A Special Note of Recognition, An Update, and a Particular Thanks
Thursday, April 23 2009 @ 09:23 PM EDT
Contributed by: richardpitt
A Recap -- History: As the "old regulars" know and some of you newcomers hopefully realize, the Hancock Wildlife Foundation set up the various Live CAMS, the background web pages and the Forums for you on the premise that we wanted to share this incredible vision of the wild with you. At the same time, from day 1, Richard Pitt and I schemed that ALL components of this site MUST be managed for and BY the participants. Richard has done this masterfully. No I did not mean that you the viewers have to manage the technical components -- that is Richard and Ken and on the Island Bob. I mean that under the supervision of Richard the keenest volunteers, our admins and other program supervisors and our many new (and hopefully many more to start contributing) Content Providers, have tackled this almost "thankless job" that I know many of them spend more than a full 8 hour day at! And all on a volunteer basis. None are paid -- probably not thanked enough and only chastised unreasonably by newcomers who simply don't understand either the volunteer nature of the work, the incredible time each devotes and how, like many positions in the world, only are called upon when something goes wrong.
Well I too almost feel guilty drawing this to the public's attention since I know most of the volunteers don't do it for the accolades but for the public good. Furthermore, since it is YOUR site and maintained by you all, I almost feel awkward even giving more thanks as I don't want it to be considered "a pep talk" -- I know you all work well past what is logical or desirable by your other family obligations. But anyway -- I do want to say you all do a marvelous job and so much contribute to the vision we have launched. More than that -- you are that vision. You all, volunteers and viewers, are the watchers of the wild, the stewards of our environment, and I thank you. I hope we get to build up in you more indebtedness to our earth -- our survival depends upon that.
A little personal update: as a few of you know I have had a health problem this past year and it has periodically raised its ugly head and totally incapacitated me for a while. At the same time we were able to get all the cams in place last fall and have extensive plans for this year. I hopefully am on the mend. I want to thank those again who so kindly have expressed best wishes, sent cards and flowers etc. -- even some marvelous chocolates!!! What made this all the more memorable is that, not was it just our overworked keeners who passed on their kind thoughts, so many I have never met or heard of did the same. Very gratifying and I thank you all. Your all have my particular appreciation -- particularly Karen, who is not just my "unofficial secretary" but has tried to "protect me" from now over 6000 unanswered emails that I will not possibly get to. I say this in case you have written a particular note and thought I would respond. I have always tried to do this unless it was answered on one of our web pages or addressed in the Forum -- I simply am down from the 17 hours a day, 7 days a week effort due to the health issues -- so I have to beg your forgiveness in not being able to catch up on the past emails. Karen and the other admins and volunteers are there to answer your questions. They of course do not have access to my emails so any very important emails in that unanswered 6000+ will have to resend it to me or Karen.
read on for more...
The Immediate future: the Eagle Season:
1) Delta OWL: the failure of this new breeding pair of bald eagles to rear their young is of course disappointing but they too have to learn -- everything from effective nest building to mating practices. Generally if an egg is fertilized and dies at some stage of development, then that egg begins to decompose within and just about hatching time or shortly thereafter, it explodes. This is usually while the incubating adult is sitting on it. That ends that nesting attempt. We saw this on a previous Hornby Island clutch. On the other hand, if the egg is not fertilized the egg's protective shell and membranes seem to be able to ward off invading bacteria and the egg largely undergoes dehydration. This usually results in the egg remaining intact longer -- like the Delta OWL bald eagle nest -- and when finally abandoned is simply taken by crows or ravens. We are finally witnessing our stalwart Delta pair going through a gradual "abandonment" of the eggs. Something I have not seen so prolonged before. Again I attribute this to the inexperience of the adults -- this being their first breeding attempt -- at least here and probably anywhere. Perhaps the potential competition from all the other bald eagles in their area (within a mile of two major city and compost dumps) keeps them in attendance.
Present Alternative -- Delta 1 AGAIN! Some of you regulars know that last year we had Delta 1 nest fledge two chick before the CAM -- the pair that had "box lunches", Teddy bear accompaniment and all sorts of near disasters when their nest branches literally rotted and separated over the main support branch -- leaving two chicks and only half a nest. Then this spring the pair did not show up, October through February, like all the other local pairs. We wondered if the pair had succumbed during the winter or less likely, moved elsewhere. We (the royal 'we' meaning Ken) then repositioned our encoders at Delta OWL. Of course the CAMS were left in place up the tree -- we only access a nest during that August -- mid-September period when no eagles are in the area.
Then about a three weeks ago we saw the adult sitting on eggs. We had not witnessed any nest building, territorial activity -- just all of a sudden there she is sitting. To our horrors the nest seems to have had little repair and appears to be about half a normal nest. Confirming our worst fears, the land owner phoned after a week to say one egg was laying on the ground below the nest - it apparently just rolled off the very small narrow nest ledge. But the pair sits diligently on the remaining egg.
Our choice -- to reactive this cam with the encoder from Delta OWL -- which is about 1 mile distant -- or not activate! At the risk of having a lot of people very concerned about the nest size, the bird possibly losing its last egg, or if the chick hatches then the chick falling from the nest, I have decided to go with activating the nest. In part I am doing this as the lessons of success and failure are important to understand, but also we have the opportunity with a live cam running to have many eyes watching this pair and giving us a warning should the chick fall out of the nest.
