If you live in one of the states like ours, you have been told to stay home, except for the infrequent or necessary trip for groceries and medications. As I wrote last time, we are living in a time that has no charted course and so we are left to dwell too often on the negative. As you know by now, birds are one source of positive feelings and hope for the future.
Normally, my husband and I are working away from home during the months of April and May, which means we miss a great many of the migrating birds that stop here. We have been keeping a record for the past 33 years that we have lived here of the birds that stop by or fly over our property. This year we will be home for all eight weeks when migration gradually grows and peaks near the end of May. Depending on where you live, migration could be in full swing now or even last month. We consider this a silver lining in our troubled world.
I most often talk about watching birds through your windows, but there is another way to watch birds in places previously hidden to our eyes. The development of webcams has changed all that. These are small recording devices or cameras that can be put in the nests of various birds. These can be birds that nest in a cavity or box of some kind, like Owls, Wood Ducks, or Woodpeckers, to name a few. But even birds that have nests exposed to the elements are being watched in real time by placing a camera on a nearby branch before the birds begin their nesting season. I know you may feel a little voyeuristic, but these are fascinating and entertaining ways of watching birds from the comfort of your home.
I have watched Bald Eagles sit on their nests through snowstorms so bad that the adults are nearly buried and you
think it’s impossible for the eggs to hatch or for the young to survive, but they do. Watching the parent’s bring food to the nest and feeding the young can be dramatic and heartrending as you watch one of the young being shoved out of the way by its bigger siblings. You can keep these birdcams up on your computer and just come back and check on the activity periodically during the day. Sometimes it’s a little boring, but other times it can be exciting.
I know there are webcams in owl nests , hawk nests and eagle nests recording the same types of behavior. One thing I learned watching a pair of eagles on their nest is that housekeeping is not high on their list, as evidenced by the fish and rabbit carcasses strewn across the nest.
Some of the cams are wired for sound too. I watched a video of a Barred Owl hooting just after her eggs hatched, as if she were announcing to the world, or at least to her mate that the long awaited day had arrived. Through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology you can not only watch live action video, but many other videos recorded previously in other nests.
We have neighbors who have Wood Duck nest boxes and for several years now they have been putting a camera in
one of the boxes. They have it set up so that they can see what’s going on by watching their TV. There is much drama and mystery as one hen lays her eggs and a while later a different one comes in and lays hers. This can sometimes lead to a super abundance of eggs and not all will hatch.
Our neighbors have learned to recognize when the mother duck is ready to leave the nest along with her recently hatched ducklings. Knowing we’d enjoy the show, they have called us over to watch and we got to see how the little ones struggled to climb up the wall to the nest opening and then launch themselves into the air. Amazingly, the mother duck knows when all of the young have come out and she won’t leave before that happens. We can only assume that she can hear the last one trying to get out. Talk about anxiety – both for the duck and for the humans watching this drama. Eventually they all leave the nest and the mother immediately leads them into the grass and down a steep hill to the river below. This is a show that you can watch over and over again – it never gets old or boring.
This takes your bird watching to another level, one that was impossible not that long ago. Spend some time each day ignoring the news on the TV or radio and tune in to life happening all over the country.
By Kate Crowley