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James Donald, Producer, Responds to Viewer Comments

James Donald, one of the producers of American Eagle, responds to some of your comments.

Thank you for all of the comments so far -– I’m touched to see how the film has affected people so deeply. We’re happy that our story of the bald eagle was able to reach such a wide audience. Neil dreamt for years about making a bald eagle film, so the broadcast of this show (and your positive comments) mean the world to him.

I’ve enjoyed reading your observations and look forward to corresponding with those who felt moved to write a comment on this website. I wanted to answer some of the posted questions and to add feedback on some of the postings to date:

  • To answer Ryan’s question, the fish hatchery nest is situated in Decorah, IA. The eagles live on private property though, so no intruding! :-> On a side note, the one-eyed female once caught two trout with one foot. She was a very impressive hunter when she needed to be.
  • Our production team was very moved by Path’s poem. The section of the film involving the death of the one-eyed female and egg was (by far) one of the toughest scenes I’ve ever been a part of editing. My wife was pregnant at the time Neil Rettig reported the deaths to us, so I felt the loss on a deeper level than expected. I was happy though that the male was able to rebuild his family during the next season and that we were able to capture his story for our film.
  • On the other American Eagle comments page, there have been some posts questioning the validity of the impact of DDT on bald eagle eggs. This allows us to delve into the issue a bit further. Be assured, our team thoroughly vetted all of our sources. We were keenly aware of the dissenting opinions regarding the effects of DDT on bald eagles, so we were especially careful and thorough with research on this point. We reviewed a variety of reports published by well-respected journals and took into consideration not only the information in the reports, but also the sources they cited. When considering the evidence appearing to indicate that DDT had little effect on bald eagles or their eggs, the quality of the information or sources did not meet with our strict standards; therefore, we feel confident that our film’s comments about DDT are accurate.
  • I enjoyed looking at Darlene’s photography — especially photos #16 & 19. (The bald Eagle’s wingspan is ridiculously large, and those photos show it off quite well.) Thank you for posting the link to your website. There is nothing like being up close to a bald eagle (although they are not half as scary in person as the harpy eagle — Neil is the caretaker of one on loan from the Peregrine Fund).
  • To re-chime the bell (as rung by Tom), Neil is the best raptor cinematographer I’ve ever worked with. He spent almost two years filming this program and his meticulous attention to detail and his tireless work ethic comes across in the final product. The quality of the footage is extraordinary, considering too that bald eagles are shy by nature and do not like getting close to video cameras. Canon deserves a special shout-out for loaning us a 40X Zoom lens with a built-in stabilizer every once in a while. If you’re interested in picking one up, here’s the link:×14b.html
  • For Sharon V (and to the other bird rehabilitators who wrote in), good luck with your continued success in raptor rehabilitation. Neil and I worked on a separate program titled Raptor Force, which aired last year on NATURE. I’d recommend watching it if you get the chance. It’s definitely a different film than American Eagle in a number of ways but also goes into great detail on raptor flight and hunting techniques.
  • As Deb mentions, there are a ton of webcams that follow nesting pairs of raptors. Bob Anderson maintains a number of such webcams — here is his website:

Thank you again for all of your comments. I look forward to checking in every once in a while to answer any questions you may have about our film. And if you feel like a change of pace, please watch our next film on NATURE, Sunday January 25th at 8pm. It’s all about skunks!


James Donald, Producer



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