Our Story Thus Far

While everyone nervously waits for the two eggs to hatch, we thought we’d catch up on the highlights from this season’s Bald Eagles posts thus far.

Just click on the topic to read the post (or scroll down).

Everything You Need to Know about Hatching the Eggs

All about the Duke Farms Eagle Cam

Anatomy of a Bald Eagle’s Nest

Snow-shrouded Mom on Incubation Duty

A Snowy Changing of the Guard  Sequence (It took 30 seconds)

All about the Duke Farms Eagle Nest

All about Duke Farms’ Eagle Eggs

Next: Make Way for Nestlings

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Everything You Need to Know about Hatching the Eggs

04022014 1st PipWritten By: Jim Wright for Duke Farms and Conserve Wildlife Foundation

Our story thus far:  The female Bald Eagle has laid two eggs this season, on 2/16-17 and 2/20. Incubation takes approx. 5 weeks, which means the first egg could hatch any day now (fingers crossed/knock on wood). You can view the nest on streaming video here.

Larissa Smith, Wildlife Biologist/Volunteer Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, describes the egg-hatching process.

Eggs will hatch in the order that they were laid. The hatching process, can take 24 hours or more.

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Eaglet and egg with pip

The eaglets use their egg tooth (a pointed bump on the top of the beak) to break (called pipping) through the outer shell.

This first hole is called a pip.

The eaglet then continues to peck at the shell until it has a hole in the shell large enough to break though and free itself.

The egg tooth will fall off a few days after hatching.

Before the first pip the eaglet will become active in the egg.

It’ll break through the inner membrane and for the first time breath in air.

The eaglet then starts to work on making the pip in the egg shell. I have read that the eaglets can start chirping at this point. Continue reading

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Streaming the Video from Nest to Screen

tree camera

The Eagle Cam was installed by a local licensed arborist in a sycamore tree near the original nest. After that nest was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, the cam was moved to the new nest tree the following autumn.

Written By: Jim Wright for Duke Farms and Conserve Wildlife Foundation

Our story thus far:  The female Bald Eagle has laid two eggs this season, on 2/16-17 and 2/20. Incubation takes approx. 5 weeks, which means the first egg should hatch early next week. You can view the nest on streaming video here.

(Coming Monday: Bonus Post — Everything you always wanted to know about hatching the eggs.)

Yesterday, we described how the Eagle Cam works.

Today, a look at how the video signal is streamed from the nest — located in a remote woodland near the Raritan River — to your screen.

The Eagle Cam  was installed in 2005 by a local certified arborist, who climbed more than 80 feet up a tree next to the nest and hoisted the camera up from the ground.

The tough part, however, was not getting New-Nest-11-30-12(4)the 10-pound camera and its weatherproof, lightning-resistant housing up the tree. The challenge was getting the video signal from the cam to the closest facility where the video could be streamed.

In fact, although installation of the cam began shortly after the first nest was discovered a decade ago, streaming the cam’s live feed over the Internet took several years of effort.

The problem was simple: Location, location, …

The eagles decided to build their nest nearly a mile from the closest facility that could stream the video, and with little to no clearance for a wireless antenna in the woods, the technology in 2005 only allowed for a 1,000- to 3,000-foot run of cable buried in the ground. Continue reading

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All About the Duke Farms Eagle Cam

cam closeupWritten By: Jim Wright for Duke Farms and Conserve Wildlife Foundation

Our story thus far:  The female Bald Eagle has laid two eggs this season, on 2/16-17 and 2/20. Incubation takes approx. 5 weeks, which means the first egg should hatch early next week. You can view the nest on streaming video here.

(Coming Monday: Bonus Post — Everything you always wanted to know about hatching the eggs.)

One of the nifty things about watching the Duke Farms Eagle Cam is the sheer convenience of it. You just click on the site and wait for the live streaming video to appear.

What’s amazing about the Eagle Cam, according to Charles Barreca, Duke Farms’ manager of ecological stewardship, is “its ability to capture fleeting moments in the nest such the first cracks in the egg as a chick hatches — or the Red-tailed Hawk attacking two years ago.” (See video at bottom of this post; not for the squeamish.)

