Island eagle-cams provide up-close look for Internet observers

It's reality broadcasting at its finest, complete with love and death, squabbles over who does the fishing or who has to sit around looking after the young ones.

A pair of bald eagles are preparing to lay eggs in a nest rigged with a webcam on Hornby Island, the 20th year they've returned to the same nest behind Doug and Sheila Carrick's house.

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They've produced 17 eaglets to date, but not all have survived. A number of the eggs haven't even hatched.

Carrick is anticipating success this time around.

"I have a feeling this year they're not just going to lay eggs but they're going to have chicks," said Carrick, 76, yesterday.

Meanwhile, another pair of bald eagles in Saanich is watching over two eggs laid March 1 and March 4. Hopes are soaring that eaglets will hatch after 35 days, about when Carrick says the Hornby eagles will lay their own eggs.

The activity in both nests is available for view via the Internet.

Three years ago, the Hornby pair fascinated millions of people around the world who watched by webcam as two eggs were laid -- but no chicks hatched.

The next year, the pair laid another two eggs that hatched and fledged but nobody saw because Carrick's webcam was damaged in winter storms.

The webcam is now repaired and Carrick is just as excited as anyone about the coming few weeks. It's unusual for eagles to stay in the same nest for so long, he said.

"They generally move their nest every three or four years," he said, adding: "Maybe they like all the publicity."

The birds are at least 26 years old, he said. Bald eagles start laying eggs at age six and Carrick has been watching them nesting for 20 years.

However, nest renovations could threaten the view from the web cam, said Carrick. "The nest is about a foot higher than it was before. In fact, they're adding so many branches I'm getting a bit worried they'll be above the camera level."

Carrick is looking forward to a summer watching the eagles and documenting their activities.

"I've got a date every time I see them mating," he said. "When they fly off, every other bird on the beach gets out of their way."

His wife is interested "to some degree" in the eagles, Carrick said. "But right now she's interested in going to operas in Courtenay."

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