There is real-life drama unfolding in the nest of a Whitehorse eagle couple. Right now the question is, who is the eagle that has appeared and is repairing the nest from last year?
Is it the dad eagle, or the mom eagle, or is it some squatter that has taken a shine to the couple’s summer home?
The story starts in 2006 when people walking along the Millennium Trail noticed that an eagle nest with two chicks had fallen from a tree. Yukon Electrical used their bucket truck to try and get the nest back in the tree.
Laura Carlson, senior corporate communications advisor with Yukon Electrical, says the tree couldn’t hold the nest, so in 2007 they erected a pole, with a basket built at the top, and placed the nest in the basket.
In 2009, an eagle couple decided that the nest at the top of that pole, right by the parking pull-off along Robert Service Way, alongside the Yukon River, with a view of the salmon hatchery and a known hang-out for gulls, was a nice place to raise a family.
“They’ve been spotted every year, since,” Carlson says.
Last spring Yukon Electrical set up a camera that streamed a live video of what Mr. and Mrs. Eagle were up to – and in the slow pace of normal life, their three eggs hatched, meals were delivered to the babies, the eaglets grew up, and then developed the courage to leave the nest.
Like many reality TV shows, the eagle cam drew in an audience from around the world.
Yukon Electrical received email enquiries from 20 countries, and there were one million hits to the website between turning on the live stream in April and turning it off in September.
“We had no idea we’d have that many viewers – and from all over the world – who would be interested in what that little bald eagle family was doing,” Carlson says.
Now they know it’s a huge hit, and on Feb. 20 Yukon Electrical fired up the camera again.
Carlson says it’s too soon to tell whether the mom and the dad will both return this year, and if they do, whether they will nest.
“There has been an eagle spotted at the nest since early January and we’re fairly confident he’s one of the eagles from last year,” Carlson says. “There’s been some new sticks, and impressions in the snow, so it looks like he’s been working on stick placement. It’s a lot of work to repair the nest.”
However, Carlson confesses they’re not yet sure the eagle doing the renos is a he, nor whether he/she is the dad/mom from last year.
Whoever it is, they’re taking an interest in sprucing up the nest.
Last year, the eggs were laid in the second week of April, and they hatched in the second week of May. The fledging process, in which the juvenile eagles prepare to fly, began in the second week of August and for the next four weeks they hopped closer to the edge of the nest, leaned further over, and took mini-flights to test their wings.
The live web cam followers have already begun discussing what the future holds for the eagle family – and the online viewership – this season.
A follower with the nickname “SeaUrchin” says, “I just hope we don’t see any more live prey brought in.”
But “MsO” figures that’s inevitable.
The chat room reveals that a community developed during the spring and summer last year, and that they are pleased to see each other returning – as well as the lone eagle who has shown up.
Yukon Electrical is also gearing up to connect with eager eagle watchers this year. They have prepared packages for teachers with a video and lesson plan, and they will post an activity book for kids on their website.
In early March, Yukon Electrical will have a television monitor set up in the window of their downtown Whitehorse office, located on 1st Ave. at Main St., during working hours so passersby can see what the eagles are up to.
Passersby can always head to the pole along the Millennium Trail and gaze 30 feet up to view the nest from ground-level, too. But having a bird’s eye view of nest life tells a completely different story.
The Yukon Electrical eagle camera live stream can be viewed online at www.YukonElectrical.com, click on the link there.