The other morning on Iowa Public Radio, there was mention of the EagleCam that had been mounted to view the nest of a pair of eagles at the State Fish Hatchery near Decorah. My daughter came home from school and immediately rousted me out of an fitful sleep (I do not normally sleep in the afternoon, but I have been trounced by cold and flu these last several days). She was excited to share this EagleCam with me because there was one of three eggs predicted to hatch. EagleCam had been on all day at her high school and she, now a raptor convert working at the Iowa State University Wildlife Care Center, could not get enough. I rolled out of bed and watched her pull up the live-stream video and HOLY CROW! There was an eagle sitting on a nest, seemingly inches from the camera....beak, feathers, eyes, and cars passing by on the road off in the distance. I, too, was immediately hooked. I brought the laptop into the bedroom and set it next to the bed so I could watch it as I drifted in and out of the feverish haze I was dealing with.
I awoke early this morning sometime before dawn to catch a glimpse of a whitish-gray ball of fluff topped by a whitish-gray masked head that bobbled for a second before falling face first between the other two yet-to-hatch eggs. Daddy Eagle settled down over the new hatchling, then laid back his head and called out into the darkness with that high, piercing call. Within moments, another bird landed on the edge of the nest. Mom had arrived and immediately booted Dad off her nest and proceeded to tuck everyone in and under. The thermometer read 31 degrees. She got busy pulling grass and small twigs up to her chest to mound up the sides so Junior would stay warm. She continually re-positioned herself, turning 90 degrees, then pulling more nesting materials into a higher-sided bowl. When she finished, the nest was high and tight; she was ready for some sleep, so she rotated her head back and tucked her beak under her wing. It was touching to see her do what all mothers do when that new baby arrives. Nesting. Cuddling. Settling in. One of her babies had hatched and the other two eggs showed signs of impending emergence. Instinct was kicking in.
As I lay in bed watching, I could not help but feel that maybe this was too much like Big Brother. It seems so invasive. The technology is phenomenal that it can capture this, but part of the beauty of nature is the mystery of it all. These cameras are rolling 24/7 allowing mom and dad no time alone with their newborn. Maybe I am anthropomorphizing. Tess says that it helps us better understand things like mating practices, nesting structure and sites, food choices during this reproductive phase (there is the visible dead rabbit lying along the edge of the nest!), and chick survival rates. Supposedly, it helps us to better protect these birds, but I think they would do just fine if we paid more attention to how we lived on this land and protected the environments of all living things.