Popular bald eagle camera in Iowa gets upgrade

by Rebecca on November 13, 2010

in Animal Stories

DECORAH, Iowa (AP) — A major technology upgrade for the popular Decorah Bald Eagle Camera will ensure continued enjoyment for the 325,000 people who peeked and eavesdropped this year on the domestic life of an eagle family.

New cameras and microphones, coupled with a more powerful host computer system, will provide larger images and clearer sound available to more people at once, according to Bob Anderson of rural Bluffton, director of the sponsoring Raptor Resource Project.

“I’m so happy and please. With the camera’s zoom feature, you will be able to watch the parents roll the eggs and see them crack before hatching,” he said.

Luther College has hosted the site on its computer system, but heavy usage maxed out the bandwidth, causing service disruptions, Anderson said. The new host computer will provide uninterrupted service, he said.

Anderson and three other raptor experts recently installed the new equipment above an eagle nest 80 feet up a tree overlooking the Decorah Fish Hatchery.

“There is only a brief window to make changes, and it happens in late fall when the eagles’ use of the nest is at a seasonal low,” Anderson said.

Anderson used a crossbow to shoot power and transmission cords into the nest, where Dave Kester of Decorah, Emmy-winning cinematographer Neil Rettig of Prairie du Chien, Wis., and project webmaster Amy Ries of North Branch, Minn., completed the installation.

Anderson, who incurred several thousand dollars in debt to pay for the upgrade, said he hopes nest viewers will help defray the cost.

“I couldn’t not do it after reading so many e-mails from people who appreciate it – teachers who use it in their classrooms, care center residents who say it’s their reason for getting up in the morning,” said Anderson, who led the successful effort to reintroduce peregrine falcons to the Mississippi River Bluffs.

People who want to support the service can make PayPal contributions on the group’s website, or send checks to Raptor Resource Project http://www.raptorresource.org/.

The project installed its first camera in 2007 to gather footage for ‘American Eagle,’ Rettig and Anderson’s groundbreaking documentary that aired in 2008 on the PBS ‘Nature’ series.

The system has since been updated annually to accommodate curious eagle fans.

During this year’s nesting season, the site recorded more than 325,000 unique visitors from 125 countries, and nearly 3.9 million site visits as viewers logged in repeatedly to check the progress of the three chicks hatched there in early April.

Another 53,000 unique visitors accessed the nest cam through a site operated by Xcel Energy.

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