The nesting season for a popular pair of bald eagles featured on a live camera stream at Duke Farms in Somerset County has come to a disappointing and abrupt end.
The environmental stewardship organization in Somerset County had high hopes this year after the eagles had two eggs. But the much-anticipated hatching this weekend turned into a disaster. It marks the second year in a row the nest wound up empty.
“It wasn’t productive last year, so this is devastating to us,” said Nora DiChiara, Director of Programs and Strategic Planning at Duke Farms.
On Friday, the first egg broke open revealing an empty shell. This happens as a result of an egg that is never fertilized or stopped developing in the early stages, according to DiChiara.
Hope remained for the second egg and Saturday brought about tons of drama for viewers and Duke Farms staffers alike when an intruder eagle entered the nest late in the afternoon.
Hours later, the second egg began to hatch, but the chick inside was not fully developed and did not survive. DiChiara said Duke Farms does not believe the intruder caused the young chick’s death.
“It’s unfortunate, but that’s kind of how nature goes,” DiChiara said Monday morning.
Viewers who have become attached to the eagles’ comeback story say watching the nesting failure live was shocking.
“Everyone was so upbeat and happy after the two eggs were laid,” said Bob Gasior, 68, of Totowa, who has been a fan of the eagle cam for four years. “I think Friday was worse as it was day 35 and the could-be hatch date for the first egg. I was devastated when I saw this happen live.”
Duke Farm biologist are examining the nest to try and determine why the incubation process failed. DiChiara says the cold weather and heavy snow is a possible cause.
“Even though the bald eagles are wild animals, we become so attached to them. They become like family,” Gasior said. “The look on dad’s face as he was searching the nest for the eaglet made you want to cry.”
The resident male eagle flew away with the remains of the last egg.
Eagles have been nesting along Raritan River on the Duke Farm’s property since 2005.
The Eagle Cam was established 10 years ago to give nature lovers an inside look at bald eagles and the mating process.
DiChiara said the bald eagles are done for the season but there is always hope for next year.
“It’s a sad situation, but the great part is that it shows eagles have rebounded so now there’s competition for nests,” she said. “It’s a teachable moment about why these things happen. I’m sure next year, we’ll have eggs again.”