Live, from an undisclosed Twin Cities aerie, it's … bald eagles!
A webcam installed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to look in on a nesting pair of bald eagles is now streaming live on its website at www.webcams.dnr.state.mn.us/eagle. Last year, more than 137,000 people from about 100 countries were captivated by the live video footage from an eagle's nest in a tall tree near downtown St. Paul.
While that story ended in disappointment, DNR biologists believe the same pair of birds who became an Internet sensation last year happened to be chosen for stardom again. Last year, their eggs failed to hatch, probably because they were laid too early and froze. This year, the birds are trying again, and have laid two eggs in the past five days.
"We're excited they came back, and grateful that they've waited until a little later in the season to lay their eggs," said Lori Naumann, DNR nongame specialist. "With the thaw this week, we're really hoping the birds will be more successful this year."
The exact location of the nest is being withheld to prevent it from drawing crowds that might disrupt the eagles. The program is funded through the DNR's nongame program, either by donation or through a state income tax checkoff.
Once pushed to the brink of extinction, the American bald eagle has made a remarkable comeback with help from endangered species laws and a ban on the pesticide DDT. While fewer than 300 breeding pairs could be found in Minnesota in the 1980s, there now are about 1,300 active nests — more than any other state in the United States except Alaska.
With three major rivers and an abundance of wooded areas, lakes and wetlands, the Twin Cities metro region is home to many bald eagles that find the habitat perfect.
Eagles also spend the river just down the Mississippi River at Reads Landing and Wabasha (home of the National Eagle Center), where the junction of Wisconsin's Chippewa River keeps the ice open. This week, two dozen eagles were counted at both Reads Landing and in Wabasha.
"We're lucky to live in a major metropolitan area that has such awesome natural areas and outdoor recreational opportunities," said Erica Hoaglund, DNR nongame wildlife biologist. "We're hoping people will get excited watching this eagle family and get out to one of our many state, county or city parks to experience nature first-hand."
The camera was installed with the aid of a crew from Xcel Energy Co., who delicately threaded a boom through the trees to get the camera set up, said Harland Hiemstra, DNR spokesman.
In addition to live video on the DNR's website, information on the eagles' activities will be regularly updated on the nongame wildlife program's Facebook page. Eagle watchers also can subscribe to the DNR's Twitter feed or sign up to get updates by e-mail.