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Divorce, new love, loss of chicks: the whole world follows the life of the California sea eagle using a webcam in her nest

For more than 10 years in the Big Bear Valley, hawk eagle Jackie has lost about a dozen eggs and eagles, raised three cubs, fell in love with two partners, weathered blizzards and fought off countless enemies, according to USAToday.

Photo: IStock

When a snowstorm hit Southern California's Big Bear Valley late last month, Jackie the bald eagle did what any caring mother would do: protect her children at all costs.

Jackie sat on her two eggs for hours, so long that the falling snow covered everything but the faint outline of her beak and tail. The attentive mother fell asleep, and then got up to shake off the snow, checked the eggs, and then sat down on them again. Her record is 27 hours.

Jackie's conscientious care of her eggs was followed closely by her fans around the world through crystal clear webcam, which documents her daily life since 2016.

The camera captured the ups and downs of the life of the American bald eagle.

Just recently, Jackie's heart was broken.

A star is born

Jackie was the first baby eaglet to hatch in Big Bear Valley in 2012, according to Friends of Big Bear Valley, which manages Jackie's webcam and carefully documents her life and that of her trusted friend Shadow.

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Jackie's parents, Ricky and Lucy, were the first known adult eagles to choose to stay in the Big Bear Valley, which until then had only been a wintering ground for the species.

Valley resident Sandy Steers lives just one mile from where Jackie was born and watched her grow from a distance.

“I could see her flying, I could see Lucy and Ricky bringing her food,” Stears said. “I stood there for hours every day, just watching, because I was fascinated. It got me hooked and I just wanted to see more."

It was then that Steers and a US Forest Service employee came up with the idea to install a webcam. It took two years to raise the $10 needed to purchase and install the solar-powered camera, which sits at a height of 000m.

In search of glory

Jackie lived in relative obscurity before the webcam was installed. Now her page on YouTube and the daily chat requires multiple moderators who hail from Florida, Nebraska, Arizona, and the Netherlands, reflecting Jackie's global fan base.

Jackie's popularity is also reinforced by a page in Facebookwith over half a million subscribers who love highlight videos and regular detailed updates. In 2017, the camera captured Jackie's first novel. In front of thousands of people, she mated with an eagle named Mr. B, and in 2018 the couple hatched eggs.

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One of the eaglets died after a 24-hour downpour, but another, named Stormy, survived and left Big Bear Valley that summer.

Shortly thereafter, a new male appeared, drove Mr. B away. and stole Jackie's heart. Shadow and Jackie have been together ever since, producing at least 11 eggs. Only two survived: Simba and Spirit.

Who is in charge?

Anyone who observes an eagle camera for even a few hours will quickly begin to notice many of the birds' quirks.

In terms of personality, Jackie is definitely the boss.

“She is very determined, very serious and expects to get her way,” said Steers.

Jackie is also larger than Shadow and the main protector of the nest, which must be guarded against crows and other predators that eat the couple's eggs.

Although Shadow has to endure Jackie's whims, he is perfect for her. Unlike Mr B.

“She commanded Mr. B like crazy and he was a little weak,” Steers said. "But Shadow sometimes confronts her, and she seems to enjoy it more."

Grief and hope

Since mid-January, fans of Jackie and Shadow have been raving about their two new eggs and have been getting ready to watch the future eagles.

But the terrible news came about the eggs. The chicks did not hatch in time.

"Looks like Jackie and Shadow's eggs won't hatch," a Facebook post posted on February 28. “We can’t know exactly why—they might not have been fertilized, or they might have stopped developing somewhere along the way… We’ll just trust that nature knows better what it’s doing and why.”

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One fan wrote that he was "heartbroken over these two loving and devoted eagle parents."

“I love these two and my heart just breaks for them,” wrote another user. “All this hard time to sit in the nest, in this bad weather, and never give up. Bless them."

As of March 4, Jackie and Shadow were still diligently looking after the eggs, though they sometimes started leaving them unattended for hours at a time. According to Steers, based on their previous behavior with eggs that never hatched, Jackie and Shadow can continue to care for the eggs for several weeks before giving up.

While this is a big blow for both the parents of the eagles and their fans, Steers said there is still hope for them this year.

The couple recently mated and they still have time to lay more eggs, something their fans will be watching closely.

“Fortunately, Jackie and Shadow can hatch eggs for many more years! wrote one fan on Facebook. “I look forward to continuing to watch them.”

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