The Central Oregon country is blessed with people who are always ready to pitch in, and "get the job done!" That's why the free cam streaming the only life-and-times of a golden eagle nest is up and running again this year: www.GoldenEagleCam.com.
As anyone who has set up this kind of system knows, it ain't easy, and it does cost money. The money part is being taken care of by the East Cascade Audubon Society (ECAS), based in Bend. ECAS President, Ken Hashagen knows how exciting it is for anyone to open up their computer at breakfast time and be able to watch a golden eagle feeding her babies breakfast.
Technical aspects of the project included building a website and it took Tony Kay a lot of head-scratching to figure out—through trial and error—that the project needed a static IP address for the webcam to stream optimally. That required signing up for a streaming service, and getting a separate Yellowknife account and dish that's dedicated to the Eagle Cam, at a considerable expense.
Jim Hammond of the Sisters Astronomy Club put in a lot of hours to bring the eagle into focus, and is a whiz at adapting telescopes to look at things other than stars. He hooked the original camera (that was first capturing the eagle images 14 years ago) to a Meade 1000 mm focal length (FL) telescope with a 4-inch aperture and an adapter converting it to about 600 mm. The setup is about 1/4 mile from the nest looking across Whychus Canyon, where thermal effects can be quite dramatic as the bottom of the canyon is about 150 feet below the line of sight. As a result, it's Leslie Lawrence who keeps the camera focused day-in and day-out.
After hours and hours of aforementioned head-scratchin' and writing checks, the telescope and camera is—as we speak—streaming data to Yellow Knife and out to the world, with the invaluable assistance of Lawrence and Kay, who babysit the whole electronic assembly.
This project began 14 years ago when Janet Zuelke and Forrest Babcock owned the land the camera is on, which is now owned by Lawrence. It was the scene of the tragic death of a newly hatched golden eagle that blew out of its nest. This sparked the beginning of the only known golden eagle family video streaming around the world. As Zuelke related the story to Babcock, an optical engineer, they hatched the idea of setting up a telescope and camera, so they could watch the nest full time from their home TV. Babcock put up a tent on the hillside below their home and used it as a shelter for his ingenious telescope and camera setup. In the meantime, Wolftree, a local conservation group based in Sisters since 1994, joined the project to broadcast the video.
Eventually the couple sold the property and moved to another part of the Northwest, but not before Babcock, with back-breaking dedication, built a beautiful gazebo on the hillside overlooking the eagle nest. He topped that off by hauling many wheelbarrows of concrete to make a pier that comes up through the floor of the structure, creating a solid base for the telescope/camera assembly.
When Wolftree sold out, that could have been an end to the eagle cam, except for Lawrence. She took one look at the gazebo, knew the story of the eagle cam and asked Babcock to leave everything in place as she wanted to get it up and running again.
Last year, Hammond of the Sisters Astronomy Club had a big telescope donated to the club that he thought would accept the TV camera and went to work. After countless hours of trial and error, he finally hit the jackpot and captured an image he could send to Lawrence's living room TV. Lawrence, with technical help from Kay, jumped in and got the images streaming again, with much effort and money out of her own pocket. Lawrence and her helpers contacted ECAS, which has now taken over the long-term financial part of the eagle cam.
The golden eagle cam Zuelke and Babcock started so many years ago is still streaming for the enjoyment and education of people worldwide who may have wondered what goes on in the life of a golden eagle.