Sunday, February 9, 2014

Don't mess with the nest: 2 men fined for violating eagles' privacy

A bald eagle along the hillside above East Carson Street near Hays
While the public has a new way to watch Pittsburgh's eagles from afar, two men who got too close were cited Monday for separately trespassing on a state-imposed privacy zone surrounding the nest.
A revolutionary new Web camera has generated thousands of views of the birds nesting on a hillside overlooking the Monongahela River in Hays.

Neither man was trying to see the eagles. On Dec. 28, Richard Seddon, 48, of Overbrook was legally hunting on property above the nest co-managed by the state Game Commission. According to the citation, he failed to obey signs banning entrance to a state-imposed 660-foot privacy zone surrounding the nest. He also was charged with two unrelated hunting violations. Mr. Seddon couldn't be reached for comment.

On Jan. 4, Thomas Kesten, 61, of Parker, Armstrong County, also trespassed on the privacy zone while hunting on the hill.

"We came up from the back side and didn't know we weren't supposed to be there," Mr. Kesten said. "They need to put some more signs up there."

The maximum fine for failure to observe a Game Commission sign is $200. Neither man was charged with violating more serious federal laws banning the intentional harassment of an active bald eagle nest.

Since the installation of the new robotic camera, it has been accessed more than 20,000 times without harassing Hays' most prominent residents.

The camera project was conceived and managed by PixController, a Murrysville company that builds custom outdoor security cameras for law enforcement organizations, including the Game Commission. The camera is equipped with tilt, pan, zoom, night vision and audio capability, and can be viewed by the public for free on the Internet.

"There's no other camera like this in the world on an active eagle nest," said Game Commission spokesman Tom Fazi. The agency is a partner in the project. "The opportunity it provides for research is probably unprecedented."

PixController donated the equipment, installation and daily upkeep -- a $5,000 investment, said company president Bill Powers. Interstate Batteries of Penn Hills donated solar receptors and batteries, and the Sierra Wireless and Verizon Wireless companies provided equipment and links to free 24-hour access to the Internet.

Mr. Powers approached the Game Commission several years ago about aiming a camera at one of the state's 260 active eagle nests.

"When the Pittsburgh site came up, that was the best story, showing people the fantastic way the city has recovered," he said. "Nature has taken back what we took away from it."

Plans for the camera include Internet chats with eagle experts; an archive of active moments on the nest; public access to the zoom, pan and tilt controls; and engaging schools in the eagle-cam project.

Last year, the state Game Commission voted to officially remove the bald eagle from Pennsylvania's threatened species list. That action was officially taken last week. The bird remains protected under state and federal law.

After fledging one chick last year, the Hays eagles remained in town when temperatures dropped.
In recent days, webcam viewers watched as the birds engaged in their first mating activity of 2014.
Two other Allegheny County eagle nests are active. A pair that has nested on private property in Crescent since 2010 was seen on the site last month. Another pair, which last year failed to steal a nest from red-tailed hawks in Harmar, has taken the site and is making home renovations.

Read more about the eagle-cam at the Post-Gazette Rod & Gun Club blog at

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