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April 1, 2019: At the start of the year, the AEF team began monitoring the nesting activity of Sir Hatcher II and Lady Independence at our Smoky Mountain nest cam location. We found that all overgrowth had been cleared and a nest bowl of grasses has been formed- clearly indicating that the eagle pair had begun working diligently on their nest. Sir Hatcher II was frequently seen treating Lady Independence with various meals. Their bond is evident, and they have been seen mating both on and off cams.
In 2018, this pair had laid three eggs by the end of January. We are still waiting patiently for the first egg of 2019 to be laid. The pair has still been seen at the nest tree and surrounding territory but seem to visit less frequently since heavy flood-bearing rains pummeled East Tennessee in February. Sir Hatcher II has resumed almost daily visits to the nest. Most recently, we also have documented visits from other eagles. We continue to watch and wait for this couple to get back on track – hoping we have eggs soon!
The educational impact of our high-definition nest cams has been phenomenal, providing unprecedented insight into the Bald Eagle nesting process.
As hatch time approaches, all eyes will be peeled for the first pip or breakthrough of the egg shell by the baby inside. Then, thousands of viewers settle down to watch these babies grow and develop from downy bobble-heads to feisty and magnificent Eaglets, ready to take their first flight into what will be a steep learning curve of survival in the wild.
This project also focuses on conservation, habitat protection, and the dangers that eagles still face in the wild. In the case of this particular nest, a primary food source for the eagles, the Little Pigeon River, harbored discarded hooks, lines, and sinkers—artifacts that could and did present a real threat to the survival of the babies in the nest. See full recap of the rescue of the eaglets here. Our viewers learned what this type of pollution can do, and many people were even given the opportunity during Chatter Reunion to help clean up the Little Pigeon River and to help educate others about the dangers of not disposing of fishing tackle properly.
To enhance the educational experience, a moderated chat is embedded on the cam page, allowing viewers to comment and ask questions about the eagles. Knowledgeable and friendly moderators help guide the discussion and provide insight. AEF also encourages students and groups who are studying eagles or related topics to reserve time in the chat where their questions can be answered. This has been a hugely successful endeavor, and we have welcomed many classrooms with students of all ages. Teachers across the nation have written us with glowing compliments about the positive impact this experience has had on their students.
The latest nest of Lady Independence & Sir Hatcher II is located on top of a very steep hill in Sevierville, TN and was first video streamed in 2018. The eagles still maintain their residence at this nest and cameras are in place to record all the important moments in the upcoming season.
Lady Independence was hatched and raised by non-releasable Bald Eagle breeding pair Independence and Franklin at Dollywood and was then released into the wild in 2008 from AEF’s Hack Tower on Douglas Lake.
To honor the contributions of Bob Hatcher to the restoration of the Bald Eagle in Tennessee, the first male was called Sir Hatcher I and the current male is called Sir Hatcher II. Sir Hatcher II appeared with lady in 2018, and we do not know what happened to Sir Hatcher I.
The history of this pair – along with the first Sir Hatcher – is very interesting and full of surprises! To understand the entire history of this pair (and Sir Hatcher I), you need to read the backstory because it is so carefully documented!
For the last several seasons, Lady has laid three eggs. She and Sir Hatcher II are wonderful parents and have raised their eaglets from soft tiny babies to strong mighty eaglets that eventually fledge into the Smoky Mountains. In 2018, eggs were laid in late February and early March, hatching about 35 days later.
About Our Cams
Two high-definition cams are available on this page. There are two PTZ (Pan, Tilt, Zoom) cameras on the nest that give optimal angles to see the eagles. Viewers can experience important moments in the nest, from eggs being laid, brooding, hatching, food deliveries, first feedings of the eaglets—and lots more! As the eaglets grow, developmental changes can be noted, culminating in self-feeding, branching, and ultimately fledging the nest.
At night, an infrared light is turned on. The eagles cannot see this light – it is outside their visible spectrum of light. Neither can humans. If you were at the nest site, looking up at the tree at night, you would only see light from the moon or stars. The infrared light is converted into visible light by the camera (but only black and white), and then we see the light because it has been converted and streamed to our computers!
The American Eagle Foundation sincerely appreciates the support of our Smoky Mountain cam partners.