But more has gone on into delivering those incredible moments than meets the eye.

The cam itself is nothing too fancy, a Gcamera preset 001 2015-02-23 at 4.35.07 PME Cyberdome II (above) — an analog PTZ closed-circuit camera, running on a special power over coaxial system with some beefy lightning protection.

“PTZ” is an abbreviation for “pan, tilt, zoom.”

That means the camera can swivel in several directions and zoom in and out to provide video rangicamera preset 002 Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 4.37.17 PMng from close-ups of the nest to panoramic shots of the nest and its surroundings.

Six presets enable the cam to move quickly between angles.

“The ability to point/tilt/zoom also allows us to survey the nest site to check for intruders and trespassers during the nesting season and to monitor flooding events in the area by the river,” Charles says.

interfaceThe camera can be controlled from a web interface  (at left) accessible from a PC or mobile device.

Tomorrow: Getting the video from the nest to you.

Got a question or suggestion? E-mail Jim at wrightjamesb@gmail.com

Jim Wright writes “The Bird Watcher” columnist for The Record and the Herald-News. He is the author of four coffee-table books about wild places, and the deputy marsh warden of the Celery Farm Natural Area in Allendale, N.J.

Last week: The Duke Farms Eagle Nest.

Two weeks ago: A Brief History of Bald Eagle Eggs in New Jersey and All About Duke Farms’ Bald Eagle Eggs.

Three weeks ago: Bald Eagle basics.

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An Anecdotal History of Bald Eagle Nests in America

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Early rendition of the national emblem — from a 1975 official first-day cover, issued to commemorate new postal rates.

Written By: Jim Wright  for Duke Farms and Conserve Wildlife Foundation

Our story thus far:  The female Bald Eagle has laid two eggs this season, on 2/16-17 and 2/20. Incubation takes approx. 5 weeks. You can view the nest on streaming video here.

Lewis and Clark stamps smallOne of the longest-lasting Bald Eagle nests in United States history may have been a nest first reported by the Lewis and Clark expedition in Montana in the early 1800s.

Here’s how Meriwether Lewis described the nest:

“Below this fall at a little distance a beautiful little Island well timbered is situated about the middle of the river, in this Island on a Cottonwood tree an Eagle has placed her nest; a more inaccessible spot I believe she could not have found; for neither man nor beast dare pass those gulfs which separate her little domain from the shores.”

Photographer unknown, 1880s. The eagle's island is just above photo center.

Pictured just above the photo’s center is the island on the Missouri River where Lewis and Clark discovered a Bald Eagle nest in 1805. Photographed by J.C. Cowles, 1880s. Courtesy of the Cascade County History Museum, Great Falls, Montana.

Fifty-five years later, Capt. William F. Raynolds, of the Corps of Topographical Engineers, reported that there was still an eagle’s nest in a cottonwood tree on the island.

Reynolds even saw “this peculiarly American bird” perched  nearby and wondered if it might be the very same bird Lewis had seen (highly unlikely; the nest may have been replaced as well).

Another government expedition reported an eagle nest and an eagle perched nearby on the same island 12 years later.  “The sight of this eagle was to me one of the most peculiarly pleasant incidents of our reconnaissance.”  reported an engineer named Thomas P. Roberts.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, “The largest bird’s nest was built by a pair of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), and possibly their successors, near St. Petersburg, Florida, and measured 2.9 m (9 feet, 6 inches) wide and 6 m (20 ft) deep.

“It was examined in 1963 and was estimated to weigh more than two tons (4,409 pounds).”

Continue reading

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Anatomy of a Bald Eagle Nest

Page 36 wright eagle nest-1

I took this photo of nesting eagles in Ridgefield Park three winters ago for the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission. The eagles are perched directly above the nest. If you click on the photo to enlarge, you can get a better sense of how large the nest is.

Written By: Jim Wright  for Duke Farms and Conserve Wildlife Foundation

Our story thus far:  The female Bald Eagle has laid two eggs this season, on 2/16-17 and 2/20. Incubation takes approx. 5 weeks. You can view the nest on streaming video here.

Bald Eagle nests are, by most accounts,  the largest bird’s nests in the world.

