By Starrla Cray
McLEOD COUNTY, MN Forget reality TV.
For a bird’s eye view of drama and suspense, check out the McLeod County eagle cam footage on the Minnesota Bound website.
Mark Wegscheid of Broadband Corp. installed the solar-powered camera last week, positioning it 75 feet in the air next to a nesting site south of Hutchinson.
At the moment, the live feed just shows sticks and snow, but it won’t stay that way for long.
“They usually lay their eggs the beginning of March,” Wegscheid said, adding that improvements to the nest are made beforehand.
For about 35 days, eagle parents take turns keeping the eggs warm and protecting them from predators. According to the Hancock Wildlife Foundation, the female does most of the incubating, because her body is much larger.
Last year’s adventure
Wegscheid is hoping this year’s hatchlings have better luck than the two monitored by the eagle cam in 2012.
One of the eaglets died April 30, while a class of elementary students happened to be watching.
“They were watching the two little eagles, when one of them starts hopping toward the side of the nest and falls out,” Wegscheid recalled.
Sadly, the eaglet did not survive.
“Then, about three days later, people start saying there’s something wrong with Harmon, the sibling,” Wegscheid said.
Observers soon realized Harmon was not able to move because his wing was trapped in the sticks used to build the nest. Wegscheid got a call from the head of the Department of Natural Resources in Washington, DC, who said the problem needed intervention.
A permit to go up to the nest was obtained within the hour.
On the way to the rescue, the boom truck got stuck in the mud and had to be towed out with a payloader, but Harmon was eventually safely removed from the nest and treated at the University of Minnesota Raptor Center.
After they put Harmon back in the nest, Wegscheid and the DNR waited for the eagle’s parents. Officials decided that if they didn’t return by sunset the next day, Harmon would need to be taken out to avoid attacks from predators.
“Just as the sun was setting, the father lands, and then the mother lands,” Wegscheid recalled, adding that Harmon went on to become a healthy adult.
Eagle cam improvements
Wegscheid’s first eagle cam attempt was about five years ago, on his parents’ property on the west side of Hutchinson.
Unfortunately, the day after he installed the camera, a great horned owl came and took over the nest.
Another setback was the amount of solar energy needed.
“We totally underestimated it,” he said. “We ended up running 1,000 feet of extension cord to my parents’ house.”
This year, Broadband Corp. purchased four new solar panels, and a new camera with a mechanical pan tilt and zoom.
“With the added power, we are hopeful we’ll be able to do night vision,” Wegscheid noted.
While watching the footage, people have the opportunity to chat with other eagle fans online. A moderator is available 24/7 to answer questions.
“We have moderators all over the world,” Wegscheid said, adding that more than 3 million people have viewed the eagle cam video.
To take a look, go to http://www.mnbound.com/live-eagle-cam/