike Jacobson said the protection of the raptor is key.

"Our main concern is the distance the camera is from the birds. The worst thing that could happen would be the eagles abandoning their nest."

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