Bird Reality Shows
Webcams have opened up a whole new world of reality viewing. The webcam beginnings were nerdy, captivating and, at times, shocking. The first webcam, invented in 1993 by students and academics at Cambridge University, was used to broadcast the coffee level of their machine to make sure they did not waste a trip to an empty pot. A couple years later, a college student used a webcam to stream her daily dorm life on the internet, even her most private moments. Needless to say, she became an internet sensation and the rest is history as far as streaming human behavior goes.
Bird cams got off to a slower start, much of it due to the poor viewing experience from low resolution, slow internet speeds and difficulties of filming outdoors. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology launched its first bird cams in 1998 but credits the technology in the last ten years as vastly improving the experience and finally engaging viewer interest. And many of these bird webcams became captivating and at times shocking by giving a daily insight into the stark realities of nature. The dilemmas created by watching nestlings being eaten or falling out of the nest or their parents bringing prey such as domestic pets have caused angst amongst the human viewers. The question of whether to intervene to prevent natural acts that human consider harsh is an ongoing dialog in many instances where watching video exposes one of these situations. In general, these webcams have provided a trove of information to scientists about bird behavior that can be recorded and accessed through this marvel of technology. And it brings convenient wildlife viewing to millions without threatening the health of the natural environment when having humans physically visiting to observe.
Here are a couple of the cams I will watch in the winter season:
-the African cams are nice to watch at night here in central US since, due to the time change, it is daylight over there. With green vegetation, singing birds and fantastic wildlife in their summer prime, it makes for a nice alternative reality on my computer screen during the snowy months here. This website Explore.org has a little bit of everything from aquarium tanks to kitten rescue to pandas to game preserves in Africa.
-closer to my home is the Decorah Iowa bald eagle nest where a pair of eagles are getting ready to nest. Seems crazy that they will be laying eggs in a month given the snow and cold but this is what eagles do. The non-profit Raptor Resource Project has numerous webcams supporting eagles, peregrine falcons and kestrels in addition to hosting a look into one of the busiest flyways, the Upper Mississippi River.
The Cornell Lab has 16 cams that operate either all year or during the nesting season. The resolution and audio are impressive and the cam websites have great information. Lastly one of my favorite winter ones is the Ontario FeederWatch Cam where you can view the colorful boreal birds such as the Pine and Evening Grosbeaks and Redpolls.
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