Eagle Cam soars on Internet
On a serene, beautiful stretch of farmland in North Fort Myers, two bald eagles, nicknamed Ozzie and Harriet, have gone viral.
Since the launch of a Web cam that allows bird watchers and nature lovers alike to get a rare glimpse of their activities, the site has received more than 374,000 views.
They even have their own “business cards,” and you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
The camera is on the nest on land owned by North Fort Myers Realtor Richard Pritchett, who funded the project.
“Our goal is to foster appreciation, admiration and respect for these magnificent creatures,” said Pritchett. “We hope by streaming the video, we can better understand them and learn about their daily habits.”
The whole Pritchett family is involved in maintaining and disseminating information about the eagle cam.
Daughters Christi Pritchett Sarlo and Ginnie Pritchett and son Andrew Pritchett are incredibly enthusiastic about the project.
Andrew can recount an amazing amount of everything eagle information, from local history to species statistics. He enjoys his new-found hobby, which he has been immersed in ever since joining his father’s business where he serves as a real estate sales associate, developed the cam.
“You could say I am an eagle enthusiast half the day, and a real estate professional the other,” he said.
Andrew said they installed the camera in early August. “We got it up before nesting season in early August. Nesting season is from Oct. 1 to May 15.”
Ozzie and Harriet later showed up, and now have two eggs in a cozy nest. The eggs are projected to hatch by the New Year.
The two eagles have been winter vacationing in Florida for the last 20 years, now calling the Pritchett property home.
“We went up to the world in mid-October,” Andrew said of the live streaming.
He enjoys the social media associated with the site, especially Facebook.
“It’s amazing what comments we get on Facebook. It’s nice to be able to share this opportunity with others, where people can interact. They really get engaged.
“We actually have ideas for the future, perhaps installing a second camera away from the nest to watch eagles perch around it,” he said.
The best place for viewing in person or to photograph the birds is directly east of their property at the North Fort Myers Church of the Nazarene, 6781 Bayshore Road. That is across the street from the new Eagles Landing/Publix Plaza, appropriately named for all of the eagle activity in the area.
“We get hundreds of photographers who come here,” Andrew said.
The pastor of the church, the Rev. Van Garner, said everyone is welcome to park there, to stay safely behind a fence that’s about 100 yards from the nest.
“At this time of year it is very seldom that someone is not here looking at the eagles,” said Garner. “I think the better time is the morning, and I often talk to people to discuss best viewing times.”
He said he is a big fan of the birds, and watches the cam. “It is very fascinating to me. Seldom do you get to see them in the wild.”
To preserve the natural habitat of the eagles, the wireless camera is positioned six feet above the nest, attached to a tree limb, and uses no screws or nails. The noiseless camera also features night vision with an infrared light which emits no actual light. The camera sends a wireless signal that streams live video and can be viewed at dickpritchettrealestate.com.
Their “business cards” were developed by the Pritchetts as well, with the names Ozzie and Harriet and their picture on the front. Their Internet information on the back.
Kim Trebatoski, owner of EcoPlanz, Inc., is monitoring the site.
“It is part of the Eagle Technical Advisory Committee of Lee County, commonly known as ETAC,” she said.
She’s a volunteer for the group, as are all members.
“I go once a week while they are nesting, to check the area to be sure there is nothing disturbing the nesting. We also confirm the status of the nest, how many young hatch, and when the eaglets fledge. It’s really nice that the Pritchett family put the camera up for everyone to watch.”
She said the nest is unusual in the fact that it is very close to a major roadway, Bayshore Road.
“We’re fortunate that in Florida, we are one of the few states that have as many nesting eagles as we do,” said Trebatoski. “In Lee Country, there are something between 50 and 60 nesting territories. Lee County itself has worked with property owners for a number of decades.”
She personally enjoys the eagle cam.
“It is interesting to be able to watch from that angle,” Trebatoski said. “How they prepared the nest before they laid the eggs and you can watch now that the eggs are incubating, can see all the material around them. It’s really nice that they have put it on the Web site, so you can watch them without disturbing the nest.”
The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates there are at least 9,789 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the contiguous United States. While the largest concentration of bald eagles is in Alaska, bald eagles can be found in every state except Hawaii with Florida, Wisconsin, Washington, Minnesota, Oregon, and Michigan all having a prominent bald eagle population.