EagleCam Update: March 31, 2017

minnesota department of natural resources

This EagleCam update is brought to you by MN DNR’s Nongame Wildlife Program

Too Much Information

We’d like to pause from our regularly scheduled discussion of eagle biology to talk about the EagleCam….like, the actual camera itself. We’ve received many comments about the interrupted and intermittent (choppy, time lagged) EagleCam video stream during the past couple months. We value your feedback and suggestions and, for this reason, we’d like to address the problem, as well as the steps we’ve taken to remedy the problem.

So what’s been causing the interrupted and intermittent video stream? The technology-savvy individuals who help run the EagleCam believe that wind and video streaming capacity are the primary interacting factors. The first factor is easier to describe: the EagleCam is attached to a tree branch that sways with moderate and heavy winds (remember winds are stronger in treetops than on the ground). The second factor is more complex, but the basic premise is that the EagleCam is sometimes overworked. During non-windy periods much of the camera’s field of view is unchanged, and the only pixels that need “refreshing” are those that correspond with the moving eagles. But during windy periods, the camera’s entire field of view is constantly changing because the branch sways, so all the pixels must also constantly change. All those changing pixels represent digital information that’s like water flowing through a pipe: only so much can get through at a given time. When the size of the digital pipe (which, in our case, is determined by the EagleCam’s streaming capacity) isn’t big enough for all the information to get through at real-life speed and in living color, we wind up with the intermittent video stream that you’ve seen lately.

So why has the video stream been more frequently interrupted and intermittent this year relative to previous years? According to Mark Seeley, a meteorologist at the University of Minnesota, 2017 has been a remarkably windy year. As of Friday, March 24, the average wind speed for the month was greater than 12 miles per hour (mph), and there were 9 days with peak gusts greater than 30 mph. More impressively, a peak gust of 60 mph was recorded on March 8 – only the fifth time in the past 20 years that wind speed in the Twin Cities reached 60 mph or greater. Seeley also noted that April typically is our windiest month, so video streaming issues may recur.

Hopefully they won’t, though, because of technical changes we made on Monday, March 27. Basically, we’ve reduced the display resolution (pixel density) of the video stream in a way that we believe shouldn’t unduly impact image quality.  We’d like to know your thoughts. Are you happy with the changes? Have you noticed a difference in the display resolution or video stream? Please let us know what you think by posting on the Minnesota Nongame Wildlife Program Facebook page.

Spring has sprung

It’s officially spring and with it comes color and clamor! Many of our migrant bird species have or are starting to return, bare trees will soon give way to budding leaves, and our noisy (but welcomed) frog friends have started chorusing.

You may already know that different frog and toad species have distinct calling periods, but do you know which species are calling now? If not, think about attending the “Calling All Frogs” event at Gateway State Trail starting at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 6.  Contact Linda Radimecky (651-231-6968, Linda.Radimecky@state.mn.us) for more details.

You can also learn and get involved by signing up for a Minnesota Frog and Toad Calling Survey route. Since 1996, volunteers have generously collected valuable data by listening to and identifying the frog and toad species heard at 10 stops along each driving route. The results have provided important insights into species’ distributions and abundances. This is citizen science at its finest!   

Like what you read here? Want to learn more? Your Minnesota DNR Nongame Wildlife Program and the educational products it provides (including the popular EagleCam), are made possible by donations from the public. Please give today.