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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

HOW TO GET TO DECORAH, IOWA

My last posting was the day after Valentine's Day so thought we'd tell you exactly where we got lost to. You won't believe it coming from a cat's world but what I'm about to confess is the absolute truth. You see a friend forwarded this website to my cohort a couple weeks ago and while she didn't take much interest in it the first couple visits...well, truth be known, now we can't drag her away from it.

The website is called 'Ustream' and what we've been watching is a live 24/7 video webcam of two bald eagles in Decorah, Iowa. Now I have no clue as to why they are called bald eagles because their heads are most certainly covered in feathers. The first few visits to this website we saw a huge empty nest high up in a cottonwood tree. Not exactly spellbinding. Then one day we visited it again just in time to see one eagle in the nest and the other one come soaring in demonstrating a beautiful landing as it perched next to it's mate. It was amazing and to think we're watching it live makes it even more so. Soon we began reading all of the information displayed below the video and now that we know a whole lot more about eagles we wanted to share it.

Sure I suppose as a member of the feline race I'm naturally an avid bird watcher but let me tell you this really kicks it up several notches. Our back yard birds are pretty well fed and half the reason they're fed is the kitty entertainment factor. Being strictly indoor felines, we do enjoy watching the feathered critters eat out in our back yard through the big patio door, but to see these eagles live on our computer is just phenomenal. I might add that those are some big-a** birds that could easily carry us off one in each claw.

This is wildlife education at it's finest and it's provided by a group called the Raptor Resource Project. These folks are truly ingenious. If you just go to www.Ustream.com and click on The Decorah Eagles it will take you to something better than anything on television. I don't even know where to begin describing what's happening. I'll try and be brief but we're so excited at this we want everyone to know about it.

As of this posting we have two eagles about to be a Mama and a Papa to 3 offspring. Not their first rodeo either so don't panic when you check on them and they're being snowed on or rained on or even looking like the wind is about to blow the whole tree down. I've learned from reading the 'Social Stream' to the right of the screen that these birds choose to live here. If they didn't like the weather they'd migrate elsewhere. Since today the temperature is very cold with drizzling rain and/or sleet off and on we decided it was a good time to break away awhile and post. I have to admit it is a little bit upsetting to see this regal pair getting soaked as they sit perched on their 3 eggs so good time to peck at this.

When we started watching these eagles on a regular basis we quickly learned that the first egg had been laid on February 17th. We also learned that on an average there are 2 or 3 eggs laid at most when they mate. Did you know eagle couples stick together like they were married and that they can mate until death do they part? In addition, the male does just as much as the female taking turns sitting on their offspring.

Soon after egg #1 was laid they mated again meaning egg #2 would be laid 3 days later. I was able to stay tuned in that evening and sure enough on February 20th we witnessed Mama lay egg #2. Yep, we were right there in labor and delivery with mama bird.

Now, are you ready for this? The next morning as soon as we got up we headed to the computer to check on the birds. Talk about great timing....Mama was on the nest taking her turn at egg sitting when in flies Papa. Next thing you know the two of them are perched over on the y-shaped branch on the other side of the nest. Papa's on the left branch and Mama's on the right one. I suppose they're just exchanging chit chat while the eggs cool down a bit. The body temperature of these birds is about 106 degrees and every so often they'll stay off the eggs a few minutes so as to not overcook them. They also frequently roll them over.

So next thing you know Papa has joined mama on the other branch and then right there on live video cam they did the deed. C'mon, we all know what we're talking about here, right? I was almost embarrassed feeling a bit like a peeping tomcat, but it's just nature being nature so as a fledgling eagle watcher I merely checked my calendar for three days later in case we have one more egg. Sure enough I was there once again in L&D on February 24th for the arrival of egg#3.

Next exciting event will be the anticipated hatch date for egg #1 on March 23rd. Meantime, a few interesting facts...this nest is 80 feet high in the tree, it's about 6 feet around and four feet deep. Again...big-a** birds! The video cam was installed a few years ago and the birds are completely unaware anyone is watching them. Even in the dark there's an infrared light so we can still watch and the birds have no clue. One night I'd been watching, left the room for a half hour, when I returned the bird and nest were completely covered in a blanket of snow. If a cat could cry....

We find all of this to be really fascinating. There's a tutorial on how to tell the difference between the male and the female...they do look alike but there are distinct differences...for one thing Mama looks meaner! You can also watch a slide show on how these brave souls installed the equipment while the eagles were elsewhere during the fall. Having it live you also enjoy listening to the sounds of nature like other birds or geese flying by, the rain as it falls, an occasional horn honking from the highway down below. The camera operator occasionally pans around showing us the farm below, the horses, the snow accumulated on the ground, etc. This is near a fish hatchery so the eagles never hurt for chow. The days Mama was due to lay her egg Papa would fly her dinner in...true love with room service.

I am very thankful our friend turned us on to this website and we hope others who were unaware of it will check it out. Let's face it...not much else worth seeing on the boob tube. Even worse they just announced the upcoming contestants on season 14 of DWTS. I don't even want to talk about it. I had so much hoped for real stars this year after last season's huge disappointment....but, nooooooooooo, once again we're stuck with nobody we ever heard of or watched before. Boring...I'm off to fly with the eagles...my new feathered friends.

Stay tuned for more updates in eagle world!



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