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Mr. President and The First Lady

 

 

Nest Cam

This webpage follows the everyday lives of two American Bald Eagles (see photo at left) named Mr. President (known as MP or Mr. P) and The First Lady (known as TFL).  Click on any photo on this page to enlarge.

Webcam Link

Around-the-clock live-stream high-definition color (dawn to dusk) and infrared monochrome (dusk to dawn) camera feeds of the eagle nest and the goings-on in and about it are available at dceaglecam.org.

Arrival in Washington

In August 2014, MP took up residence on Kingman Island, a man-made island situated in the middle of the Anacostia River just 10 miles up-river from Watergate of Alexandria (see map below).  Kingman was built in the early 1900s using dredged material, and is owned by the Federal government and managed by the U.S. National Park Service.  Soon after his arrival, MP began looking for a suitable mate among the unattached eagles migrating through the area.  He met TFL in September of that year, when the two eagles were first seen in pair-bonding flights and later defending their future nesting area against other migrating eagles.

 

Squirrel-Eye View of the Eagle Nesting Tree

The photo above was taken from the base of the nesting tree.

 

Nesting Site

In the fall of 2014, MP and TFL chose to nest high up in a Tulip Poplar tree (see photo at left) that is rooted amongst the Azalea Collection at the U.S. National Arboretum in Northeast Washington, D.C.  The National Arboretum is owned by the Federal government and operated by the Agricultural Research Service, which is part of the United States Department of Agriculture.  By the way, Tulip Poplars are actually members of the magnolia family and not the poplar family.

2015 Mating Season

In 2015, during their first mating season together in Washington, MP and TFL successfully raised a single unnamed and unphotgraphed eaglet, referred to as DC1, with little ado.  Since eagle pairs often reuse their nests whenever possible, the National Arboretum, with the assistance of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the American Eagle Foundation and many others, decided to install cameras and microphones above the nest, and power and communications equipment below it, in the hope that MP and TFL would return to the nest and their activities could be watched by researchers and the public.

   

MP and TFL Perch Within View of Their Nest

The photo above, taken by the nest cam, shows MP and TFL in one of their favorite nearby perching trees as well as a glimpse of their surrounding neighborhood through the branches.  The din of urban life is clearly audible on the nest cam's microphones.

 

Map Showing the National Arboretum and Kingman Island

The map above shows the National Arboretum (the red symbol marks the location where the eagles' nest is located), Kingman Island (which first attracted MP and TFL to the area), and the Anacostia River (their prime fish-hunting waters).

 

View of the Tree Line from the East Looking West

The eagles' nest is located within the dense line of trees that serves as a backdrop in the photo above to the National Capitol Columns at the National Arboretum.

View of the Nest from the Ground

The photo above shows the eagle nest (see red arrow), which is about 90-95 feet above the ground.  The nesting Tulip Poplar tree is about 105 feet tall.

   

 

2016 Mating Season

Two years ago, during the 2016 mating season, MP and TFL returned to their nest and successfully raised two eaglets, originally designated as DC2 and DC3 and later named Freedom and Liberty (see photo below).

In contrast to the annonymity of the prior year's mating season, the 2016 mating season took place under the adoring glare cast by more than 60 million web views over the course of 5 months.

The first season of nest cam was an educational and ratings triumph, and there was little doubt that a second live-streamed season of MP and TFL would be green-lit.

   

2017 Mating Season

Last year, during the 2017 mating season, MP and TFL again raised two healthy eaglets, originally designated as DC4 and DC5 and later named Honor and Glory (see photo below).

When nests are re-used, eagle parents add to the existing nest, which gradually increases in size.  Last season, the nest was approximately six feet wide by six feet deep.  The photo below shows the nest after nestorations were completed in early 2017.  As noted above, the nesting tree is about 105 feet tall, and the nest is about 90-95 feet high in the tree. Tulip Poplars have a life span of up to 300 years, and most live between 100 and 200 years.  Wild eagles live up to 40 years.

TFL dropped her first egg (DC4) of the 2017 mating season just before 4:30 pm on February 19, 2017, and her second egg (DC5) a few days later just before 6:30 pm on February 23rd.  MP was present for all the eggceptional events.

Egg-laying usually takes place about five days after successful mating during a two-week fertility window.

