Eagles eyed: Marco Eagle Sanctuary webcam goes live

Lance Shearer
The eagles share a moment at sunrise Wednesday. The Eagle Cam at the Marco Island Nature Preserve and Bird Sanctuary is live, just in time to watch a pair of eagles renovating the treetop nest.

The eagle cam is live and just in time. 

Over a year after they originally planned to be up and running, the Marco Eagle Sanctuary Foundation went live with their webcam pointed at the eagles’ nest in what used to be called Tract K off Tigertail Court. The hardware had to be put into place before nesting season started, so as not to disturb eagles getting ready to be parents.

Originally, the camera was due to be installed with the help of LCEC crews and equipment on Sept. 11, 2017, Eagle Sanctuary Foundation communications director Linda Turner said. “But you remember what happened on Sept. 10” – the day that Hurricane Irma came out of the Gulf and devastated Marco Island.

After that, Turner said “LCEC told us they were going to be busy for a while – ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you.’ We had worked so hard to get all the equipment ready. It was all done except mounting the camera.”

A year later, the webcam is making its debut. The equipment was mounted on a tall pole adjacent to the nest in August but only went live this month, after the system was tweaked and ready to go.

With no chicks in the nest, the eagles are “just visiting now,” Turner said of the eagle pair who has moved in. “They’ll bring a fish and eat breakfast or lunch there.”

The eagles are also actively working to renovate the nest, which like all the dwellings on Marco recently went through a major hurricane. They fly off, break off a branch and bring it back to incorporate into the impressive mound of kindling already in the tree crotch.

One bird returns to the nest with another stick for building. The Eagle Cam at the Marco Island Nature Preserve and Bird Sanctuary is live, just in time to watch a pair of eagles renovating the treetop nest.

Eagle nesting season runs from Oct. 1 through May 15, and this year, there are eagles on the nest early, she said. You can see them for yourself by going to the foundation’s website and clicking on the link. You can even pan and zoom the camera, to a degree.

On Wednesday morning, five different photographers came by with their pricey telephoto lenses and tripods, not satisfied with just watching the webcam on their computer.

The best time to spot the eagles – and they are easy to see, just off of Tigertail Court, with some of the branches in the Australian pine tree that holds the nest having been blown down by Irma – is early in the morning or in the evening, Rosemary Tolliver of Marco Island said.

“They don’t fly at night. If they’re not here by sunset, they’re not coming,” she said. “If they are here then, they’ll be here in the morning.”

She was pointing her SLR with its long lens barrel at the nest before the sun rose in the eastern sky, along with Frank Ballatore of Naples and Ridgefield, Ct. The two were joined by additional shooters until there was a line of photographers, calling out when one of the birds would fly and cracking jokes about the paparazzi bothering celebrities.

Photographers "shoot the birds" just after sunrise Wednesday. The Eagle Cam at the Marco Island Nature Preserve and Bird Sanctuary is live, just in time to watch a pair of eagles renovating the treetop nest.

The two white-headed birds in the tree were not Paleo and Calusa, the longtime inhabitants. Paleo, the male, died after flying into a powerline near the nest and being electrocuted last spring. A new male moved in and ejected the two eaglets on the nest. Tolliver speculated that one of the current pair was likely offspring of Paleo and Calusa and pointed out one has a brown spot on the head, as well as a little brown in the tail feathers.

“We think the overall nature preserve concept is critical for Marco Island, to maintain some green space on the island,” said Carl Way, MESF president. “We want to protect the habitat for all birds – it’s not just for the eagles.

“We want to help kids understand you can have a wildlife environment in the middle of development,” and that keeping open space for other creatures benefits people as well.

The foundation has plans including a network of crushed shell paths through the 11.6-acre tract, a butterfly garden, signage to identify the local native flora, and eventually a building that can serve as a welcome and education center, at the corner furthest from the eagles’ nest, Turner said.

They also want to replace the existing benches and add more pavers,which can be purchased and customized for a donation to the group. First, the foundation needs to finalize acquiring the land, which they currently manage through a lease-purchase agreement from the District School Board of Collier County. Way said he expects to have news on that front within the next 3-45 days.

To support the work of the Marco Eagle Sanctuary Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization, or for more information, call 239-269-1754, or go online to www.marcoeaglesanctuaryfoundation.org.