Saturday, March 13 2010 @ 11:43 PM EST
Contributed by: richardpitt
Hancock Wildlife's most prolific and best known eagle pair, mom and pop Sidney, started out as the fall-back pair for our 2006 nesting season. The Hornby Island eagle nest camera had drawn huge numbers of viewers; far more than either David or I had expected. We were expecting maybe 100 researchers and students at universities around the world to be interested. Instead the numbers grew to the point where we had to stop letting more concurrent sessions watch - at 40,000 simultaneous viewers.
As the time of hatching came closer, then crept hourly past his first estimates, David Hancock grew more and more fearful that the eggs would fail - and he started the process of finding another nest we could all watch.
As it happened, he knew of this Sidney nest and knew that chicks had already hatched, literally the day the eggs at Hornby were to hatch. He contacted the property owners, got their blessing and then arranged for an old truck-mounted crane to be donated to the cause. We could not climb the tree to install a camera - that has to be done when the eagles are not in the area, during their Fall trip to the salmon spawning grounds after the chicks fledge. The good thing about this tree was that there had been people working in the field close-by it all the while they were re-building, laying, incubating, and now raising their chicks. There was every indication that us going in and putting a crane 50 feet from the tree would not cause them any major angst.
I was given the task of organizing the install from the hardware point of view. We had arranged with the owners to get access to a telephone line in their office building about 1000 feet away from the nest tree. Telus supplied us with an internet feed there, and I installed a computer with video encoder card in it. Bob Chappel, our Victoria-based video camera expert, supplied us with a pair of power/video adapters that would drive power to the tree and return video and audio through a single piece of cable. All I had to do was bury the cable from the office, half-way to the tree across a cultivated field. The other half of the distance is native brush and blackberries so the cable could sit on the surface.
Did I mention it was hot? Spring of 2006 was excellent - unless you were out in the sun in the middle of a field, digging a trench and trying to strap a weather-proofed video camera and pan-tilt-zoom head to the top of a crane boom. It took several days to get things finally in place, tested and working. By this time the Hornby watchers were pretty sure the eggs had failed; one of them after the chick was seen pecking at the shell - disaster.
We quickly cut over to the new Sidney camera with the images of its two 10 day old chicks and the world breathed a sigh of relief. They again had something to watch and listen to and were able to forget the failure of the Hornby eggs.