Eagles normally lay between one and three eggs per mating season, with two being very common as there are practical limits on the number of always-hungry eaglets that two parents can feed at the same time.

The normal incubation period is 35-40 days, so there are 5-6 weeks of patient brooding on the nest, waiting out winter's end, and hoping for successful hatches in early spring.

DC4 started pipping at 9:58 am on March 28th, and hatched at 7:21 am on March 29th.  DC5 started pipping on March 29th, and hatched at 1:50 pm on March 30th. 

The photo below shows DC4 two days after hatching and a few hours before DC5 hatched (note that DC5's pipping is well underway).

The photo below shows DC5 on the right not long after hatching, and DC4 to the left being fed by TFL.

The photo below was taken on Easter Sunday after the day's big meal, and shows mom and dad looking adoringly upon their two eaglets -- the one to the left is sprawled on the uneaten remains of their holiday feast.

On May 3, 2017, following a public online vote, this year's eaglets were named Honor and GloryBoring, predictable, conventional and sad.  Worse, the three alternatives were Stars and Stripes, Anacostia and Potomac, and Peace and Harmony. 

Yak!  Even the copycat-ish Beaky McBeakface and Flappy McFlapface would have been better.  The choice delivers painful truth to the notion that Washington is bereft of good ideas.

In the photo immediately below, the eaglest are drenched and sitting out a rain storm, waiting for sunnier times at the aerie.

 

 

The Reality of Live Broadcasts, the Nature of Supreme Beings, and the Existence of Aliens

On the afternoon of April 20, 2017, with a storm front moving into the area, DC4's right leg became stuck in the crook of a small forked stick or branchlet forming part of the nest's upper bowl, and the eaglet could not extract itself from an increasingly dire predicament even with The First Lady's attempted assistance.  In all likelihood, if this had been an unmonitored nest, the 3-weeks-old eaglet would have eventually died.  But this nest has an awful lot of dedicated and impassioned viewers, including trained observers at the American Eagle Foundation

Two professional tree-climbers and an eagle expert with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, were brought in to rescue DC4.  The eaglet was disentagled and removed from the nest, and taken the next day to a veterinarian for a physical checkup, including a radiograph of the visibly swollen leg to make certain there were no lasting physical injuries. 

However, for well over an hour before that action was taken, images of DC4's hapless plight, and TFL's awkward and fruitless efforts to help, togther with the sounds of the eaglet's fornlorn wails and screeches, were broadcast live to all comers.  And then AEF decided to kill the transmission.  It was probably for the best.  At some point, the invisible line between entertaining and educational reality TV, and something otherwise, was crossed.

But here is the metaphysical question that comes to mind.  Given the chasm that exists between human and eagle brains and intelligence, what do the eagles think happened when the AEF and the USF&WS intervened at their nest?  Until then, this family of eagles had been living a blitheful and unaware Truman Show-like existence, then Batman-like bam! splat! pow! tragedy descends upon the nest, and, before you can double-blink your I Dream of Jeannie genie eyes, some great force suddenly and unnaturally removes one of the family members, subjects the detainee to mysterious and upsetting probes and examinations beyond all cognition as in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, affixes a permanent identification band to its ankle, and then returns the terrified creature after an unexplained disapperance and absence. 

Alien abduction anyone?  Can the eagles really go back to a carefree existence of soaring, fishing and hunting?  Not likely.

More 2017 Photos

The night vision photo above shows TFL on sentry duty above the nest.  Above left is a close-up photo of Glory, and above right the two siblings are resting on the nest.

Eagles in the News

Eagle Poisoned With Lead Dies, Washington Post, December 7, 2017

An Island That Could Unite D.C. Lies in the Middle of the River That Divides It, Washington Post, October 13, 2017

Bald Eagles Make Big Comeback in San Francisco Bay Area, U.S. News & World Report (from Associated Press news feed), April 5, 2017

Look at These Sweet Bald Eagles Protecting Their Eggs From the Snow, Audubon, March 14, 2017

When the National Bird Is a Burden, New York Times, January 19, 2017

Does the bald eagle's comeback spell bad news for other species?, The Christian Science Monitor, January 15, 2017

   

 

2018 Mating Season

Season 3 has started.  Expect egg laying in mid-to-late February, pipping and hatching in late March, and fledging in mid-to-late June.

What will these crazy eagles do this year?

   
 

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