Duke Farms’ Other Famous Eagles

DSCN9833-002Written By: Jim Wright for Duke Farms and Conserve Wildlife Foundation

Although you probably won’t see Duke Farms’ renowned Bald Eagles when you visit the property — unless one is flying overhead, a rare occurrence — you can still see another famous pair of eagles while you are there.

All you have to do is drive down Dukes Parkway West and look for the most statuesque eagles you have ever seen. They stand guard at the aptly named “Eagle Gate.”

foundry for DF eagle statueThe bronze eagles were cast more than a century ago — around 1902 — for Duke’s Park at Fonderie d’Art du Val, d’Osne, a foundry described by the Association for the Preservation and Promotion of the Haute-Marne Metallurgical Heritage as “the most prestigious and most important world art foundry.” Continue reading

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Our Story So Far (in 16 Photographs)

March 29, one hatchling, egg with pipping.

March 29, one hatchling, egg with pipping.

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

Nowadays, as we look at the Eagle Cam’s images of the two huge gawky eaglets basking in the beautiful spring weather, we tend to forget what an incredible journey this eagle family has been so far on this year.

Back in the snowy, Arctic days of winter, folks who watched the Duke Farms Eagle Cam had all sorts of worries — would the eagles have eggs this year, how many eggs would there be, how long could the parents leave the nest without harming the eggs, could any of them survive the record-setting cold temperatures of February?

In short, it has been a heckuva ride.

For many, our admiration for — and attachment to — the Duke Farms eagles has only grown along the way. (Click to enlarge the photos below.)

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.

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

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The Eaglets Are … a Female and a Male!

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This screen shot is from earlier today, The larger eaglet (with darker feathers) on the right is a female, The one on the left is a male.

Just heard this from Kathy Clark: “In the Duke nest, pretty clear that the older nestling is female and the younger one is male.  The size and age differences make for a big difference in siblings.”

Kathy, as you likely know, is  a wildlife biologist and eagle expert with New Jersey’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program. (Thanks, Kathy!)

                                                                            — Jim Wright


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Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Eaglet Banding

2014 Eaglet-001Written By: Jim Wright for Duke Farms and Conserve Wildlife Foundation

Although the N.J. Endangered and Nongame Species Program and Conserve Wildlife Foundation had hoped to band the two Duke Farms eaglets next week, the plan has been scrapped  this year for reasons related to the difficulty of getting to the nest.

While nothing can compare with witnessing an eaglet banding, here’s a consolation prize: ENSP wildlife biologist Kathy Clark generously shared her expertise on the banding process in a recent interview for this blog.

Let’s start with the question that Eagle Cam viewers keep asking:  How are the eagles banded with the parents nearby? Do the parents ever get aggressive toward the human retrieving the eaglets?

Kathy Clark by Ben WurstThe adults always stay nearby within view of the nest while we are there to band the young. They are rarely aggressive.

As big birds, they are not very agile and don’t feel safe attacking a person because it could be hard for them to fly off again.

In our 30 years of banding eagles, no climber has ever been hit by an adult; it has happened, however rarely, to climbers elsewhere.

Why do you band them in early May — it is a certain point in their development?

We always aim for around 6 weeks of age.  The chicks are easiest to handle at that age.  Plus, if our timing is wrong by a week either side, the chicks are still bandable. Continue reading

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Eagle Cam in the Classroom, Part 2: Diane Cook Interview

jw cook class_1849-001Written By: Jim Wright  for Duke Farms and Conserve Wildlife Foundation.

Diane Cook of the Copper Hill School in Ringoes, N.J.,  who as watched the Eagle Cam since 2008, graciously shared her insights on the Eagle Cam as learning tool.

What made you realize the Eagle Cam could be a great learning tool?

The students were always so interested in watching and learning more about the eagles. I knew it would be the perfect motivating subject to get them writing and researching. The little ones love drawing pictures about what they see, too.

What is the best part of the students’ response?jw cook class9054-001

I just love the excitement when they see those little newly hatched eaglets, or watch them feeding. I’ve had phone calls, emails, or have had parents stop me to tell me how hooked they are since learning about the live cam via a newsletter I sent home. The first thing they ask when coming into lab is, “Can we watch the eagles?” I love the caring and interest.

Why do the students like the eaglets?

“They’re so cute!” I think they are so fascinated because it is real nature happening right in front of their eyes. You can’t find this in a book or poster. Technology brings us to places we’d never be able to visit without it.

Do students respond differently by age?

jw cook class9061-001The littlest learners enjoy watching the eaglets grow. They are amazed at how fast it happens. The older students have fun identifying what the meal of the day is at any given time.

From the kindergarteners to the adults in the room, the reaction to watching these birds is really the same, total amazement and wonder.

What is the most important lesson the eagles teach?

Watching the eagles from nest repair to bringing up baby teaches an appreciation for the natural world around us. By watching these two parents work together and care for their young, it also teaches all of us lessons in caring, being gentle with each other and others, and it gets conversations started.

How do you find the time to use the eagle cam in your curricula?

Environmental science is my passion and I make the time. I know the objectives and skills I must teach, and the students must master. How I teach those skills is where I have some freedom.

IMG_1831Tapping into what interests students will motivate them to want to research to find out more about a subject. Writing about something that fascinates students, gets them excited about writing.

The live cam is a great vehicle for teaching Internet safety and navigating a website. It was also an excellent starting point to teach the finer points of blogging and commenting responsibly and thoughtfully.

What was the most difficult moment?  How did you handle it?

Nature is not always cute and adorable. Age appropriate conversations about what and how the eagles eat are always part of using the live cam. The students know if that is not something they want to see, they don’t have to watch it.

I have also explained to the students my own feelings and worries about the survival of the eaglets. We all share those same feelings. The children are amazing!

