Humboldt Bay bald eagles are online stars; Webcam features pair eating, building nest

Grant Scott-Goforth

Times-Standard

Humboldt County’s newest reality stars are getting ready to start a family.

The private lives of a pair of nesting bald eagles on Humboldt Bay is now available in your living room, as a webcam on the birds’ nest went live this week.

Jean Pichler, a high school counselor in San Pedro who moderates bald eagle cams in the Channel Islands and is an administrator on the Humboldt Bay Eagles Facebook page, said she has been monitoring the new webcam.

"What we’ve seen is the pair in the nest together," Pichler wrote in an email. "Today I saw one eagle on the nest bringing in a large twig and also dining - plucking something - for ‘breakfast.’" Pichler called on fellow viewers on the Facebook page to share tips on identifying the eagles.

"I can’t tell male from female yet, if they’re there alone," she wrote in an email. "The female balds, like other raptors, are larger than the males." Pichler said the eagles are often away from the nest during the day.

"Very typical eagle behavior is to have them in and out in the early hours and also just before sunset, at least until there are eggs," Pichler continued. __She said the eagles will continue to bring sticks into the nest to build a ‘crib rail’ around the nest perimeter, and will bring in soft nesting material to lay and incubate eggs.

Canopy ecologist Jim Spickler hung the camera in December, narrowly beating the eagles’ return to the nest. __He’s mostly happy with the camera’s placement, and said it’s already survived some high winds - a good sign it will last through the year. No one can work on the camera while the eagles are nesting.

"When we went up there and installed the camera, we had some bad weather," Spickler said. "I wish the image was framed a little bit different. This year we just kind of had to work with what we had." Spickler said the tree is mostly dead above the nest, which forced him to hang the camera at a slightly crooked angle in order to fully view the birds.

Now that he knows how the nest is situated, he said next year the live feed will be better. Until then, Spickler said he’s enjoying watching the eagles renovate their nest.

"It’s the beginnings of this year’s family," he said.

The Humboldt Wildlife Care Center said this is the first pair of eagles roosting on Humboldt Bay in decades. Bald eagles breed once a year and remain with one mate as long as they are alive and successful at breeding.

The nest is on Humboldt Bay, but the Wildlife Care Center is keeping the exact location secret in order to protect the birds.

Sequoia Park Zoo education supervisor Amber Neilson said the zoo would use the eagle cam as a learning tool.

"I think it’s fantastic," Neilson said. "We’ll definitely be checking in on it for our spring camps." The Humboldt Wildlife Care Center won a $1,000 grant from the zoo last year to help pay for the webcam.

"We’re really excited to see it launch," she said.

This year’s round of conservation grant applications are currently being reviewed by the zoo, Neilson said.

"Conservation is one of the key points to our mission," she said. __Spickler, who sets up eagle cams for the Institute for Wildlife Studies in the Channel Islands, said there’s a "giant community" of professional and amateur eagle enthusiasts who watch live feeds from around the state. As of Saturday afternoon, more than 1,100 people had viewed the Humboldt Bay eagle cam.

"It came with just a ready-made audience," Spickler said. "I think folks will really tune in."

Grant Scott-Goforth can be reached at 441-0514 or gscott-gofor th@times-standard.com.

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