Birdcams, or how to lose track of huge chunks of time

I had never watched a cam of any kind (engine, traffic, shoreline) until I came across a link in a newsletter one day. It was an eagle cam on a farm someplace in Iowa, and they’d been watching this nest for years. In fact the same eagle pair returned every year. I tuned in after the first eaglet had hatched and watching the mom eagle feed the baby had me hooked. Every day I watched this nest and, though I did not know enough to chime in with the chat on the site enjoyed “listening” to their conversations. A chat voyeur I suppose, but I learned extremely important terms for understanding what was going on: when it rained the mother eagle turned herself into “mombrella”. When either parent was on the nest and not feeding the young and maybe got bored with nothing else to do they made “nestorations.”

Then the other babies came along. There was much vying for food at this point. A lot of knocking each other down and out of the way. And it was certainly true that the more aggressive one got whatever tasty morsel of fish, squirrel or some other unfortunate rodent was torn from the carcass. The little legs could not yet support their growing bodies so they sat on their little bums with their legs sticking out in front of them, their soon-to-be lethal talons as yet useless.

Then the babies became stronger and we had much “wingercizing”. This, too could prove a problem if another eaglet was in the way and got knocked over, or worse knocked clear out of the nest. That did not happen much but it did happen to a pretty grim outcome.

Some of these cams are funded by Cornell University and those who love to watch the growing up of the babies and their care along the way, and so are on 24 hours. You’d think the night cam would be pretty boring, nothing to see but a pile of eaglets with their mom or dad, all having their heads under their wings. Well, mostly you’d be right but every so often some idiot racoon gets the idea he might savor a tasty eaglet morsel and ventures up to the nest, only to be met by a fierce mom or dad eagle, beating the life out of the racoon with their wings.

My favorite cam right now is an osprey pair in Missoula, Montana. They call them the Hellgate Ospreys. They haven’t laid any eggs yet but the nest is building.

You should try it, if you’ve got many hours of idle time. Or not.

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