Birdcams Provide Unique Opportunity to Viewers

Ospreys gather on a nest at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland. A webcam located below the bird with opened wings gives a close-up view of nesting activity. (Photo: Tom Lorsung)Though National Wildlife Refuges offer visitors the opportunity to see wildlife in their natural habitat, the chance to see animals up close and personal is not always available. Until now. Wildlife enthusiasts now have a medium to peer right into bald eagle and osprey nests, staring into the faces of these majestic birds without disrupting them.

Refuges across the nation have begun installing webcams that allow close viewing of a variety of animals. Birds, however, are the most common subject as their nesting patterns keep them in one place for weeks at a time. Birdcams give viewers sights of birds interacting with one another, caring for their young and living their natural lives.

Cameras at Seal Island NWR are especially strong as they provide high-definition video in which the cameras zoom and pan to fully capture the animals. Viewers feel like they’re standing over birds as tern’s groom themselves and bounce around. Cameras in osprey nests give visitors an understanding of nesting interactions and views of eating patterns after they return to the nest following a fishing trip. For those action-seeking viewers, these cameras can be especially great as they currently offer highlights of the birds due to the conclusion of nesting seasons.

The cams are, however, not without flaws and viewers must be patient with them. Nature works against the upkeep of equipment in a variety of ways including weather and disturbance from animals such as mice chewing on cables. 

As time passes, refuges are looking to improve their cams as much as possible. One such example is the microwave camera installed at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge in New York. Staff hope to update the camera to a more efficient digital version that is less susceptible to disturbance from wind gusts and other frequencies.

“If people down the street turn on their microwave ovens, it messes up our transmission,” says visitor services manager Dorothy Gerhart.

The cameras may require viewer patience at times, but the experience is unmatched. For those seeking to get out and enjoy the wildlife in person, there a variety of bird fests in 2013 as well as many other opportunites to see bald eagles. To find a refuge near you, check the Oh, Ranger! website or download the free Oh,Ranger! ParkFinder appBelow is a list of links to refuge cameras and the viewing opportunities they provide.

Eagles:

Where: Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, MD
When: New camera expected up by early January. Normally operates Nov. — June
Starring: Nesting eagles and their chicks
Watch: http://www.friendsofblackwater.org/camhtm2.html

Where: Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, NY
When: The cam is expected to be back up by January. Best viewing: February — July
Starring: Nesting eagles and their chicks
Watch: http://iroquoisnwr.fws.gov

Where: Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge, OK
When: Camera in operation now. Best viewing: January — July
Starring: Nesting eagles and their chicks
Watch: http://www.suttoncenter.org/pages/live_eagle_camera

Ospreys:

Where: Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, MD
When: Operates year-round. Best viewing: Mid-March — August
Starring: Nesting ospreys and chicks
Watch: http://www.friendsofblackwater.org/camhtm.html

Where: Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, NY
When: Images update every 30 seconds. Best viewing: March — August.
Starring: Nesting ospreys and chicks
Watch: http://newyorkwild.org/osprey/osprey.htm

Where: Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge, ID
When: March — August
Starring: Nesting ospreys and chicks
Watch: http://ospreycamdeerflatnwr.blogspot.com/

Common terns:

Where: Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge, ME
When: Best live viewing: May — August. At other times, shows pre-recorded video.
Starring: Graceful black-and-white water birds
Watch: http://explore.org/#!/live-cams/player/common-tern-cam

Puffins:

Where: Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge, ME
When: Late May to early August. At other times, shows pre-recorded video.
Starring: Atlantic puffins head for land each spring to breed in colonies on Maine coastal islands located 20 miles offshore. National Audubon Society and explore.org teamed up to provide this live high-definition streaming video of the country’s largest population of the seabirds.
Watch: http://explore.org/#!/live-cams/player/puffin-loafing-ledge-cam

Common murre:

Where: Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, CA
When: Spring
Starring: Common murres, Brandt's cormorant, Westen gulls, brown pelicans
Watch: http://www.fws.gov/sfbayrefuges/murre/webcam.htm

Image: Ospreys gather on a nest at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland. A webcam located below the bird with opened wings gives a close-up view of nesting activity. Source: Tom Lorsung