Web camera monitoring of a booted eagle nest in Els Ports Natural Park
The booted eagle (Aquila pennata) is one of the 12 daytime birds of prey species which nest regularly in Els Ports. This forest bird of prey needs to nest in peaceful well-preserved forest areas. In higher forest areas of Els Ports Nature Park there are a total of 15 pairs living and nesting in European black pine and Scots pine forest areas which are really well preserved.
Within Europe, Annex 1 of the Birds Directive includes this bird as a protected species of public interest, being subject to special measures in terms of conservation of its habitats. Monitoring populations of predators is a good indication of the state of conservation of a natural area. The booted eagle is at the top of the food chain and if its population develops favourably this could be a symptom of the ecosystems good state of health.
Els Ports Natural Park has been monitoring booted eagles since 2003, when 3 pairs were counted. Since then, and coinciding with a process of increasing the number of this species in Catalonia, the population has grown to the 15 pairs counted in 2016. For this monitoring, the park has installed a camera in one of the nests, with the express hope of discovering their diet and understanding aspects of their biology more deeply.
The booted eagle is a migratory trans-Saharan species; most of its population hibernates in the south of the Sahara. During the second half of March, you can begin to observe the first individuals coming back to their usual breeding places in Els Ports, they meet up with their partner again and start their mating flights and the reproduction process. In order to avoid causing problems, the webcam was installed in February before the eagles had arrived. Reaching the nest was done with the collaboration of the Mountain Support group of Rural Agents.
Camera installation was complemented by an Internet connection making it possible to monitor the nest live on YouTube, where videos have also been uploaded showing interesting or key moments happening in and around the nest. At the same time, a blog has been created with information of the whole process and other interesting news. Both the YouTube channel and the blog are for building awareness and giving environmental education. The life of wild animals is brought to the public in an unusual and surprising way, and this helps to increase the visibility of this natural space.
The pair which is being monitored were detected in 2011, and is formed by a light phase male (light breast) and a dark phase female (dark breast). The images registered on 28th March 2017 show the arrival of the female to the nest.
A day later, the male arrives. The pair arranges the nest with new twigs, and at the end of April the female lays two eggs which hatched after 38 and 39 days of incubation. At the end of July, the two chicks do their first flight between branch and branch.
If all goes well, the chicks usually make their first flights in the middle of July. At the end of summer, they go to their hibernation place until next spring, when the adults, probably, will be back to the same reproduction place.