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eagle nest photograph  
On Sunday, July 27th, 2008, the pine tree that held the original Barton Cove Eagle nest blew over during a passing storm. It was confirmed by Massachusetts Fish and WildLife that the eagle pair rebuilt their nest at a new location in a red oak tree 100 feet west of the old nest. We have a new eagle cam installed in this new tree but it is not currently working. Please see below for the latest updates. Please also visit the 2008 Picture Gallery page to see selected stills from the 2008 season.

September 17, 2011 - Eagle Update
Sometime during the late summer the nest fell out of the large oak tree. State biologists are confident that the eagles will rebuild in, or near the same location.

May 18, 2010 - Eagle Update - One Chick in the Nest!
Great news! The Barton Cove eagles have a healthy chick in the nest!

Mass Wildlife went out to the island on Thursday, May 13th, to band the chick. The chick was weighed (6.8#), banded with both state and federal bands, feathers were measured and feather samples were taken for analysis. A dead chick in the nest was removed for analysis. The climber also checked out the camera and connections. Although the camera has power, it is not transmitting a signal.

Above, Ralph Taylor (MassWildlife Connecticut Valley District Manager) is holding the eaglet, and David Fuller (Connecticut Valley District Wildlife Biologist) is banding the bird.

The eaglet is probably about 5 or 6 weeks old. Notice above that the gray downy feathers are starting to change to the black juvenile plumage. The rightmost picture shows the chick being raised up to be put back into the nest.

March 16, 2010 - Update on the Eagle Cam for the 2010 Season
Efforts to restore the Barton Cove Eagle Cam for the 2010 season were unsuccessful. Although the camera transmitted pictures briefly during a test period with a portable power supply in mid-February, the camera was not transmitting images when connected to the main solar panel power supply a week later.

Since it is now nesting season, and local eagle viewers state that it appears that the eagles may be incubating an egg, no further work will be performed on the island until early fall.

January 14, 2010 - Eagle Cam Update
Although the eagle cam is not functioning at this time, we are coordinating work efforts with two of the partner agencies, the Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife Department and Comcast Cable to try to get the cam working for the 2010 season. The Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife Department is optimistic that they will be able to climb the tree and trouble shoot the camera issues by late January or early February. If we are unable to coordinate work schedules, suitable weather, and access to the island prior to February, the cam will not be operational for the 2010 season.

May 20, 2009 - Update on the Eagles
Although it has been confirmed by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) that the Barton Cove eagles have been hard at work building a new nest in a red oak tree, it does not appear that any eggs were laid. As many viewers will recall, the pine tree that held the old Barton Cove Eagle nest blew over during a passing storm on July 27th, 2008.

Since there is not a live Eagle Cam this year and the nest area is difficult to see through the leaves, we probably will not have any new updates until late in the year. We will post any new information at that time when it becomes available.

To see selected still pictures from the 2008 season, please visit the 2008 Picture Gallery.

January 26, 2009 - Update on the Status of the Eagle Cam for 2009
The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) has confirmed that the Barton Cove eagle pair are building a nest in a red oak tree located about 100 feet west of the dead pine tree that held its nest the last few years. As many viewers will recall, the pine tree that held the old Barton Cove Eagle nest blew over during a passing storm on July 27th, 2008.

Unfortunately there will not be a live Eagle Cam for the 2009 season. Although a second EagleCam is already in place in the red oak, some of the wiring has been knocked down since the storm that took down the old nest in the pine tree. MassWildlife will not allow anyone to enter the area at this time of the season to replace the wiring or adjust the camera, to ensure that the eagles are not disturbed and are allowed to establish their new nest. We will post any new pictures and/or information as it becomes available.

Here is a link to a recent news article containing an interview with Ralph Taylor from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife: "Barton Cove Eagles Make a New Home".

December 17, 2008 - Update
As many viewers know, the tree that held the Barton Cove Eagle nest blew over during a passing storm on July 27th. There is a new potential nest site in a red oak on the big island. The area is being monitored to see if the adults rebuild at the new location. We will post any new information as it becomes available.

