Renee Carleton, assistant professor of biology at Berry, said she’s “99-percent certain” they’re incubating eggs. It’s even possible the eggs already have hatched.
Carleton and Eddie Elsberry, director of environmental compliance and sustainability at Berry, are guests on the latest edition of Rome News-Tribune’s Studio Central.
Elsberry said his team of observers first noticed changes in activity at the nest around Dec. 20.
If an egg or eggs — one to three is typical — were laid during that time frame, the 35-day incubation period just passed.
“In fact, in the last couple of days we have noticed in our observation logs that the eagle that flies into the nest has been flying in with its talons balled, meaning closed,” Elsberry said.
That could indicate there may be tiny eaglets in the nest, since the adults are extremely protective of both the eggs and chicks.
Carleton said the nest and adult pair has provided an amazing live laboratory for students.
“Certainly it’s been discussed in classes,” he said. “The conservation history of the bald eagle; what it means to this area; their life spans; the ecology of the eagle; what they are feeding on; how long they live.”
While students are taking advantage of the learning experience, folks from as far away as Gwinnett County have been to the Berry campus trying to take advantage of photo ops not normally afforded by Mother Nature.
Others, from as far away as Japan, are keeping up with the pair via the college’s live feed Eaglecam at www.berry.edu/eaglecam.
Elsberry said the Eaglecam was almost an afterthought during the current nesting season. It shows the nest from a low angle, not allowing viewers to peer inside.
“Before the next nesting season we hope to have an actual nest cam that looks down in the nest, where you can see everything that’s going on,” Elsberry said.
The question of a “next” season has yet to be answered. Berry hopes to break ground soon on a new football stadium that was originally slated to be built extremely close to the nest tree. The school did shift the footprint slightly to accommodate the nest and a permit issued for the project by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but the loss of habitat in the area is of some concern.
“They will plant 208 native trees between the stadium and the nest tree,” Carleton said. “But given the amount of traffic and activity around this area, I really believe the eagles are not going to be bothered by it.”
Elsberry said the college has been “very proactive in making sure the proper steps were gone through to preserve the integrity of the nest and allow the eagles to actually call Berry their home.”
If the site remains their home, the eagles could be providing that special live lab for students and community residents for many years to come.