The "Internet eagles" of Reelfoot Lake will have their privacy for a little while longer.
Attempts to show minute-by-minute activity in the eagles' nest haven't worked this year. Distance is part of the problem. The eagles, which move every year, built their newest nest in a cypress tree about 300 yards west of the Reelfoot Lake State Park visitor center. That's a little too far to string a coaxial cable, as had been done in previous years to feed the images onto the Web site: www.eaglewatch.com. So, this year, officials decided to beam the images by microwave from the tree to the visitor center. Unfortunately, the signal just isn't strong enough to go that far without a booster.
The eagles themselves make up the other part of the problem. They haven't exactly decided to settle down and start nesting yet this year. David Haggard, the park's interpretive specialist, said the eagles have been seen flying around the nest tree and perched in trees nearby. They just aren't settling into the nest itself.
Neither are most of the other eagles known to nest in the Reelfoot Lake area. Haggard said only two of the eight breeding pairs appear to be incubating eggs at this point. Reelfoot's eagles typically begin laying eggs in mid- to late February.
The two problems may be resolved at the same time. If the eagles settle into the nest and lay eggs, Haggard said equipment will be installed to boost the microwave signal.
Until that happens, anyone who wants to see Reelfoot's bald eagles will just have to go to the lake. The surest eagle-spotting site is behind the visitor center, where two disabled eagles live in a flight cage.
Peg, one of the two disabled eagles, returned to the state park on Saturday after spending about five months at the Raptor Rehabilitation Center at the Memphis Zoo and Aquarium. Peg was found in 1989 with one foot missing. Last fall, the remaining nub became infected and had to be reconstructed. The eagle is still recuperating.
The other eagle, Bly, was found that same year just north of Blytheville, Ark. It apparently suffers from lead poisoning and doesn't have the strength to fly any distance.