Eagle nest cam gives students real-life lesson

Students in Mike Lawrence's third- and fourth-grade classroom in the Blair-Taylor school district got their big wish Friday. It had nothing to do with a snow day away from school, although it did happen off school grounds outside on a snowy day. ...

Students in Mike Lawrence's third- and fourth-grade classroom in the Blair-Taylor school district got their big wish Friday.

It had nothing to do with a snow day away from school, although it did happen off school grounds outside on a snowy day. Instead, the much-anticipated event had everything to do with advancing their studies.

Considering that the students are studying bald eagles -- with the help of a camera Lawrence had installed just above a nest on the Trempealeau County property of one of his students -- the object of their excitement was an egg.

Yes, Lucy -- the students' name for the female resident of the nest -- laid an egg at about 4:30 p.m. Friday, followed by a second Monday night. The children now are looking forward to a bird's-eye view of her raising at least two eaglets.

And with the popularity of such live-streaming nest cams, these 10- and 11-year-olds from Blair-Taylor's School of Science, Engineering and Technology might end up sharing their charter school project with tens of thousands of people around the world.


"The kids are very excited," said Lawrence, who keeps a live video feed of the nest projected on his classroom wall much of the school day. "It's a big thing for the whole school."

Though the landmark development occurred shortly after school ended Friday, most of the students already had heard the news by the time they returned to the classroom Monday morning, as they monitor the nest frequently through the project's website.

Alivia Beaman, a fourth-grader from Taylor, said she was visiting an aunt in Galesville on Sunday when her father delivered the news.

"I was just so happy, I didn't believe my dad at first," Alivia said, adding that she impatiently waited for her mom to get home so she could see video of the egg for herself on her mom's cellphone.

Alivia and the other students in Lawrence's classroom had a blast -- and learned a lot -- watching the eagles last year but were disappointed when they never laid any eggs.

Now they can turn their attention to more important matters, such as the discussion Alivia had with friends recently about whether an eagle's birthday is the day an egg is laid or the day it hatches. They decided on the hatching day, so they're hoping to celebrate a birthday in about a month -- the typical time it takes for an eagle egg to hatch.

First, the kids are focused on whether Lucy lays any more eggs. Lawrence said eagle experts indicate there is less than a 20 percent chance that a female eagle will lay a third egg. Eagle eggs typically arrive about three or four days apart.

As word began to get out about the first egg, views on the nest cam started to rise. By Monday afternoon, nearly 450 people were watching, compared with about 10 percent of that most of last week, Lawrence said.


"It will get really big. Once those babies get bouncing around the nest, that's when the real fun begins," he said, adding that the parents likely will start bringing in all sorts of dead animals to eat. "It will be like a buffet."

As far as Lawrence knows, the Blair-Taylor eagle cam, one of about 50 in the world, is the only one run by schoolchildren. It monitors the comings and goings of Lucy and her mate, named Larry by the students, at the nest 62 feet off the ground in a tree near U.S. 53 between Blair and Ettrick.

The egg's arrival immediately spurred more local companies to reserve advertising space on the Eagles4kids website and is likely to add momentum to the students' efforts to raise $1,800 for a fancier camera, to be installed before next year's mating season, offering sound and night vision, Lawrence said.

Hundreds of schools likely will tune into the nest cam when the eaglets begin hatching, predicted Susan Schneider, the Winona, Minn., author of "Decorah Eagles: A Love Story," a book about the love for nature fostered by the hugely popular live-streaming video last spring from an eagle's nest in Decorah, Iowa.

Schneider, who visited Lawrence's classroom Friday just hours before Lucy laid her first egg to encourage students to write about their nest-watching experiences, speculated that part of the nest cams' popularity is that people admire the eagles' examples of love and vigilance in parenting.

The parents take turns sitting on the eggs and roll them over every hour or two during the incubation period, she said. While the larger female takes the longer overnight and bad-weather shifts, the male brings food for the female and stands guard duty on a nearby branch.

In addition, both Lawrence and Schneider maintained the eagle's status as the national bird adds to the attraction.

"The eagles are big and beautiful," Lawrence said, "and it's something you just don't normally get to see as a human being."


Lindquist can be reached at 715-833-9209, 800-236-7077 or .

(c)2012 the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wis.)

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