Next Monday morning, the two Duke Farms eaglets are scheduled to be banded by state wildlife biologists and examined by a wildlife veterinarian. Another state wildlife biologist will climb more than 80 feet up the tree to retrieve the two eaglets. Behind the scenes, ace tree climber and arborist Jack Kuhlman has helped with the cam and the climb.
Jack has been associated with Duke Farms for two decades and started as a tree worker/arborist on the Tree Crew." He eventually ran the crew for several years before deciding to go back to his own business in Hillsborough full time. He later came back a day or two a week as an arboriculture consultant. Then he learned about the Duke Farms eagle nest. "I heard that a camera for viewing the nest wasnt installed yet," Jack says. "Through some collaboration with Duke and the state wildlife biologist, we were given the OK to install the camera in the first tree.
"After a hurricane, the nest moved, and so did the camera. Its been a few years that we have been viewing the eagles, and we hope to view this gem for many more years. "I've been very fortunate to work with great people at Duke Farms my whole time here andfeel blessed that I am part of that amazing group."According to Jack, the nest tree, an American Sycamore (Platanus occidentals) is well over 100 feet tall, and the nest is roughly 80 feet up. "The tree climbing is no easy task,"he says. "Smooth bark means no grip, and the cable from the camera has to be looked out for as well as the lightning protection system."
Jack says that since he take every safety precaution he can, he hasn't had any close calls yet, but concedes he has been "nervous the eagle would come to the nest when I was in the tree." One eagle did fly overhead a year ago when he was working on the camera with Duke Farms' Charles Barreca, and Jack recalls the eagle "made a distinct sound." Jack's advice to any student thinking of becoming an arborist and professional tree climber is simple: "Go to college and get your degree first, then you can deal with the tree-climbing portion after. My oldest son Jack is 20 years old. He's been working summers with me and loves the job -- it changes everyday. He climbs a little here and there. "If I had to change anything in my life, it would be finishing my degree. I still love the trees, and when I am slow look forward to being back up in the canopy. "An old-timer once said that once you get the sawdust in your veins, it is impossible to get it out. You're a Tree Man for life."
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