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Solar-Powered Camera Focuses on Eagles

Photonics Spectra
Apr 1997
Ruth A. Mendonsa

Northeast Utilities and the Massachusetts Div. of Fisheries and Wildlife have been working together since 1989 to protect and nurture a nest of bald eagles at Barton Cove, in Gill, Mass., one of only nine known nests in the state. There are five in the Quabbin Reservoir area, three along the Connecticut River and one in Southeastern Massachusetts.
Now, the US Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service has committed itself to the effort. The three groups are involved in a joint project using a solar-powered video camera to monitor the bald eagle nest on Northeast Utilities property at Barton Cove. The camera is mounted above the nest, and the images will be displayed on monitors at the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls and at Northeast Utilities' Northfield Mountain Environmental Center.
The trio mounted a Model TC 295 charge-coupled device camera with a Cosmicar 4.0-mm lens from Burle Industries of Lancaster, Pa., on a camouflaged mast attached to a tree that holds the 500-lb nest. The mast is pivoted so it can be raised and lowered to service the video equipment with minimal disturbance. The photovoltaic panels are installed on an A-frame structure on the ground nearby. The panels supply 12-VDC to both the camera and lead acid batteries for energy storage. Besides powering the camera, the photovoltaics provide power to the radio transmitter, which broadcasts the signal back to the wildlife center.
William Stillinger, Northeast Utilities' director of research and environmental planning, said the company's involvement has a twofold purpose: It increases the public's awareness of the bald eagle, and it allows Northeast Utilities to conduct further research into solar photovoltaic power. "Beyond supporting wildlife management and environmental awareness, we'd like to demonstrate with this equipment that solar photovoltaics can supply clean, remote power in a variety of interesting settings.
"There is much to be gained by this technology, and if our feathered friends don't mind the eavesdropping, there is much to be learned about these endangered creatures.

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