A live Internet reality show starring the town’s nesting pair of bald eagles let thousands of viewers get a look at Decorah’s wild side.
Almost every community has some sort of connection to a celebrity, but Decorah’s is unique: Thanks to the Raptor Resource Project and other local partners, a live Internet reality show starring the town’s nesting pair of bald eagles had thousands of viewers logging on to get a look at Decorah’s wild side.
The Raptor Resource Project (RRP) was originally established in Minnesota the late 1980s, but relocated to an area near Decorah in 1997 to embark on a successful effort to get falcons to breed on cliffs. Director Bob Anderson and RRP then became involved in the filming of a bald eagle documentary for the “Nature” series on PBS in 2007 and 2008. As part of that project, the group installed cameras in a local nest across the road from the Decorah Fish Hatchery.
“That nest was featured a great deal in the film “The American Eagle,” and it was obvious to us when we were filming that there was a lot of local interest and ownership in the nest because the pair is so prominent here in the city,” Anderson said. “So I decided to put it on the Internet and link it to the RRP site. Xcel Energy hosted the bandwidth and it became an overnight sensation.”
Approximately 86,000 unique computers logged on over a million times to access Decorah Eagle Cam in 2009, and the 2010 totals were well over twice that amount — including over 70,000 on Easter Sunday alone as the eaglets were hatching. Followers were so devoted that they sent e-mails asking if a bird had fallen if it disappeared from camera view for a while. Anderson says that he is motivated to continue the work with RRP raptor video feeds because they are widely used in curricula in schools across the country.
“Most of my work was in captive breeding and recovery of endangered falcons, but now my life has taken a bit of a change because the bird cams have so much of a following and are important to so many teachers, schools, and classes,” he said.
The live webcam was taken down when the eaglets left the nest in July 2010. Anderson reassured loyal viewers though, posting on the website, “I went to the site this morning and found all three young eagles perched near the nest tree … one of them on a nearby barn roof, one on a nearby TV antenna, and the third eagle on a limb in the nest tree. Let everyone know that all three are doing just fine.”
You can still check out great videos of Decorah’s feathered friends at www.youtube.com/user/ries96.