From the ground, an eagle’s nest is imposing—a nest can approach the size of a small car—but not particularly informative. Most of the action, after all, is on the top side of the nest, shielded from the ground.
That’s not the case, however, for a nest along the shore of Jordan Lake near Raleigh. Dr. Ted Simons, a biology professor, mounted a camera above the nest that is feeding images to a Web page. In addition to providing an informative view, the webcam is giving Simons, who is also part of the North Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, experience with two things he wanted to explore: wireless video observation of wildlife and what Simons calls “citizen science.”
Simons said he first considered mounting a webcam above the nest when he took his ornithology class to Jordan Lake in the spring of 2010. When Simons pointed out the nest to his class, the discussion turned to whether area residents were aware that bald eagles were nesting in the area. Simons was aware of webcams above eagle nests in other parts of the country, and wondered whether a camera could be mounted on Jordan Lake, given the remote location and lack of power.
Simons formed an eclectic collaboration that included a neighbor who is an engineer and likes to build gadgets, several computer science students and a former student who now owns a tree service business. The result is a webcam above the nest and a Web page where you can see video streamed from the nest. Or you can read updates and get acquainted with all those who made the project a reality on the Jordan Lake EagleCam Facebook page.
“We’re doing this both because we’d like more people in the Triangle to know that bald eagles have returned to this area, and populations have increased dramatically over the last 20 years or so and because we’re trying to adapt the technology of wireless video connected to the Internet to allow us to do other types of monitoring that we use in our research,” Simons said.
The camera was mounted last October. Simons says the eagles arrived just before egg-laying in December. The first chick hatched Jan. 13, with the second emerging from its shell a few days later. Simons said the chicks will be in the nest for about three months.