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On Sunday morning, the Duke Farms female brought new nesting material into the nest. Always remodeling.

The adult eagles build their massive nests — which weigh hundreds and hundreds of pounds — solely with beak and claw.

Although a pair of eagles can build a nest in less than a month, the nest itself seems to be forever a work in progress, with modifications and materials added over the years.

The nest work continues after the eggs are laid, when eaglets are in the nest, and after nesting season.

New-Nest-11-30-12EDITThe host tree can be anything from a cottonwood to a sycamore, so long as sturdy enough to support a thousand-pound nest. And the nest must be big enough not only two adults but for nestlings that grow as large as their parents and need a lot of room.

By then, the raptors are roughly three feet long from head to tail, and their wingspans are six feet or more. They take up a lot of space.

The nests need to be very sturdy as well, because when the eaglets learn to fly, they jump up and down, flapping their wings. Continue reading

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Mom Brought in More Nesting Materials This Morning

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Female arrives with new nesting materials.

Around 9:15 a.m. today, the female arrived to take over incubation duty and brought a big clump of sticks and leaves with her.

So encouraging to see the eagles getting beyond freezing-cold hunkered-down mode and tweaking  the nest again.  There’ll be more about this in Wednesday’s post on this blog. (Photos via the Eagle Cam.)

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Eagle Mom on Incubation Duty

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11;24 a.m.

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1:14 p.m.

Tough winter to be a nesting Bald Eagle in the Northeast. Screen shots of the female incubating two eggs in the Duke Farms nest today.

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A Snowy Changing of the Guard

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Mom leaves the eggs …

Written By: Jim Wright  for Duke Farms and Conserve Wildlife Foundation

Our story thus far:  The female Bald Eagle has laid two eggs this season, on 2/16-17 and 2/20. Incubation takes approx. 5 weeks. You can view the nest on streaming video here.

When incubating eggs, the adult Bald Eagles need to be on the nest almost all of the time, especially in cold weather. The insulation in the nest can keep the eggs warm temporarily.

In this sequence, recorded on this snowy morning (March 5), the Duke Farms female calls to the male, leaves the eggs, and the male takes over.

From the time Mom exposes the eggs to when Dad is incubating them, roughly 35 seconds elapses. These screen shots of the streaming video are date-stamped, so we know what is happening down to the second. (Click any thumbnail to enlarge.)

We thought we’d post this sequence because the changing of the guard is easy to miss unless you watch the Eagle Cam constantly. If you look closely, you can see that the female is larger than the male.

To read more about the Duke Farms eagle nest, click here.

To read more about the Duke Farms eagle eggs, click here.

Scroll down for more posts about the nesting Bald Eagles.

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All about the Duke Farms Eagle Nest Itself

Eagle in nest long view 2015-02-23 at 5.04.22 PM

An eagle’s eye view of the nest and its surroundings.

Written By: Jim Wright  for Duke Farms and Conserve Wildlife Foundation

Our story thus far:  The female Bald Eagle has laid two eggs this season, on 2/16-17 and 2/20. Incubation takes approx. 5 weeks. You can view the nest on streaming video here.

“One of the rarest of nests is that of the eagle, because the eagle is one of the rarest of birds.”
— Naturalist John Burroughs, from
In the Catskills, 1910.

New-Nest-11-30-12EDIT

The nest tree at Duke Farms

When you view The Duke Farms Bald Eagle nest on the Eagle Cam, you can’t truly appreciate what an engineering marvel it is.

The nest is immense, weighing hundreds of pounds. It’s made of sticks and other natural materials.

And it’s located more than 70 feet off the ground in a tree.

(Picture the top of an eight-story building — that’s how high it is.)

Thom Almendinger, Duke Farms’ Director of Natural Resources, discovered the first modern-day nest on the property a decade ago.

“I was in the floodplain tracking some radio-collared mammals for a research project and happened to walk underneath the tree where the nest was,” Thom says.

“Although the nest was very large, at first I was unsure who the builders may have been  — until an adult Bald Eagle peaked its white head out to give me a look.”

For Thom, the moment was exhilarating. Continue reading

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