Webcam Awaits the Return of Bald Eagles

Wildlife NewsBy Dylan Darling Record Searchlight
Sunday, October 5, 2008

Last year they used a plastic cone to try to keep a pair of bald eagles out of their nest.

But this year the nest will be wide open and there will be a Web camera watching over the majestic duo.

Sometime mid-month the California Department of Transportation plans to have contract workers scale a cottonwood stand near Turtle Bay to reach the nest and install the camera, said Tom Balkow, senior environmental planner in Caltrans' Redding office.

"We don't want to be monkeying around with it when the eagles are trying to nest," he said.

The eagles are expected to return to the area between mid-month and the end of the year.

Last November workers wired a 3-foot cone into the nest to deter the pair from making a home there because of pending construction on Highway 44's Sacramento River bridge nearby. The cone came down 35 days later after the birds made it clear they didn't want another nest and a group of eagle fans prevailed upon Caltrans remove it.

Despite the bridge construction that started in April, the eagles raised a pair of eaglets that fledged in June.

The Web cam will feed images of the locally famous pair of adult eagles to a monitor in the front lobby at Turtle Bay Exploration Park and on a Web site, Balkow said.

Whether the images are on the Internet at all depends on whether the eagles show up to be filmed.

"We won't actually have it turned on until we get the eagles in the nest," Balkow said.

The pair, named Patriot and Liberty in a poll of readers last year, first built the nest in late 2004 and early 2005. They didn't use the nest that first year, but have successfully raised eaglets there since 2006.

In another online poll readers dubbed last year's two eaglets Conehead and Freedom.

But don't expect a warm and fuzzy, not to mention feathery, family reunion if all four of the birds return to the once forbidden nest this fall. The adult birds don't want the eaglets they raised last spring and summer under wing again, said Daryl Chase, a Redding man who rehabilitates wounded raptors.

"The parents will run them off," he said. "They won't know or care if they are their juveniles."

The young eagles likely won't be looking to get back to the nest anyway, Chase said.

"They'll be vagabonds," he said.

Bald eagles don't develop their telltale plumage for four to five years and live on their own during that time.

"It won't be until they get white heads that they consider family life," Chase said.

Like many who became fans of the stubborn adult eagles, Chase has been checking on the nest of late to see if there's any sign of their return.

He said last year he first saw one of the eagles scoping out the nest around Oct. 15 and expects about the same this year.

But, with the number of cranes working near the nest, Chase said the birds could look for another nesting site.

"I don't think they'll stay this year," he said. "There's a lot of activity."

Reporter Dylan Darling can be reached at 225-8266 or

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