Since Bev Day of OWL, the biggest Raptor Rehab Center in the Northwest, is only a mile away she can be there in minutes to perform a rescue. This could save the eaglet. With the cam activated we will also positively have many of our keen observers give opinions on whether this is a new pair (possibly determined by keen observers seeing telltale differences between the pair last year and this) which might explain the late arrival. It seems to me that there are more beneficial options in turning on the cam as opposed to not. But the risk of stress for the viewers is certainly there. However, by law and ethics, we will not be intervening "into the nest" for a rescue unless we knew a parent was killed and the chick would otherwise starve. I state this as we do not want a 1000 calls to HWF or OWL suggesting a rescue -- we can't do it just to save a starving chick, and that applies to any site -- unless we are certain of a lost parent. On the other hand should the chick fall out of the nest etc. we can be there in a few minutes for a rescue.
Sidney Nest: this is again on the way to being an incredibly positive nest. Last year this pair fledged 3 young! So marvelous! Three eggs is unusual and now all have again hatched! We are going to have a great season watching the sibling rivalry, the jockeying for food, the behaviors that pit one chick against the other so at least one survives in bad food years. Following the nesting season will again be a marvelous opportunity. However, nature again can be raw. I still have my concerns about how solid that old dead tree is. Will it hold up for another season? -- Many of the dead branches have already fallen off. Will the activities of 3 young push the tree's limit? Time will tell. Obviously eventually the branches and tree will fall down. Time will also tell if the region can again generate enough beach fish, human waste and road kills to rear 3 demanding chicks. I know we are all cheering for them. They have a great record so I believe the odds are well on their side.
Hornby Island: the nest above Doug Carrick's house that caught the world's imagination 4 seasons ago. This pair is about to hatch this weekend -- if all proceeds according to plan. That is our plan based on the days we saw the eggs laid. They basically hatch on the 35th or 36th day. Great excitement I know is brewing.
Doug is regularly posting personal updates on the pair's behavior and this will give his personal interpretation of what is happening in the local habitat and beyond the two cams' view. This is of course an incredible backup position and perspective that Doug offers. Thanks Doug.
My only concern is that people don't get all caught up in worrying about the local noises. Some days I get 25 - 50 personal emails about this and I do not have time to deal with these individual comments -- the days are simply not long enough. This nest was placed by the eagles between several houses. The houses were here when the nest went in. These houses have year round occupancy and all the regular noises of human habitation. Almost daily one of the neighbors is cutting a lawn, chain-sawing firewood, having a dog proclaim territory or a car go by with a louder exhaust than our "tranquil wilderness seeking mind" wants to hear. Doug, if you have read his fine book on the Horby Island Eagles, has pointed this out. He has followed this pair's nesting for over 20 years. They like this area, find it a very productive site, and the adults seem less concerned about all the suburban human noises than many viewers. I guess my point is that eagle adaptation and accommodation to the urban / suburban environment is based on different criteria than you and I might consider important.
I am always reminded of the irate call I received from a viewer -- at the exact moment I was also watching and in the act of calling Doug to get a confirmation on the barking. The irate caller was berating us for allowing neighborhood dogs to make so much disruptive noise to the eagles -- and to many viewers!. I was in the act of confirming with Doug that indeed we were all listening to a herd of Stellers Sea Lions going by in their noisy barking style as they pursued the spawning herring that were accumulating in front of Doug's house -- and the nest!. The wild natural noises are often not greatly different from human ones -- I suspect to eagles and at least to some humans!
Again an aside -- but right on target. My next door neighbor sold their farm when, after 6 years of trying to destroy the frogs in their pond, they could not succeed, The lady could not sleep while the frogs croaked!!!! One man's song is another man's "noise" -- but I learned that half a century ago listening to popular music!!!! Eagles nesting in the heart of noisy industrial areas begs a different perspective on what they and we find disruptive.
If I had a wish it would be that the effort of humanity -- and particularly our viewers -- was directed to saving more wilderness from conversion to farmland or human footpaths. Farmland, particularly that devoted to mono-cultured crops, is the world's largest destroyer by FAR of biological diversity. And the preservation of biological diversity is the essential objective of conservation and the savior of humans and all other species. Get your head into this and you will fully understand how destructive we humans are to the earth.
Every human being born into the Western World demands about another 15 acres of primitive wilderness be converted to support that individual -- with food, shelter, tools, roads etc.. When I came into the world in 1938 there were approximately 2 billion humans -- today we are pushing 7 billion. They say the population expansion is inevitable to 9 billion -- probably before the mid century. Then it is assumed total ecological collapse. The world cannot support this many people -- with even a small proportion of us demanding such high extraction of resources. But even getting there (yes 2050! Do you have any kids? Grandkids?) may not be that easy. Will wars take us down before that? Or will our saving grace be a selective pathogen that only takes out that one exceptionally greedy irresponsible species! Darn -- I wanted to end positively!
At the same time I, who gets overly emotional at personally seeing human or animal suffering, try to walk this emotional vs. rational confrontation line we constantly see on the web. WE know what is right and wrong for the world -- overcoming 3 billion years of cellular perfection of greed is not easy -- particularly when it means we are at fault, we must change our ways. Undoubtedly this emotion is a good release. Ah -- there it is - watching cams is positive! I am ending on that.