July 29, 2008 - Update
With thanks again to Sharon Feeney, we have received some very dramatic camera footage of the tree going down. We also have received word that the juvenile was seen perched in a tree about an hour and a half after the nest tree went down. Although the nest (at this stage of development) was a convenient feeding site, it is no longer essential to the continued development of the juvenile. The eagles can still be spotted in perches near the old nest site. There is a new potential nest site in a red oak on the big island. The area will be monitored to see if the adults rebuild at the new location.

July 28, 2008 - Update
On Sunday July 27th just before 2:00 PM, the tree that held the Barton Cove Eagle nest blew over during a passing storm. We have contacted the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife office and will post any new information when it is available. Many thanks to eagle viewer Sharon Feeney for sending us the pictures below.

July 15, 2008 - Update
During the first week of July, the juvenile took its first real flight. The juvenile will remain around the nest area for the next four or five weeks. During this time the parents will still provide food. The juvenile will develop its hunting skills during this period and through out the remainder of the summer. As the juvenile’s hunting skills improve, and becomes more successful hunting, the parents will provide less and less food. In about six to nine weeks after the juvenile develops some hunting skills, it will leave the nesting area and will set out on its own.

June 30, 2008 - Update
The juvenile is now 12 weeks old and should be flying soon. During this time period, leading up to its first flight, the juvenile will spend less time in the nest area that is in camera view, and more time on the edges of the nest or out on branches of the tree. As soon as we know that the juvenile has actually taken its first flight we will issue another update. After the first flight, the juvenile will remain around the nest taking short flights, improving its flying skills and strengthening its flying muscles. Although the juvenile will be a bit more mobile, it will still depend on the parents for food until its hunting skills are developed.

June 7, 2008 - Update
The eaglet is now eight weeks old. In the past two weeks it has grown to about the same size as an adult. During this period the eaglet’s appetite is at its peak. The adults hunt and bring food to the nest at increased frequencies to support the eaglet’s food needs. Although its first flight will be about four weeks away, watch for the eaglet to stretch its wings and test the air currents in preparation for the first flight.

Note the size of the juvenile compared to the adult.

May 15, 2008 - Update
The chick is now five weeks old, and continues to grow. The chick should begin to tear its own food now. In the next few weeks look for the gray downy feathers to change to the black juvenile plumage. As the juvenile grows there is less need for the adult to shield it from the elements, so you may not see the adult in the nest as frequently (except to bring food). The juvenile should take its first flight near the end of June or early July.

Here’s a picture of the happy family. Note the plumage starting to change.

April 15, 2008 - Update
Feeding time for the remaining chick. The younger chick was motionless in the nest on Monday morning, and removed from the nest cup by the adults later in the day.

Thanks to Kimmarie for another great video! It can be viewed at Falcons and Friends.

April 13, 2008
Feeding time for the two chicks on Sunday afternoon.

April 11, 2008 - Two Chicks in the Nest !!
As of this morning, there are two chicks in the nest and one egg.

April 9, 2008 - First Chick !!
The first chick hatched on April 9th. We are not sure if it was the Feb 29th egg or the March 3rd egg. There are still 2 more eggs in the nest.

Thanks to Kimmarie for sending us the great screen shot below! Please also view her video of the first chick at Falcons and Friends.

April 8, 2008 - Update
As of 7:45 AM Eastern Standard Time on April 8, there were still 3 eggs in the nest. This is day 39 for the first egg and day 36 for the second egg.

March 6, 2008 - Three Eggs in the Nest!
The eagles have begun incubation of their third egg which was first sighted the morning of March 6. The second egg was first sighted the morning of March 3 and the first egg was laid on the morning of February 29. If the 35-day incubation period goes well, we can expect the first egg to hatch around April 4th, with the other eggs hatching in the same time interval in which they were laid.

The eggs are dull white in coloration and may appear with some darkish flecks or staining. The surface of the shell is rough when compared to a chicken egg and the overall shape is rounder when compared to many bird species. On average, an eagle egg will measure 2.75 inches long by 2.25 inches wide, surprisingly small for a bird that will grow to have a six and half foot wingspan and weigh between 10 and 14 pounds before it leaves the nest in July.

