Volume 28 Issue 1, Winter 2023
by Kim Strader, Volunteer Coordinator
Loudoun Wildlife is fortunate to have around 430 volunteers who contribute over 11,000 hours a year to support our work. The vast majority of our volunteers are individuals, but we also have a few families and multiple couples volunteering together, like Cindy and George Bertholdt. Anyone who regularly follows the Dulles Greenway Eagle Cam Program may know them as Earlybird and Wingman.
Cindy and George were among the first people to volunteer when the Eagle Cam program was established in 2021. This program is unique for Loudoun Wildlife because it is an all-remote opportunity that attracts volunteers from around the country and has a worldwide audience. We have never met the Bertholdts in person, but from the start, it was clear their help would be invaluable as we soared into experiencing the life of Bald Eagles through the live-stream camera.
Cindy (aka Earlybird) began the couple’s journey into remote eagle cameras by volunteering with the American Eagle Foundation as a monitor for the U.S. National Arboretum nest in 2017, while George continued to work full time. Cindy quickly discovered it was extremely helpful to have a camera operator to assist with the nest monitoring, but one was not always available. She told George about her dilemma, and when he retired in 2018, George became her “Wingman,” providing the support she needed. Thus, the Earlybird and Wingman dynamic eagle-cam duo was born, and Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy benefits greatly from their participation in the Dulles Greenway Eagle Cam Program.
Together the Bertholdts observe and report the Greenway eagles’ activities in the Nest Activity Log. Cindy’s creative narrative is fun to read as she brings the eagles to life by documenting the daily lives of Rosa and Martin. We learn about nest arrival and departure times, nest work, mating, nest visits from other wildlife, and food/prey delivery. In early February we hope to see egg laying! George’s legendary camera work not only facilitates observing and documenting eagle activity, it also provides excellent footage of our pair of Bald Eagles. George gladly shares his camera experience with fellow volunteers, providing camera training and backup technical support by monitoring camera health and system settings.
The Bertholdts’ work can also be seen in the many videos, photographs, and screenshots posted on the Dulles Greenway Eagles’ Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube pages. We often use their work for the Friday Eagle posts on the Loudoun Wildlife Facebook and Instagram pages.
We are fortunate that Earlybird and Wingman (Cindy and George) are on board with our program and share their tremendous knowledge of eagles, experience with operating remote cameras, and skills for engaging with a worldwide audience. Everyone who
interacts with the Dulles Greenway Eagle Cam has benefited from this couple’s involvement. Many thanks to Cindy and George Bertholdt — and to all of the couples, families, and individuals who volunteer with Loudoun Wildlife. Your involvement is vital to helping create a place where people and wildlife thrive together.