Mark Madison speaks with NCTC Director Jay Slack and Steve Chase, chief of NCTC's Division of Education Outreach, about the NCTC Eagle Cam, Part Two
MARK MADISON: Hi, this is Mark Madison at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and this is the second in a three-part series on our Eagle-Cam here at the NCTC campus. I'm joined by Jay Slack, who is the Director at the National Conservation Training Center and Steve Chase who is the Chief of our Division of Education and Outreach.
Welcome, Jay and Steve. And the Eagle-Cam has been up for seven years, but this nesting season was quite melodramatic for us, and why don't we start with Jay and ask what happened to the eagles this year.
JAY SLACK: Well, let me start by saying we've enjoyed seven years of relatively straightforward eagle biology. This year we have had an interesting turn of events. Certainly sad in some ways, what we've seen is a territory that has been changed by another eagle that's come in, and we'll talk about that in a little bit. But we've also had an opportunity to learn a lot more about eagle biology. As I was telling Steve the other day, the last seven years, we've pretty much had eagle biology 101 here on campus, and we've jumped to eagle biology 301, and we're actually all learning. We've called in experts to help us interpret what we've seen, but this third eagle that has come in has-- has asserted itself into the territory and into the existing breeding pair and has upset the balance of power and has impacted the breeding activities for this year.
MARK MADISON: Okay. Steve, why don't you give us a chronology of what happened for the 2011 nesting season.
STEVE CHASE: Okay. Well, I'll give you a time line here. The first egg was laid on February 5th. The second egg around the 9th of February. And then it was pretty normal incubation with the two birds switching off for several weeks. And the first egg actually hatched on St. Patrick's Day on March 17th, and that was right around the time that things started to get interesting. That was-- at some point around that date, a new eagle came onto the scene, and right now we believe that that new eagle was a male eagle, a young male eagle, and came in and likely had some sort of confrontation with the resident male eagle that caused the resident male eagle to stay away from the nest from then on, and as Jay said, that pretty much disrupted the whole process.
That first eaglet that hatched on the 17th was able to stay alive for a couple days, but because the female was never willing to head out and find food or fish for the young one, and the resident male was not able to be able to bring food into the nest, that young eaglet died.
Subsequent to that, we believe that the resident male was able to get into the nest to be on the cam on the 21st of March, although there are some people that think that that was actually the female. These are pretty tough birds to tell apart sex-wise unless you actually capture the bird and examine the bird closely.
So there is some disagreement as to whether or not that bird on the 21st was the actual resident male.
But other than that, we have seen no one but the resident female and this new bird that we believe to be a male who is hanging around a lot. It could be that these birds will end up being a nesting pair next year.
It's just only time will tell.
MARK MADISON: Jay, what do you think the educational value was of this nesting season?
JAY SLACK: Well, as I'd mentioned, I think we've kind of gone into the realm of advanced eagle biology here, but I will also point out to the listeners that though this is advanced eagle biology, it's in no, way, shape or form unusual eagle behavior. In a strong and healthy population, territories and prime nesting sites, like the nest site we do have here at NCTC, are a rare commodity and always contested. And so seeing this sort of thing in some ways is bad for the resident eagles but is also a good indicator of a healthy, strong population. So, there are positives that we see from this, clearly.
From a biological standpoint I think it's important to point out that these animals are wild animals and they go about their lives this way, just like all other wild animals out there, and, you know, this is part of being an eagle, part of existing out there, and, you know, I think it's an important lesson for us to be able to convey, and I think it's an important thing for people to be able to learn. It is the very reason we put the camera up in the nest, is to give people an appreciation for biology and what it's like and would encourage-- some of the information that we've put on our web site would encourage people to go out and read about eagles and read about eagle biology and learn more. It's a fascinating thing.
MARK MADISON: That's a good way to conclude. Steve, where could they find additional information on eagles on our web site?
STEVE CHASE: Well, a couple different ways. First way would be to go to training.fws.gov and click on our Eagle-Cam page, and you can get more information there. You can also click onto our partners, the Outdoor Channel, where you can see the live video feed of the Eagle-Cam. And then you can also just use your favorite search engine and type in "eagle biology" or "eagle habitat struggles" or any number of permutations of search terms and you can learn a lot about eagles. And we found that many of the people that watch our cam everyday have been doing just that, and they're learning a lot about the dynamics of these really cool birds.
MARK MADISON: Great. Thank you, Steve. Thank you, Jay. And I would like to thank all of you who took the time to listen to this Podcast. If you-- this is the second of three Podcasts on our Eagle-Cam at NCTC. If you want to see all of our Podcasts, you can go to, as Steve mentioned, our web site at training.fws.gov, or you can search "National Conservation Training Center" at iTunes University.
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