Both adults share the incubation duties with the female doing the majority of sitting while the male brings food to the nest. Watch the live streaming feature for an opportunity to see the adults switch over and for a glimpse of the eggs. Repeated vocalizations by the sitting bird usually precede a switch so watch for this hint that a change-over might occur.

When the second bird lands on the nest the incubating adult will stand up and step away from the eggs. The second bird steps over the eggs quickly, curling its talons into a "fist" so as not to damage the eggs and positioning itself directly over the egg cup. It lowers itself carefully, gently rocking its body from side to side to work the eggs into the feathers just below the breast bone. When the adjustments are complete the eggs will be nestled against the adult's skin above (called the brood patch) and surrounded by insulating feathers on two sides. The base of the egg rests on the soft grasses and other lining materials the adults brought to the nest to form the egg cup. This dry plant material provides similar insulation and absorbs warmth from the adults. From time to time the incubating bird may stand briefly to adjust the position of the eggs or to move nest lining material around the nest cup.

The adult which has just been relieved of incubation duties will often fly to a nearby tree to feed, defecate, preen its feathers and stretch its wing and leg muscles. Preening is accomplished by taking oil from a gland at the base of the tail and combing it through individual feathers using the beak. The oil helps maintain the integrity, insulation and waterproofing qualities of the feathers which are essential for both incubation and flight.

During incubation, the adults must keep the eggs warm and dry as exposure to rain and snow can chill and kill the developing embryos. Late snowstorms have resulted in the failure of many Massachusetts eagle nesting attempts, most notably the April Fools blizzard of 1997 which dumped up to 20 inches of heavy wet snow across the western half of the state. That year, four pairs of eagles nesting along the Connecticut River, including the pair under Eagle Cam, all failed to produce chicks. The snow that built up on the nests melted and collapsed around the eggs and the adults were unable to keep the egg cup warm and dry.

Incubation lasts an average of 35 days, meaning the first egg laid will be the first to hatch, with other chicks hatching at about 2 day intervals thereafter. Watch for a change in the posture of the sitting adults. Before hatching, the adults will sit with their breast flat to the surface of the nest, keeping their head and neck upright. After hatching the adults assume a more upright position, brooding the fluffy chicks against their breast. Watch for this change and the adults feeding small strips of fish or fowl to the chicks during the first week of April.

Until then, enjoy the Eagle Cam images as the adults will be reliably present every time you log-on. FirstLight Power Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MassWildlife and the other Eagle Cam partners hope you enjoy this glimpse into the natural world of the bald eagle, and join you in wishing the birds a very successful nesting season.

February, 2008 - Starting a New Season
The live eaglecam is now operational for the 2008 season. So that our many thousands of visitors can enjoy this feature, we are limiting the individual connections to the live footage to 10 minutes. So, if you can't seem to connect, please wait and try again.

We’ve done a lot of behind the scenes work this year, installing new batteries, vegetation removal around the sending equipment on the island, installing a new web server, providing the eagle cam with its own separate bandwidth space, etc.

The eagles have returned to the same dead pine tree. We’re all hoping that the tree makes it through another nesting season. When we were out performing equipment maintenance on the island this winter it was pretty apparent that the tree has some longevity issues. The trunk has some rather severe areas of decay and rot, also the root system is pretty much non-existent. It appears that the only thing holding the tree upright are the three guy lines that were placed around the tree several years ago.

Despite the cold temperatures and a few snowstorms of 6 inches or more, the eagles have been busy preparing the nest. They have been bringing in new nesting material, including sticks, grasses and green sprigs from pine boughs, and weaving the new sticks into the existing nest. They have also been placing dry, soft grasses and dried vegetation snatched from the banks of the Connecticut River on top of the huge structure. The completed nest will measure six or seven feet across the top, supported by a mass of intertwined sticks six feet deep.

History of the EagleCam
FirstLight Power Resources became a partner in eagle conservation in Massachusetts when they acquired Barton Island in 2006. The original pair of nesting birds established the Barton Island territory in 1989. The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) worked to safeguard nesting attempts by installing predator baffles on nest trees and posting signs and buoys to keep boaters away from sensitive areas. More recently, the nesting activity has been shared with the public through the placement of the EagleCam over the nest.

