One of the nifty features of Duke Farms' new Eagle Cam is the infra-red light. The light, imperceptible to the eagles, allows viewers to see what goes on in the nest at night this season for the first time. If you thought that nothing happened after dark, think again. For example, the male still takes his turn incubating the eggs, even at night. Let Duke Farms' Charles Barreca explain: With the IR vision, we have learned a little more about our own nest -- mostly all typical eagle behavior, though it was nice to know where the adults stay at night when they arent on the nest. They perch on a branch thats up in the 10-11 oclock position when the camera is zoomed out.
Anything unexpected? Ive heard of viewers seeing flying squirrels and other nocturnal critters crawl over the nest at night before the eggs were laid. I wouldnt be surprised if other small critters pop into view at night as they look for insects and other things that get drawn in by the nest. The nest is usually teeming with flies and beetles that consume detritus. It's almost like a woody compost bin at times.
Were you surprised the adult eagles roll the eggs at night? Not too surprised about the egg rolling. They still have to roll it to keep the yolk in the correct position inside the egg, day or night.
Did you expect to see them sleep with their bills resting on their backs, like waterfowl? The head tuck makes sense for body heat conservation since a tucked head is going to lose less heat than an outstretched one. While the egg is low in the nest bowl and protected from the wind, the adult is still fairly exposed and the winds in that nest can get fairly chilling even on warm, calm days. The few times Ive been up there on rope, it's always been cool.
The biggest surprise? Id say the biggest surprise is really how clear it is, especially on a big screen TV. The HD doesnt really stand out on a pc monitor aside from the new 16:9 aspect ratio (the old camera had a 4:3 aspect ration that was typical of monitors and TVs from the early- to mid-2000s. The improved picture quality is going to make looking at prey much better, especially for identifying fish, turtles, birds and mammals that get taken to the nest for food, as well as any in-nest fauna. Last year the nest seemed to be crawling with carrion beetle larvae that were eating the fish scraps.
For more about the cam, see Chapter 3 (Pages 14-17) of the new free on-line e-book, "Duke Farms' Bald Eagles," here.
Eagle questions? E-mail Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org Some may be used in future posts.
Jim Wright writes The Bird Watcher column for The Record. He is the author of four photography-driven books about natural areas, including the New Jersey Meadowlands and Pennsylvanias Hawk Mountain.