Port Tobacco park gets ‘eagle cam’ for bird watchers
Live video will be available on YouTube, websites
Fans of Port Tobacco River Park’s bald eagles will soon have another way to view their favorite birds in addition to the park’s observation deck.
The Port Tobacco River Conservancy, Charles County Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism, and imaging company Terrain360 have teamed up to install a live-streaming camera that will provide a close-up view of the nest and its occupants 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Ryan Abrahamsen, president of Terrain360, said that the camera is enclosed in a protective shell that will shield it from the weather and also hide its movements from the eagles to avoid startling them.
The camera has the ability to pan 360 degrees and zoom in and out, and can be operated remotely.
Abrahamsen said that the idea had been floated of letting students take turns “driving” the camera as part of their nature and environmental studies.
“There’s no technological reason why not, but it’s something that the county and the conservancy will have to organize,” Abrahamsen said.
The nest is located approximately 100 feet off the ground in a tulip poplar near the front of the park’s tree line. The nest is largely unoccupied during the summer and fall, but the pair of eagles that live there will be returning in the winter.
The camera is powered by a 60-pound rechargeable battery mounted at the base of the tree, which in turn is charged by a pair of flexible solar panels that Abrahamsen and colleague Andy Thompson installed near the base of the tree where the nest is located.
On Tuesday, Richmond-based arborist Luke McCall climbed the tree to install the camera. His efforts were made more difficult by slick moss on the tree branches and a sudden drenching rain shower, which he rode out on a
branch at around the 70foot mark.
McCall also installed an antenna that transmits the camera’s signals to a matching antenna installed on the roof of the Port Tobacco Marina Restaurant, from where the images will be broadcast to viewers around the world.
The stream will be available on Terrain360’s sister website www.wildstreaming. com, which currently features cameras that cover a peregrine falcon nest in Newport News, Va., and an osprey nest in downtown Richmond.
The live feed will also be available on wildstreaming.com’s YouTube channel, the Port Tobacco River Conservancy website and the park department’s website.
Abrahamsen offered to take charge of the installation of the eagle cam, long a dream of the conservancy and the county’s parks staff, back in June when he completed a panoramic map of the Port Tobacco River.
Terrain360 uses techniques similar to those used in Google Street View to create “drivable” routes along rivers and hiking trails around the countr y.
In June, Abrahamsen spent three days navigating a pontoon boat equipped with a specially-designed camera rig that held six DSLR cameras arranged in a circle 10 feet above the water to capture panoramic photos every 20 to 50 feet of the Port Tobacco River from its many inlets and channels to where it joins the Potomac south of Chapel Point.
Visitors can view the complete map of the river on the company’s website, www. terrain360.com, where they can move forward and backward along paths along the shoreline and channels, as well as swivel and zoom in to look at details such as birds’ nests.
Installation of the eagle cam took place over the course of several weeks. Abrahamsen and Thompson installed the battery at the end of August and had hoped to return to complete the installation by mid-September, but heavy rains delayed the plans to install the camera, antenna and solar panels until earlier this week.
Everything went smoothly until Abrahamsen’s team hit a final snag: because no one knew exactly how high the nest really was, the cable to connect the nest camera to the battery ended up being a few feet short.
If all goes well, Abrahamsen expects to install an extension cable and have the camera up and running sometime Friday morning.
“Fingers crossed,” Abrahamsen said.
Arborist Luke McCall prepares to “slingshot” a lead line over a branch as a first step in ascending the tulip poplar in Port Tobacco River Park that houses an eagle nest.
Richmond-based arborist Luke McCall installed this “eagle cam” about six feet above the eagle nest in Port Tobacco River Park on Tuesday. The solar-powered camera will provide 24/7 visual coverage of the nest that will be viewable on YouTube and the web.
Though Port Tobacco River Park’s eagles are hard to spot this time of year, these clean bones at the foot of the tree where their nest is located are signs that they are still around — and hungry.
Andy Thompson of Terrain360 installs a battery pack at the base of the tulip poplar in Port Tobacco River Park that houses the park’s popular eagle nest. The battery pack will store solar power for a new “eagle cam” that will provide 24/7 coverage of the nest for viewers around the world.
Arborist Luke McCall ascends to the bald eagle nest in Port Tobacco River Park on Tuesday in preparation for installing an “eagle cam” that will provide live-streaming coverage of the nest and its denizens.
A pair of flexible solar panels await mounting on a frame at Port Tobacco River Park. The solar panels will power a camera that will allow people to observe the park’s eagle nest from YouTube and the web when it goes live Friday.
“We call this homework,” said Richmond-based arborist Luke McCall of the tedious process of untying knots from a lead line that failed to wrap around a branch as he prepared for his climb to install an “eagle cam” in Port Tobacco River Park.