Bordering Skidaway Narrows Intracoastal Waterway, Skidaway Island in Georgia is a state park near historic Savannah. A picturesque nature reserve, it attracts visitors throughout the year to see its wide variety of animals and migrating birds. With the reserve widely known for its Bald Eagle’s nest, and the pair of eagles expected to return for a third season, the Landings Club Board of Governors wanted to bring the nesting activity to a wider audience by providing visual surveillance of the birds during the hatching season.
HDOnTap, a specialist provider of live webcam streaming services, hardware and customized off-grid power, wireless network and remote live cam solutions for wildlife viewing, were referred to the board by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
HDOnTap’s found, Tim Sears, tells the story: “The requirement was to install a live camera on the Bald Eagles’ nest to capture activity during the season. Along with a high-quality camera image, the eagles must be viewed 24/7, so a nighttime illuminator was paramount to enable the nest images to be streamed around the world.
“White light illuminators were not a viable option as these would disturb the nesting birds, so it meant choosing an infrared illuminator. HDOnTap have used iluminar LED IR lighting products exclusively on all our installations, and with a history of flawless operation, we were confident that an iluminar product would more than meet the requirement.
“Using iluminar LED lighting products in harsh environments, we’ve found them to be high-performance, reliable and simple to install. With the proposed installation high up in a pine tree, 75 ft. above the ground, ‘simple to install’ is a major benefit. Plus, the reliability of the iluminar units was a major factor in their choice, as once they were commissioned and the birds inhabiting the nest, there would be no opportunity for problem solving and maintenance. The products we selected needed to work reliably straight out of the box — we knew this would definitely be the case with iluminar products from our previous experience with them.”
Sears specified an X|Stream Designs enclosure fitted with a 720p Sony PTZ camera, supported by an iluminar IR623 Series long-range infrared LED illuminator. The iluminar IR623 Series can illuminate objects at distances up to 623 ft. using SMT LED technology, and features low-power consumption together with an IP67 weatherproof enclosure — perfect for deployment in the birds’ nest.
After a swift installation, the nest was left for the anticipated arrival of the Bald Eagle pair. However, only one eagle arrived. The speculation was that the mate had been lost or had strayed. This was not the bad news it initially appeared to be, as the vacant nest soon attracted a pair of Great Horned Owls.
“Opportunistic in using the nests of other birds, the owls exchanged prey, courted, and the female laid two eggs that have now hatched,” Sears explained. “The Web stream has been a great success. At any given time, there are 2,500 to 3,000 simultaneous people watching the live streaming of the birds’ activities. We anticipate that traffic will grow closer to 10,000 as the young develop.
“Thanks to the iluminar IR623 Series LED illuminator, we have the perfect setup for delivering astonishingly clear nighttime images of the owls’ nest activity. This is a real advantage, as much of the owl activity takes place during the hours of darkness — when the most valuable footage can be gathered.
“So far we have seen the owls bring food to the nest and eggs hatch, a sight which few people ever experience, but thanks to the camera and iluminar IR light combination, anyone with an Internet connection can observe this sight. We will soon be seeing the fledgling chicks leave the nest, so the most exciting and scientifically significant footage is yet to come.”
Footage from the camera is now being streamed live on the Internet via HDOnTap’s live streaming webcam service. Click here to view the Live Owl Cam.