History - part 1
The camera was initially installed by CalTrans (the California Department of Transportation) to make sure that nearby highway construction didn't have a negative impact on the eagle nest. Back in the fall of 2007, Caltrans had tried to discourage the eagles from nesting so near a planned highway project by placing a large cone in their nest, but the eagles were not easily discouraged (read the story here
)) - and public sentiment favored the eagles - so CalTrans decided to work with the eagles and the public, installing a camera to make sure they weren't disrupting the nesting behavior - and making it available to the public (thank you!). The construction project was completed, and the Turtle Bay Exploration Park
took over the cam for the 2012 nesting season - thank you! However - the eagles had other ideas, and moved to a new location - near their old nest, but out of view of the cams - so we were not able to watch them in 2012, but the great local observer team took up the slack, and provided great coverage. Money was raised to move the cams to the new location for the 2013 nesting season, though there were some challenges getting the cam online; unfortunately shortly after it finally started streaming, the wide angle cam was apparently damaged when a limb fell down, so the only view of the nest in 2013 was a very zoomed in closeup that let us see the feet and tails of the eagles, but not much more. The folks from Turtle Bay did some work on the cams after the 2013 season, and we had a much better view in 2014.
The pair, named Liberty (F) and Patriot (M), successfully raised two eaglets in 2008, and three eaglets in 2009 and 2010. They laid two eggs in 2011, both of which hatched, and the eaglets fledged successfully. Because there was not a cam, we don't know how many eggs they laid in 2012, but we do know they fledged two charming eaglets.
2013 started as a year like any other, and Patriot and Liberty laid three eggs in the first half of February. One disappeared at the beginning of March (which is not that uncommon) but then an intruder was seen in the area, and Patriot was not seen after March 11th. There was a week when Liberty left the eggs uncovered for hours at a time (though fortunately the weather was warm), and then a week when she incubated around the clock, with only brief breaks, and another eagle was seen in the area, and even came into the nest. Surprisingly, given the amount of time they'd been uncovered and not turned, both eggs hatched, on March 18 and 22 - and sadly both chicks were killed by the other eagle as soon as Liberty left the nest for a brief stretch. The new eagle had not paid any attention to the eggs prior to the first hatch, and from what we could see, appeared to follow Liberty when she flew off for a break and to find food; perhaps she assumed (to the extent that eagles can think) that he would also ignore the chicks - or would brood them, as a bonded male normally does. The new eagle did actually incubate the second egg for about 30 minutes shortly before it hatched - but later when it hatched and Liberty left as she needed to do without a male providing food, the new eagle also killed and ate the second chick. It was a very hard thing to watch - and perhaps a harder thing to accept. We do know that these are wild creatures - and know that some of the behavior we see in our mature pairs takes time to develop.
The new eagle appeared to be young, with some brown tips left on his (we assume) white feathers, so it's possible that the instincts that are needed for raising a family weren't fully developed yet. The new eagle was initially referred to as "the intruder," and then called Newbie as it appeared that he might be accepted as a new mate by Liberty, Towards the end of March, Newbie appeared to have marks on his feet as if he'd been in a talon-grasping fight - leading us to speculate that he might have driven Patriot off, or killed him. Then amazingly, on April 5th - Patriot returned - and spent some quality time with Liberty (humanizing more than a little, but they were observed perched together and looking very comfortable with each other). Sadly, the reunion was short-lived - on May 10th two adult eagles were seen in an aerial battle over a parking lot, and one plummeted to his death. Eaglewoman was given an opportunity to view the remains, and found that the eagle who had died appeared to have a dilated pupil like Patriot had, and a white feather on his chest like Patriot had - and none of those who reviewed the pictures she took could see anything that would suggest it might not be Patriot. A necropsy was performed, and he apparently died from an internal hemorrhage during the battle, but not from the battle itself. There were also trace amounts of rodenticide in his liver, which may have contributed to the internal bleeding because it works by keeping blood from clotting. Patriot's remains were going to be sent to the National Eagle Repository near Denver, Colorado, but once the authorities discovered the rodenticide, his remains were cremated, removing even the remote possibility that his body might be given to a local organization for display. There are plans underway to honor this magnificent eagle, and to note the end of an era at the nest.
This is one of eaglewoman's pictures of Patriot and Liberty - she calls it "Love is in the eyes"
As the 2013 season wound down, Liberty was in the area, as was the male known as Newbie and another male tentatively named #4. All have left, as eagles usually do in late summer and early fall - leaving us wondering who would return in October.