EagleCam is a cooperative effort among FirstLight Power Resources, MassWildlife and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). A photovoltaic array powers the remote camera and transmits the signal from the island to a nearby receiver. MassWildlife provides climbers to maintain the system, places buoys and signs to protect each nesting attempt and, when appropriate, bands young eagles produced at the nest. The USFWS, through the Silvio Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge office in Montague, Massachusetts, coordinated the installation of the EagleCam system and serves as the local contact to keep both the system and the partnership up and running. Images provided by EagleCam are directed by the USFWS to local cable access television and to the Internet.

In 1987, eagles released at Quabbin Reservoir earlier in the decade as part of a MassWildlife/USFWS project to restore the national bird to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts began establishing pair bonds and first nested successfully at two Quabbin sites in 1989. A female eagle originally raised and released at Quabbin in 1985 paired with a male bird released in 1986, forming the Barton Island territory in 1989.

The eagles returned to the Barton Island territory site in 1990 and produced a single chick. The original nest was constructed in a small, live white pine tree at the top of Barton Island. During the winter of 1990-1991 the nest spilled from the tree as the small boughs supporting the nest bent under the weight of accumulated snows.

The eagle pair returned in 1991 and constructed a new nest in a large, dead white pine not far from the original site. Here the pair raised two chicks successfully. The eagles enjoyed continued nesting success in the dead pine tree through 1996, producing one or two chicks each year and even accepting an additional chick in 1993 and again in 1996; both were hatched in captivity and fostered into the Barton Island nest. During this time period the original male from the Quabbin restoration project was replaced by a male with leg bands indicating it came from New York State.

In 1997, an April Fool's Day snowstorm dumped more than 20 inches of heavy, wet snow on the Barton Island nest, where the pair was trying to incubate its clutch of eggs. The snow proved too much for the eagles and for the first time the pair failed to produce young . Since 1997, the pair has alternated between success and failure, fledging a single chick in 1998; failing in 1999; producing two young in 2000; failing again in 2001; and fledging two chicks in 2002, one in 2003, two in 2004, one in 2005, two in 2006, two in 2007, and one in 2008. A new nest, the third within the territory, was constructed in the late 1990s by the birds in a live red oak, but has not yet been used successfully. Instead, until 2008, they continued to nest in the dead pine tree, which had been supported in recent years by strong ropes attached to the main trunk of the tree and secured to the ground. On July 29th, 2008, the dead pine tree blew over in a passing storm. In 2009, the eagle pair built onto the nest in the red oak tree, but it did not appear that any eggs were laid. A second EagleCam is already in place above the nest in the live red oak and in the fall, maintenance to the equipment will be performed and improved flight paths and perches will be provided around the tree.

The future for the bald eagle is indeed bright, both in southern New England and across the country. Twelve eagle territories are known in Massachusetts and six in neighboring Connecticut where less than 15 years ago there were none. In 2001 these pairs produced a total of 13 chicks which survived to fledge. At the national level, the eagle has been reclassified from an endangered species to a threatened species and will be removed from the Federal endangered species list in the foreseeable future, this in response to a population recovery from just over 400 eagle pairs in the lower 48 states when the eagle was first declared endangered, to nearly 6,500 pairs in 2000.

Public and private partnerships, like the one developed among FirstLight Power Resources, MassWildlife and the USFWS, are one reason the bald eagle has made such a dramatic recovery.

As of August 2008, the Barton Island territory has been responsible for 27 young eagles joining the northeastern U.S. population. Many of these young have survived to maturity, paired with other eagles and set up their own nesting territories. Reports of eagle leg band numbers suggest birds with their roots at Barton Island are now nesting elsewhere on the Connecticut River in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and also in New York State and in New Hampshire.

This project has resulted from a partnership among FirstLight Power Resources, Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Massachusetts Dept. of Conservation and Recreation, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Comcast, RWE SCHOTT Solar, Inc., Crocker Communications, Inc., Silent Witness, and Western Massachusetts Communications.

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