As the impact of technology has revolutionized our lives, online web cams have brought a new dimension to birding. In the age of virtual birding, binoculars, boots and a hike into the forest are no longer needed. Now, strategically placed web cams send digital images and video feed to points across the globe. An example reported last year by the American Birding Association (ABA) involved a birder from Louisiana, Matt Brady, who spotted a rare Yellow-throated Warbler on camera at the Farallon Island lighthouse near San Francisco. Brady was able to alert local biologists about the unusual sighting and it “may have marked the first time a vagrant bird has ever been spotted, identified, reported, and chased via webcam – a significant moment in postmodern birding,” according to the ABA blog.
Originally, Departments of Natural Resources (DNR) or research units such as The Cornell Lab of Ornithology were first to invest in and use bird cams. Later, utility companies got in on the act. Xcel Energy’s bird cams offer views of how eagles, falcons, herons, kestrels, ospreys and owls live, eat and nest. If non-raptor birds of another feather tickle your fancy, there are myriad resources to increase your audubon knowledge or to be able to watch live footage of exotic birds in other continents.
In North America, spring is a great season to watch nesting birds raise their young. In Minnesota, October brings the familiar V-shape of migrating Canadian geese honking overhead amid the colorful autumn landscape. Before temperatures plunge, now is a good time to create your own backyard bird sanctuary to help our feathered friends through the winter.
The Minnesota DNR offers tips and you can purchase Black Max™ and Cardinal Crunch™ premium mixes to attract Northern Cardinals, which have strong, thick bills that can easily handle larger seeds. Another year-round resident, the Black-capped Chickadee, prefers shelled peanuts, suet and black oil sunflower seeds while finches – American, Purple or Goldfinch – will enjoy Finch Max™ and Nyjer Seed.
Affordable equipment and online access have made virtual birding a fun and accessible hobby. Even a novice birder can set up an outdoor wireless web camera by the nearest tree branch or feeder. Winter may temper outdoor and backwoods birding but you can still enjoy this hobby year round on YouTube, Facebook or dedicated ‘ebirding’ sites.
Video of MNBound eaglet hatch on April 15, 2013