OLYMPIA– Washington citizens soon will have a birds' eye view of action in the state capital– after wildlife experts today installed a high-tech camera in a bald eagle nest just yards from the governor's mansion.
Once fully activated, the thumbnail-size camera is expected to broadcast live Internet images of the eagles as they nest and rear their off-spring, according to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologists.
"This is a wonderful way for the public, particularly children, to learn about our wildlife," said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings. "If our past efforts are any indication, this will be an extremely popular site in the months ahead."
A similar EagleCam installation on the grounds of a private residence in Kent last year attracted some 6,000 viewers a day to the WDFW website.
The 6-foot-wide Olympia nest and its two resident adult eagles appeared last spring in a Douglas fir tree near the governor's residence. It is not known for certain whether the eagles successfully reared their brood, but eagles were recently spotted near the site and are expected to return to the nest for the coming season.
To mount the camera, volunteer Tim Brown of Bellevue, an expert on North American wildlife, scaled the 90-foot tree and installed the camera housed in a camouflage-painted tube.
Once the eagles return to the nest– probably in late February or March– the camera will begin broadcasting live pictures that are refreshed every five to 10 seconds. The images will be linked to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/viewing/wildcam/ on the Internet.
Beside recreational value, the EagleCam images provide insights into the eagles' behavior and interactions with other wildlife, said Chuck Gibilisco, the WDFW watchable wildlife biologist who is coordinating the project.
The special camera was donated by Brown, who also participated in the Kent installation. In Olympia, a second camera will be mounted at an angle to capture images of the birds entering and leaving the nest. In addition, an infrared light source, invisible both to eagles and humans, will be installed to allow night photography.
The cost of the Olympia EagleCam project is being shared by WDFW, the Department of General Administration and a private donor.
WDFW's share of the project costs comes from revenue generated by the sale of personalized license plates, a portion of which funds wildlife viewing programs that provide wildlife experiences apart from hunting and fishing. Vehicle owners can get information on purchasing a personalized license plate on the WDFW website or the state Department of Licensing's website.