For some time now, I've been following the day-to-day life of bald eagles. A post on a knitting forum mentioned a link to a live webcam that was placed near an eagle's nest. Like thousands of others from around the world, I avidly watched "Mom and Dad Hornby" as they shared parenting duties for little Phoenix. Everyone was looking forward to the day when Phoenix would take flight.
Last night, we learned that this momentous event would never take place. While his parents were away, Phoenix succumbed to a sudden unexplained ailment. Doug Carrick, who installed the webcam in 2004 with the permission of the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, announced this morning that a trained climber would retrieve the body for autopsy.
Thousands of people, myself included, have sent prayers, condolances and sympathy to Mr. Carrick and his wife, and to "Mom and Dad Hornby". Watching this family of eagles has been an incredibly unifying experience for everyone involved, and we are all hoping that the pair will return to raise a new clutch of eggs.
I must admit, I had a couple of concerns when I first visited the webcam site. Would the eagles be disturbed by the proximity of the camera? Would it prompt amateurs to try something similar? While I can't speak for the latter, I was promptly reassured on the former simply by watching. The well-disguised camera box was completely ignored by the eagles, who went about their daily business unaware of their worldwide audience. The audience, in turn, was treated to an up-close-and-personal look into the lives of some of nature's most impressive creatures.
The issue of wildlife observation, whether direct or via camera, is controversial. While many would agree that close study is vital to understanding, others may argue that cameras and such are disturbing to the animals and are nothing but scientific voyeurism.
Think it over. What's your take?