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‘Fledge watch’ : Eagle cam hits 15M views

By Staff | Mar 15, 2013

They have been seen more than 15 million times by people worldwide, and by countless bird-lovers locally who have brought their cameras and watched their progress, but the popular North Fort Myers eaglets soon will be waving good-bye.

Hope and Honor, the babies of parent eagles Ozzie and Harriet, are expected to take their first flight in the next two weeks, and learn to hunt and survive on their own.

At 10 weeks old, they have hit their developmental goals, including branching the nest, which they did on Friday, and will soon fly.

“The entire world has watched night and day as the eagles matured,” said Andy Pritchett, the project manager for the camera and son of landowner Richard Pritchett in a statement. “It’s been amazing to see just how much their development mimics human behavior.”

Harriet and Ozzie have called North Fort Myers their winter home for 20 years and reside in the nest off Bayshore Road between the Pritchett property and Nazarene Church from October until April.

The family has had an audience from the day the parents arrived back in Florida in October. Nearly a dozen stood watch on the Pritchett property late Friday to watch the fledglings, one of which positioned itself on a branch near the nest.

“I was addicted as soon as I saw them. We saw Hope’s egg crack on New Year’s Eve and hatch the next day,” said Katie Scinaldi of South Fort Myers. “It’s fascinating how fast they have grown, learned to take care of the nest, and how Ozzie and Harriett have taught them to self feed.”

Their inevitable leaving the nest has many feeling bittersweet.

“We’re going to miss them a lot. We’re looking forward to next year, when Ozzie and Harriett come back,” said Greg Hill of North Fort Myers, who had his camera pointed at the nest and whose photos have been captured online. “I followed eagles in Punta Gorda until the nest blew down and I found this nest.”

Since its inception in September, the Eagle Cam has received more than 15 million views from more than 200 countries.

And now that the journey is almost over, the excitement is reaching a fever pitch.

“It’s been incredible. We started this the beginning of October, when we learned about the cam,” said Judy Hillewart, who has been head moderator for the discussion thread. “It will be bittersweet, but fledging means they leave the nest for the first time, but they come back and the parents will continue to feed them.”

Dick Pritchett Real Estate, at dickpritchettrealestate.com/eagle-feed.html, launched the camera that studies the eagles in their natural habitat in hope it would provide an educational experience about the species.

Dozens of schools have used the camera video in lessons, and viewers have had their questions answered by dozens of moderators and volunteers nationwide.

The Southwest Florida Eagle Cam Foundation was created by the Pritchett family so viewers and philanthropists could donate to help maintain the camera for future live streaming.