ELLSWORTH, Maine — A pair of eagles nesting in coastal Hancock County have laid an egg in a nest that has been viewed by hundreds if not thousands of Internet surfers over the years.
The nest, which can be seen on the NextEra EagleCam1 on the Biodiversity Research Institute website, hasn’t hosted newborn eaglets since 2007. Program officials have declined to say specifically where the nest is located in order to prevent human interference with the animals. From the eagles’ behavior, officials with the institute have determined that an egg was laid on March 26. Program officials do not watch the camera around the clock but they can check recorded video from the webcam to catch up on key moments and have the help of viewers who can post comments on the site.
“There is a history of nesting activity at this site dating back to 2001 and it is exciting to see these birds nesting again,” Patrick Keenan, outreach director for the institute, said Wednesday in a prepared statement. “We can expect the egg to hatch in about 35 days.”
In 2007, a pair of adult eagles successfully hatched two chicks in the nest but the chicks died days later in a fierce storm on Patriot’s Day. The year before, they hatched three chicks, two of which survived. There have been no chicks in the nest for the past four years.
“There are a number of factors that could explain why the eagles do not nest [i.e., lay eggs] in any given year,” Christopher DeSorbo, director of BRI’s raptor program, said in the statement.
“Without banding, we can’t even be sure this is the same pair that nested in 2007.”
The webcam and another that shows activity at an eagle nest in midcoast Maine have been helpful to scientists and members of the public trying to learn more about the birds, the number of which declined to a few dozen in Maine in the 1960s, officials said.
“These eagle webcams allow the general public a rare and intimate look into the inner sanctum of nesting eagles,” Charlie Todd, wildlife biologist with Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said in the release. “The more we know about these birds, the better equipped we are to help protect them.”
The eagle cams represent a partnership project between DIF&W, the Biodiversity Research Institute, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NextEra Energy Resources, which sponsors the webcams and their links to the Internet.
Keenan said Thursday that the adult eagle pair laid an egg in the Hancock County nest in 2011, but because of steady harassment from a third eagle they failed to successfully incubate and hatch the egg.
“Last year, they did try to nest,” he said. “Eagles are very territorial.”
Keenan said one or both adult birds nesting at the site might be different from the two birds that hatched eggs there in 2007. Mating adults sometimes switch partners if successive mating attempts fail, but in this situation officials do not know if they are the same birds or not.
“It’s just speculation,” he said.
Eagles have been known to live for more than 30 years but do not mate before they are 4 years old, according to Keenan.
As for the pair’s efforts so far this year, they seem to be doing well. Keenan said a third eagle has been spotted on the webcam but that the nesting pair do not seem overly disturbed compared with last year. It is possible that the pair could lay a second egg, which nesting eagles often do, in the coming days, he said.
The mild weather this winter, especially this month, also has been helpful, he added, but is no guarantee that one or more chicks will hatch or survive.
“I think it’s something to consider, with caution,” Keenan said. “The weather is something people are always thinking about.”
Aside from the two eagle webcams, the second of which shows an eagle nest in the Sagadahoc County area, the institute also posts on its website video from other webcams trained on other bird nests in Maine. Peregrine falcons nesting in southern Maine on one of the other webcams have laid four eggs that could hatch around mid-April, Keenan said. Two other cameras, one at a loon nest in midcoast Maine and another at an osprey nest in the parking lot of the Taste of Maine restaurant on Route 1 in Woolwich have not yet been activated for the spring, he said. Loons and ospreys nest later in the spring than eagles and peregrine falcons.
As for the second eagle nest site, an eagle pair has been spotted on that webcam and exhibited behavior that suggests they, too, might lay an egg this spring.
“The first week of May is a natural endpoint for eagles’ [mating efforts],” Keenan said. “We still have a lot of time.
Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.