People who started as strangers have become friends, spending every weekend on a portion of the Great Allegheny Passage trail, gazing upward.
They watch a pair of bald eagles nesting six miles from downtown Pittsburgh. They bring lawn chairs and telephoto camera lenses. Some wear binoculars; others are clad in camouflage, waiting for the birds to fly overhead to the Monongahela River to hunt for fish.
Often, joggers and cyclists stop and ask what the group is looking at.
LISTEN: “Pittsburghers Showing the Love for Bald Eagles”
That’s when they show off their knowledge. They tell them how the male and female eagles switch off egg guarding duty, what kind of fish the birds bring back to the nest, how they roll the eggs to keep a steady temperature and that the nest is the size of a queen mattress.
“They’re killing machines,” says Dan Dasynich. “That’s all they do is reproduce and kill. That’s all they’re meant to be.”
Daysnich watched a live video stream of the eagles in the nest on his phone, while waiting behind his camera for the birds to fly.
The webcam brings most of the bird watchers to the trail.
The Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania got a permit from the Pennsylvania Game Commission to install a camera for educational purposes in 2014 after a pair of eagles nested in Pittsburgh’s Hays neighborhood.
Jim Bonner, the Audubon Society’s Executive Director, says, until that year, eagles hadn’t nested in the region since before records were kept. Some researchers think that could be as long as 200 years.