The Raptor Resource Project installs cameras in September. This year, we replaced three cameras and two microphones at N2B, two cameras and one microphone at N1, and one camera and two microphones at Decorah North. We also cleaned the cameras we didn’t replace, did some trimming in and around the nests, covered the cables at N1, worked with a videographer to collect footage for educational videos, and purchased a new computer for 4K video processing in Decorah. Why do we choose September for camera work? Our eagle couples are still on territory, but they aren’t focused on their ‘nurseries’ (aka nests), which means we can work without driving them away. September affords us a narrow window to get everything done.
Amy paints the new camera mounts at N1
Replacing cameras requires at least a three-person team and months of preparation and planning. We research, purchase, and program equipment, protect what feels like miles of cable, and purchase or assemble everything we think might be needed: tubing, conduit, electrical tape, paint, clamps, zip ties, silicone gel, screws, bits, hardware cloth, networking tools and supplies, carabiners, webbing, ropes, rope guns and so on. The list is as long as my arm and everything needs to be organized, sorted, and hauled down to command central before camera work starts.
Some of the gear we need for camera work!
The Work Begins
Once we’ve got our ropes placed – a saga in and of itself – the long days start. We climb ropes, fix gear, haul up cameras, and troubleshoot problems as we go. How do we protect microphones from squirrels? What branches provide the best views of the nest? How do we install cameras with minimal impact to the eagles and their nest tree? How much wind is too much to work in? Are we descending to eat lunch or hauling lunch upstairs? How do we get this cable down the tree? Why did this camera stop working? How does this camera angle look? A thousand questions and demands inform each day’s work, and each day brings new challenges. We have three weeks to get everything right.
John works on a camera
What Do The Eagles Think?
What do Mom and Dad or Mr. North and DNF think about all of this? We can’t ask them, but we can say that they don’t appear to be bothered by it. Mom made a couple of distant fly-bys while we were working, but we didn’t see the North eagles at all and both pairs of eagles have since returned to their nests. Careful timing and months of preparation ensure that we can complete our work before nest-building begins.
In 2011, the Decorah Eagles kicked off a wildlife cam revolution that continues today. An off-the-cuff offshoot of a film project – wouldn’t it be fun if we put this online? – resulted in new, less invasive research methods and millions of people around the world watching wildlife they wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise. Thank you so much for supporting our eagles and the work we do to bring them – and many other species – to you.
Neil and Kike filming near N2B