Reality TV never gets old, even for bird watchers.
New high-definition cameras at the company’s four Bird Cam nest-box sites led to nearly triple the number of website views this past nesting season – as page views jumped from half a million to more than 1.3 million.
Social media activity also skyrocketed for the Bird Cam program. More than 600,000 impressions were recorded, as compared to just 230,000 last year. And “likes” jumped from 3,500 to more than 20,000.
There was good news on the televised egg-hatching front, as well. Three bald eagles fledged at Fort St. Vrain Generating Station in Colorado, and two peregrine falcons fledged at both the King and Sherco plants in Minnesota. A recent banding event at King set up the two new falcons there for ongoing monitoring in the years ahead.
A fourth camera, showing an owl nest at Fort St. Vrain, revealed two eggs laid, but those eggs did not hatch. At other company nest boxes without cameras, however, there also was plenty of activity, including:
For the upcoming 2019 season, Xcel Energy is updating the Bird Cam webpage on the company’s website to improve navigation and enhance the customer experience, said Curt Dominicak, manager of Environmental Services and Media Compliance. The company’s Environmental Services group took over ownership of the effort this year.
“Thanks to the power plants, Business Systems and Communications for their support, hard work and dedication to the program,” he said. “The effort shows Xcel Energy’s commitment to coexisting responsibly with wildlife and the natural habitats that surround our facilities.”
In 1989, a plant employee spotted a rare peregrine falcon at the King plant in Oak Park Heights, Minn. That sighting became the start of a nest-box program and the Bird Cam web feature, which have drawn wide attention and been duplicated by utilities around the world ever since.
Peregrine falcons began disappearing from their natural habitats during the 1950s. By 1965, they had virtually disappeared from the eastern United States, with only a handful remaining in the Rocky Mountains.
In an effort to save the peregrine falcon, Xcel Energy became an active partner with the the nonprofit Raptor Resource Project to design and install a nest box for peregrines at the King plant. The nest box became the home to Mae, a peregrine famed for her longevity and parenting skills.
As the peregrine population grew, so did the nesting-box effort; which included active nest boxes at nearly all of the company’s Minnesota power plants.
In 1997, Xcel Energy wanted to increase conservation-awareness efforts and provide the public with opportunities to watch the birds and their families grow each spring. The first Bird Cam cameras were installed at King, inside its falcon nest box located at the top of the boiler.
An ongoing partnership with the Raptor Resource Project continues to help Xcel Energy maintain and improve its Bird Cam program.
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