More than 137,000 people from about 100 countries have watched live video footage shot by a camera recently installed above an eagle nest in a tall tree near downtown St. Paul.
The camera was installed just after Christmas and went live Feb. 5. Cam viewers have watched the action unfold, including a drama involving three eggs that never hatched.
A pair of white-headed bald eagles have been dutifully sitting on the orange-sized eggs, which apparently froze in subzero January weather, said Lori Naumann, who monitors the nest for the state Department of Natural Resources.
After the 35-day incubation period passed, Naumann wrote a sad note on the DNR’s eagle cam website to the thousands of watchers:
“Hello eagle friends. It is very difficult to announce, but we need to inform you. The two remaining eagle eggs in this nest will very likely not hatch. It has been 50 days since we saw three eggs in the nest. This is two weeks past expected hatching time and we have lost optimism. Eventually, the parent eagles will also figure out that the eggs are not viable.”
As of Sunday afternoon, a lone, white egg remained in the 6-foot-wide nest, occasionally with a parent atop it. The other two eggs have crumbled.
Some viewers of the eagle cam have become attached to the majestic birds. The bald eagle has made a strong comeback, especially in Minnesota, since the pesticide DDT was banned in 1972.
Since the eagle cam went public, 137,300 unique viewers have tuned in about 580,000 times, officials said.
Some viewers send e-mail comments and questions to Naumann.
“Some get very emotional,” she said. “One woman told me it made her feel like she was an eagle while watching it.”
Another person found it hard to watch the pair’s futile egg sitting. “She begged me to turn off the camera because the birds were sitting so long and they were not hatching,” Naumann said.
She has also received e-mails from teachers whose classes are watching the eagle cam.
The DNR installed the camera to learn more about our national emblem and to educate and motivate the public to get outdoors and see eagles in nature, Naumann said. She noted that there are at least 60 eagle nests in the Twin Cities area.
In 2012, an annual eagle count found 36 active nests along the Mississippi River in Hastings, St. Paul, Fridley and other cities.
“I think eagles are really fascinating to people. It’s a real patriotic bird,” Naumann said.
The camera was bought with donations Minnesotans made to the DNR’s nongame wildlife fund, which has a donation box on state tax forms.
An Xcel Energy boom truck installed the surveillance camera for free with technical help from Floyd Security.
New viewers watch the eagle cam every week from around the country and the world — from Iceland to Thailand and Japan to Zambia.
More than 260 viewers have clicked an online button to donate to the DNR’s Nongame Wildlife Program, the best response the agency has seen in the eight years it has had a website, Naumann said.
The state’s first eagle cam was installed by KARE-TV’s “Minnesota Bound” show about a year ago. About the same time, the DNR installed its first public bird camera near a peregrine falcon nest box that is situated high on the Bremer Bank building in downtown St. Paul, Naumann said.
Minneapolis also has a falcon box camera on a downtown skyscraper.
Naumann said that the Bremer falcon cam is expected to resume webcasts this week.
The DNR also is thinking of installing future webcams in the nests of owls, loons or ospreys, she said.