SMUD’s eagle cam is live on the Web!
Nesting bald eagles’ behavior streamed live by camera system installed 185 feet up a tree
Ever want to get up close and personal to the majestic bald eagle? Well, now anyone can tune in and see and hear in live streaming video. Last fall, SMUD partnered with the U.S. Forest Service, Eldorado National Forest to install a camera system 185 feet up in a large ponderosa pine on Sunset Peninsula at Union Valley Reservoir in the Crystal Basin Recreation Area.The camera system provides an excellent diversion for families with children who are at home doing distance learning to see the eagles in their natural habitat.
High-definition cameras are poised to view a pair of bald eagles that utilize the tree to nest each year. Microphones record the eagles’ sounds that can be heard in the existing nest that is about four feet in diameter. The camera system, its modem and the remote control are battery-powered and charged with solar panels.
“This remote camera system offers a rare glimpse into the nesting behaviors of these fantastic birds of prey and demonstrates SMUD’s commitment to environmental stewardship,” said Frankie McDermott, SMUD Chief Energy Delivery Officer. “For children who are learning from home during the COVID-19 crisis, the eagle camera system provides an entertaining diversion that is also very educational.”
In March, a heavy snowstorm forced the eagles to abandon the nest and their recently laid eggs. The eggs were lost to the cold, but the eagles have returned and started repairing the nest.
The live stream can be found at SMUD.org/Eagles. The web page also includes recorded video vignettes and photos archived in a gallery so viewers can watch when the eagles are not in the camera view as they frequently leave the nest throughout the day.
The project is part of SMUD’s 50-year license to operate the Upper American River Project (UARP), SMUD’s hydroelectric system in the Sierra, and includes $150 million in upgrades and enhancements to existing recreation facilities related to SMUD’s hydroelectric power plants throughout the Crystal Basin Recreational Area, mostly around SMUD reservoirs. As part of the UARP license, SMUD is committed to monitoring the nesting status of bald eagles at several of its Crystal Basin reservoirs annually as part of a larger natural resource monitoring program.
Each year SMUD sends out biologists at least three times during the breeding season to look for and document the birds’ nesting status. While the camera isn’t a requirement of the license monitoring program, using it to monitor the eagles will provide new insights into the local eagles’ behavior while providing a great opportunity for the public to experience these incredible birds up close and personal. SMUD takes its stewardship role very seriously and works closely with multiple agencies to ensure protection of the valuable natural resources that we are privileged to work alongside.
SMUD and USFS worked to install the equipment last winter. SMUD provided the camera equipment and USFS provided experienced tree climbers to install the equipment. It took a team of at least four climbers almost two days to haul the camera equipment up into the massive 5-foot in diameter tree and install it. The solar panels that power everything are too heavy and bulky, so a SMUD bucket truck was brought in to do the installation of the panels.
Since 1957, SMUD has partnered with the U.S.Forest Service to make Crystal Basin a spectacular destination in the Sierra Nevada. It’s not only home to the UARP hydroelectric system, but is also open to the public for enjoyment of outdoor recreation.
These projects were agreed to in SMUD’s 50-year hydroelectric operating license issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2014 for the UARP, which is almost entirely within the Eldorado National Forest.
The UARP’s power plants generate about 700 megawatts of clean, non-carbon-emitting power and can provide about 20 percent of SMUD customers’ power needs, which is especially valuable in hot summer months.
SMUD is committed to the communities it serves and where it builds infrastructure and is a long-standing member of the El Dorado County community. SMUD continues to work with partners on fire prevention efforts, community development, road maintenance and environmental monitoring while working on other important projects in the county.
SMUD also remains committed to recreation improvements in the area and is delivering on the schedule outlined in the license. The improvements to existing campgrounds, hiking and biking trails, roads and boat ramps, as well as constructing additional facilities, will create additional demand and bring more visitors into El Dorado County along with many new recreation dollars spent at local businesses.
SMUD continues to have a significant presence in El Dorado County with about 85 employees based at its hydroelectric maintenance headquarters at Fresh Pond with a local payroll and local expenditures well over $15 million per year. About 200 SMUD employees call El Dorado County home, sending their kids to local schools, buying goods and services locally, and contributing to the county’s tax base.