On the windy morning of April 24, a bald eagle perched at the edge of its nest in Hancock County, and bent its stately white head down to the open mouth of a newborn chick. Breakfast was served.
This avian family, sheltered in the branches of a tall white pine, are being watched by people around the world through a nest cam set up and monitored by the Biodiversity Research Institute and sponsored by Brookfield Renewable Energy Group.
The camera, called “Eaglecam1″ is streaming live at www.briloon.org/eaglecam1, where viewers watch for free and chat about what they’re seeing. By April 24, the stream had been viewed more than 1.3 million times.
The eagle chick likely hatched sometime between April 21 and 23, according to the channel’s social stream.
“It’s just so hard to tell for sure, since we can’t see into the bowl,” posted Eaglecam1 viewer Birdnerd57.
“A lot of guessing at this nest,” posted Birdsafe.
But there was no doubt by April 24 that a chick was indeed in the nest. Its mother was busy feeding it bits of who-knows-what all morning, and as the chick stretched up for food, it’s fuzzy head popped up above the bowl of the nest.
“That was more food that Dad brought earlier. Can’t tell what it was, though,” posted Birdnerd57 at 12:47 p.m., after watching the mother feed the chick bits of food stored at the edge of the nest.
Eaglecam1 is one of the three wildlife web cams set up by the Biodiversity Research Institute in Hancock County. Cameras are in place at a second bald eagle nest, which is currently unoccupied, and a peregrine falcon nest, which is currently off air.
And these cameras aren’t the only opportunity for people to watch Maine wildlife streaming online. Multimedia organization Explore.org, in partnership with the National Audubon Society, runs several wildlife web cams on Maine’s islands.
On April 6, through an Explore.org camera, Internet users watched two ospreys return to their nest on Maine’s Hog Island after wintering in South America. The pair, nicknamed Rachel and Steve, are now engaged in courtship rituals. For Steve, this means gathering sticks and softer materials, such as lichen and bark, to line the nest. For Rachel, this means accepting the materials and building up the nest.
A nest cam is broadcasting their every move at explore.org, where internet users can view a live stream for free and chat about the birds. The stream has currently been viewed more than 3.6 million times. To tune in, visit explore.org/live-cams/player/live-osprey-cam.
The pair is expected to start laying eggs within the next 10 days, according to Janine Parziale, who manages Explore.org webcams across the country. If they’re successful, Rachel will do most of the incubating. She’ll remain on the eggs to keep them warm and protect them from predators. And Steve will be busy providing them with most of their meals, which will undoubtedly be a variety of fish. In fact, osprey are the only birds of prey whose diet consists almost entirely of fish.
As viewers watch the stream, they can leave instant comments in the comment section at the bottom of the webpage.
“We have 157,000 comments right now just about the birds,” said Parziale. “The audience can share photos they’ve taken, speculate on the identity of the birds and the behaviors and meanings behind them. And often experts from the Audubon are tuning in to moderate and answer questions from the audience.”
Later in the summer, Explore.org will host live chats about the osprey pair, with top ornithologists from around the world answering questions from the audience.
“We try to make these cameras not just about watching nature, but also about learning about the nature,” said Parziale.
Osprey eggs hatch after an incubation period of 35-42 days, according to the Audubon. During incubation and chick rearing, the eggs and chicks are seldom left alone, even at night to protect the chicks from predators.
About fifty days after hatching, the young begin exercising their wings then take their first practice flights from the nest. And in early September, the young will begin their solo journey from Maine, heading south along the Atlantic Flyway, passing through the Caribbean to winter in South America.
Through the Hog Island osprey cam, viewers have the chance to watch this process day and night. The high definition camera is equipped with an infrared light that produces a sharp image of the nest at nighttime, which is often when osprey choose to lay their eggs, according to Parziale.
“Theres been such great involvement from all of these viewers around the world and country,” Parziale said. “They love these birds. They’ve fallen in love with Rachel and Steve, so much so that they want to visit them — and that’s a great thing because the Hog Island Audbon Camp is a place for people to come and visit.”
Since 1936, the Hog Island Audubon Camp has offered environmental education programs for adults, teens, families and conservation leaders on the 330-acre island in Muscongus Bay. And in response to the osprey cam’s huge following, the Audubon developed a new program for summer 2014 called “Rapture Rapture,” which will focus on the famous osprey pair. The program, July 13-18, had a few slots open as of April 24.
In partnership with the Audubon, Explore.org also maintains web cams on Maine’s remote Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge. Throughout the year, these cameras stream video of seals, puffins, terns, razorbills and other seabirds that people rarely get a chance to see. While these cameras are not currently streaming live, Internet users can watch highlights from prior seasons at explore.org.
The puffin burrow cam is predicted to be streaming live by late May or early June, Parziale said.
- Grey seal camera: http://explore.org/live-cams/player/seal-pups-cam
- Puffin loafing ledge camera: http://explore.org/live-cams/player/puffin-loafing-ledge-cam
- Puffin burrow camera: http://explore.org/live-cams/player/puffin-burrow-cam