To read yesterday’s post about Diane and her class, click here.

To see some of the students’ recent blog posts, click here.

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.

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

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Eagle Cam in the Classroom, Part 1: An Amazing Learning Tool

jw cook class9058-002Written By: Jim Wright  for Duke Farms and Conserve Wildlife Foundation

It is a dreary April day in Ringoes, N.J., but jw cook class9068-001you’d never know it from the brightly lighted computer lab in the Copper Hill School.

There, 18 fourth-graders sit at their Apple computers, writing blog posts based on what they viewed on a big screen the past two months — the Duke Farms Eagle Cam.

Some students in Diane Cook’s computer lab are describing what they have observed — from the eaglets’ “clown feet” to a recent meal, when “turtle was on the menu.”

IMG_1847Other students are using the computer app Pixie to create digital color drawings on the nest, or taking screenshots of the Eagle Cam and pasting them into their posts.

(Scroll down to next post or click here to see examples of their work.)

Many schools use the Eagle Cam as a learning tool, but perhaps none as extensively and effectively as Diane’s classes.

Because of that resourcefulness and creativity, Duke Farms and Conserve Wildlife Foundation chose Diane as the winner of its best Bald Eagle lesson plan contest.

(To read more about Diane’s award, click here.)

Her prize: Diane will help band the two  eaglets two weeks from now.

Continue reading

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Fourth-graders Create Blog Posts about the Eagles

These blog posts about the Duke Farms Bald Eagles were created last week by fourth-graders at the Copper Hill School in Ringoes, N.J. (Just click a post to enlarge it.)

Their teacher, Diane Cook,  was recognized this week by Duke Farms  and  Conserve Wildlife Foundation for winning their Eagle Cam lesson plan contest.

To learn more about her award, click here. To read more about Diane’s classes, click here.

Congratulations, Diane!

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The Eaglets: What to Expect Next

04292015 Eaglets

Last year’s chicks at the end of April

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

Our story thus far:  Both eaglets hatched toward the end of March, making them both more than three weeks old. You can view the nest on streaming video here.

For many Eagle Cam viewers these days, the big question is: “What’s in store next for the two eaglets?”

Larissa injured eagle 9_29_14 B

Larissa Smith with a Bald Eagle she rescued last fall by wading through chest-deep mucky water in a marshy area in Cumberland County, N.J.

For answers to this and other pressing questions, we asked Larissa Smith, Wildlife Biologist/Volunteer Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

“At about four weeks of age the chicks will begin to get their blood feathers or pin feathers, first appearing on the head and edge of their wings,” says Larissa, who has worked with Bald Eagles for the past 15 years.

“The chicks’ new feathers come out wrapped in a sheath that is filled with blood and the blood feeds the feathers so they grow.

“Eventually, once the feather is fully developed, the sheath will fall off or the eaglet will pull it off and the feather will unfurl.”

For the next few weeks after the pin feathers emerge, the chicks will have a mixture of down and feathers. At six weeks of age, biologists will band the chicks. Continue reading

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A Snapshot of Our Far-Flung (and Nearby) Eagle Cam Viewers

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Mom and Dad feeding the eaglets at 5:37 p.m., Tuesday, April 14.

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

Our story thus far:  Both eaglets have hatched and are developing nicely. You can view the nest on streaming video here.

Yesterday (April 14), the Eagle Cam reached a milestone: 10 million views. That’s a lot of eyeballs, and a lot of folks who have fallen love with a pair of eagles nesting in Hillsborough, New Jerey.

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Mom feeding the eaglets on Monday, April 13.

Over the past eight nesting seasons, people around the world have watched the Duke Farms Eagle Cam’s streaming video and witnessed some extraordinary moments — from tiny chicks emerging from their eggs to huge eaglets preparing to leave the nest.

While thousands upon thousands of folks from more than 65 countries have learned all about these raptors up-close this nesting season, the loyal viewers of the cam tend to watch the eagle family from the anonymity of their electronic device, be it laptop or cellphone or tablet.

To change that equation at least just a tad, we asked Eagle Cam viewers to let us know more about themselves.

Here are the results — a few snapshots of our far-flung viewers, including a long-time viewer in the Netherlands,  a couple of newbies from Alabama, a second-year viewer from Texas, and several classrooms in New Jersey.  A big thank you to all who responded. Continue reading

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Our Eagle Nest’s Offspring: Where are They Now?

Eagles 2009-001

The Duke Farms Bald Eagle nest Class of 2009. For 2015 photos of one of these alumni, see below.

Written by: Michael Catania,  Executive Director of Duke Farms

The Duke Farms Eagle Cam is nearing an impressive 10 million views.

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Duke Farms Executive Director Michael Catania with an eaglet from the Class of 2014 during banding.

Installed and operational in March of 2008, the Eagle Cam has allowed viewers to have a close-up view of the nesting behavior of the adult eagles and watch the pair raise a total of 17 chicks — including this season’s two arrivals.

Throughout the last seven years, folks tuning in to the eagle cam have witnessed some incredible sights.

These have ranged from the sad fate of a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk that landed on the nest just after the chicks had hatched — only to meet its doom at the hands of one of the very protective parents — to the wide array of critters brought to the nest as food for the chicks over the years.

For most viewers, just watching 17 awkward chicks over the years learn to fly and eventually leave the nest has been a memorable experience.

Our Eagle Cam, operated in cooperation with the New Jersey Endangered and Non-game Species Program and Conserve Wildlife Foundation, has truly become a window into a “day in the life” of the Bald Eagles.

So whether you are a long-time viewer or have recently discovered our Eagle Cam, we thought that you might like a brief report on the alumni of the Duke Farms nest. Continue reading

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