Hays and Harmar bald eagles on deck for egg-laying season in hi-def
The Pittsburgh Hays bald eagles delivered Tuesday, impervious to the frigid temperatures and sweeping away Monday's snow from their nest, to lay their first egg sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning, according to feed from a live webcam.
The birds are in their sixth season and third nest on the same steep hillside above the Monongahela River.
"These are really experienced parents by now," said Rachel Handel, spokeswoman for the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania.
This is the time of year when the birds lay their eggs, driven by hormones and the amount of sunlight.
The Harmar eagles, which have been nesting on a bluff above Route 28, are expected lay their first egg in the next two weeks.
Those birds are always behind the Hays birds by two weeks.
"Just like people, these eagles have their own personalities and readiness and the Harmar birds' readiness is just a couple of weeks after the Hays birds," Handel said.
Bald eagles typically lay between one to four eggs in succession, spaced two to four days apart.
The male and female will take turns to continuously incubate the eggs for 35 days.
Look for a second egg at Hays starting Thursday.
And there will be much more to see this year: The views from two closely placed live webcams at both the Hays and Harmar nests promise to provide high-definition and close-up images, greatly improving the viewing experience from years past.
The Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, which also operates a second live webcam on an eagle nest in Harmar with CSE Corp., formerly PixController, brought in Rob Kruljac of Richland, an arborist with Davey Tree Expert Service who volunteered in December to mount the webcams in Hays and Harmar closer to the nests.
The camera can now enlarge the image of the egg to full-frame, allowing viewers to watch a chick "pip" or slowly perforate the eggshell to break out.
After four years of webcaming the Hays birds with a camera farther away, "The question has always been, 'Is that dirt on the egg, or a real pip?'" said Bill Powers, director of surveillance and environmental monitoring for CSE.
Handel agreed that the footage of the egg hatching will offer the public never-before-seen views of the two eagle pairs.
"We'll be able to watch the hatch as the young bird uses its egg tooth of its beak to crack and emerge from the egg," said Handel.
It's a process that can take 24 hours.
Thank goodness for video editing: The new webcams offer a two-hour play back option.
The Hays birds are the first bald eagles to breed in Pittsburgh's city limits in more than 150 years.
Last year, a wind storm knocked out the birds' nest tree, which contained its first egg of the season.
But the birds built a new nest, laid a second egg and produced an eaglet known to some as the "Miracle on Carson Street."
That bird successfully fledged from the nest.
Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4691, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib.