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Live Feed: See Bald Eagles ‘Jackie’ and ‘Shadow’ Courtesy of the Friends of Big Bear Valley

 

Pictured are lifelong bald eagle mates Jackie and Shadow, who reside in Big Bear Valley and are expecting the “pip” of two eaglets on March 15th. The public can view them 24/7 via live webcam on YouTube thanks to the Friends of Big Bear Valley.

 

By Laurie Hanson • March 9, 2021

High in the San Bernardino Mountains atop a 155-foot pine tree overlooking Big Bear Lake is the love story of two bald eagles visible live online from anywhere, anytime.

Thanks to a live webcam operating 24 hours, 7 days a week by the Friends of Big Bear Valley, viewers from all over can tune in to see “Jackie,” and her lifelong mate, “Shadow” as they brave the elements and wilderness while anticipating offspring. Both eagles and viewers anxiously await the two eaglets’ arrival, due to “pip” or chip out of their shells on March 15.

“The audience is worldwide—we have gotten comments, emails and letters from several countries in Europe (Denmark, UK, Netherlands, Sweden, France, Ireland), Australia, Russia, Yugoslavia, Thailand, Costa Rica, Mexico, China, plus others,” said Friends of Big Bear Valley Executive Director Sandy Steers. “It’s been steadily growing since we put the camera up in October 2015.”

Jackie and Shadow are the only current full time resident eagles in the Big Bear Valley. All eagles practice delayed incubation, a common phenomenon that gives their offspring a better chance at survival by allowing the eggs to hatch closer together. Because of this, their pip might occur closer to March 18. Baby eaglets usually emerge 35 days from the time eggs are first laid. The webcam will capture the much-anticipated event “live” in real-time for the entire world to see on YouTube.

Due to having a central lake which rarely freezes over, Big Bear Valley is considered an ideal spot for eagles and other waterfowl to settle in year-round. Since eagles commonly eat from bodies of water, Big Bear Lake serves as a common food source where they can openly hunt and fish. Recently, webcam viewers witnessed a devoted Shadow bring what is dubbed “sushi” or a fish to Jackie on Valentine’s Day. Both the abundance of fair weather and a food supply are what keeps bald eagles in the Southern California region, according to Steers.

“As eagle populations began to expand from their lowest levels, individual eagles started to nest in open territories,” she explained. “About 2009, a juvenile male bald eagle hatched in Catalina and decided to stay all year, so Big Bear became a year-round habitat and nesting grounds for them.”

Jackie and Shadow take a break from parenting to take in the gorgeous view.

 

Shadow and Jackie diligently protect their nest and eggs from both severe weather and predators. Unfortunately, nature can take a toll and the lovebirds lost two eaglets earlier in their relationship due to apparent hypothermia, said Steers.

“With the elevation in Big Bear, the weather can be quite harsh with rain, snow and freezing temperatures through May and even June,” she explained. “The biggest issue comes if we have a storm—cold rain or snow—when the chicks are too big to both fit under the adults but have not fully grown in their weather-proofing feathers, which comes at around six weeks of age.”

The normal breeding season for bald eagles runs in conjunction to Southern California’s mild weather months from January through March. Increased daylight hours are what triggers their fertility. As far as predators, it apparently has not been an issue for Jackie and Shadow because they have better learned to protect their eggs, according to Steers.

“They do have to chase away predators sometimes, but they are so large that simply their attention makes the predator leave,” she added.

But a particularly violent scene where ravens openly ravaged Jackie and Shadow’s eggs was captured on the webcam prior to their current brood. Many viewers reacted emotionally and passionately in the livestream chat, wanting to scare away the predators, forgetting this is real life, raw nature in action.

“Apparently, this happened because they were not protecting the nest like they had in past seasons or like they are doing now,” said Steers. “Normally ravens or any other predator would not be able to get to the nest. We have no clear answers for why they were not. However, they seemed to know something that we did not—perhaps they sensed an issue with the eggs or the current circumstances that was not obvious to observing humans.”

Though nature can have harsh realities, it can also provide a measure of peace, healing, and beauty. These are things Steers knows of from living in Big Bear Valley in Fawnskin, and from her ongoing work. She has been with the Friends of Big Bear Valley, since its inception in 2001.

Through a profound, essential connection with nature, she works to preserve and protect the area’s biodiversity by educating others.

“Nature can heal us individually and as a society,” Steers said. “In many ways when people learn that and will allow it, teaching about nature and our environment feels beneficial both to the environment and to the people who learn about it.”

Steers finds her work especially rewarding when others learn new things about nature and discover its all-encompassing beauty everywhere. Teaching others how intelligent animals really are is something she enjoys the most. This intelligence is clearly visible with Jackie and Shadow as they start a family and brave the world together.

The Big Bear Valley is one of the most ecologically diverse environments in the country. The valley and lake are situated east to west between mountain ranges, something that has brought animals and plant species from both the north and south, and preserving special habitats from centuries ago, according to Steers.

“This allows species to exist unlike anywhere else in the world,” she said.

Some of the area’s rare species include the San Bernardino Flying Squirrel, and the Ashy Gray Paintbrush, a plant on the federal and state endangered lists found nowhere else in the world except Big Bear Valley. The unique habitats of the Pebble Plain and the Montane Meadows are home to several other rare and endangered plants, too. The Carbonate Habitat, located on the desert side of the mountains, dates back 245 to 700 million years, and is home to several rare species, with one found in only two locations in the world, according to Friends of Big Bear Valley website.

The mission of the Friends of Big Bear Valley is to protect and preserve the unique and irreplaceable natural habitat of Big Bear Valley through monitoring, education and advocacy for its environmental value and community benefit, according to Steers. The nonprofit has 28 individuals including board members, three part-time employees, and volunteers.

Education is key to their organization. They actively reach out to the public in person and online via Zoom to give talks to various groups and classrooms. They present information, answer questions, reply to emails and support teachers with information for their classrooms.

“We have well-informed moderators on our live stream chat that answer questions not only about the eagles, but about the Big Bear environment in general,” Steers added.

The nonprofit is active in monitoring, reporting and legally enforcing current environmental laws for areas within the Big Bear Valley that have sensitive habitats or species, and they work to protect the local environment especially when current laws and development codes are not being followed, according to Steers.

Additionally, the nonprofit has founded the Ecotourism Coalition, which hosts an annual “Outdoor Adventure Days” event with activities such as hiking, bird watching, kayaking and more, to bring a greater appreciation for nature and the outdoors. They also hope to host, “The Big Wade,” an event that will include setting a Guinness World Book Record. Information on it is forthcoming in a few weeks, Steers said.

As Jackie and Shadow look forward to starting a family, Steers also has a vision for the future of Big Bear Valley. “I hope to leave the nature of Big Bear Valley as protected and pristine as possible, so it remains in place for future generations to learn and enjoy,” she said.

For more information, to donate or become a member of the Friends of Big Bear Valley, please visit online at www.friendsofbigbearvalley.org. Volunteers can also contact the nonprofit via email at [email protected].