In a first for technology and for bird watching, thousands of people watched live this weekend as a tiny Great Blue Heron emerged from an egg in between its father's gigantic feet.
With high-definition and nighttime cams streaming 24/7 from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Sapsucker Woods in Ithaca, N.Y., viewers around the world are now able to follow the surprising lives of herons, including rare views still little known to science.
"From the very first night, viewers witnessed little-known events, such as herons courting and mating by moonlight," said Dr. John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "They've watched live as the herons defended their nest, uttering rarely heard, spine-chilling defensive screams as Great Horned Owls attacked in early morning hours. Even the professionals are gaining new insights from these live cams."
The nest has survived several Great Horned Owl attacks, as well as a snowstorm that would have buried the nest in snow if not for the parent steadfastly sitting on the eggs.
More than half a million people from 166 countries have watched the heron cam since March 27. With around-the-clock coverage, viewers Tweet and post screenshots and video clips to help scientists document notable events.
"We've entered an exciting new age for understanding and sharing in the daily lives of birds," said Fitzpatrick. "Live cams, whether they feature hummingbirds, eagles, or herons, are incredibly popular. What's most amazing is that these live videos are equally riveting for scientists, schoolchildren, families, and people of all walks of life."
As of April 30, the nest had five hatchlings. The last egg is due to hatch any time. To watch the heron nest live, visit www.AllAboutBirds.org/CornellHerons
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