Monday, April 11, 2011

Nature, via my computer

It seemed like it would never come, but Spring is finally beginning to arrive. Little buds are appearing everywhere, and the chill is disappearing from the air, along with the last mounds of gray snow. And I, as usual at this time of year, can't tear myself away from my computer because of one of the most amazing innovations technology can offer us: animal cams.

Last year, it was a hummingbird cam that riveted me. The camera was zoomed up so close to the nest that the birds looked huge, but in fact each baby was about the size of my thumbnail, and most of that space was taken up by their wide open beaks that followed their mother around like weathervanes. It looked exhausting, frankly, but it sure was fun to watch. They got bigger, and sprouted little pin feathers, and I could hardly stand to miss a second of it.

I wasn't watching, though, when disaster struck: a crow attacked the nest, sending both babies tumbling to the ground. The person whose property the nest (and cam) was on went searching and was able to rescue one baby, but the other one didn't make it. Finally, not long after the crow attacked, the lone remaining baby fledged, and I (of course) cried. After that, he could still be seen nearby for a while, but gradually less and less and eventually I moved on to other things, like leaving my house.

This year, my new obsession is a bald eagle cam. It's much grittier than the hummingbird cam, highlighting several of the more bloodthirsty aspects of nature (well, so did the crow I suppose, but the hummingbirds themselves seemed the epitome of pure innocence). The three babies are cute, but if the mom were a celebrity, she'd be more Dustin Hoffman as Tootsie than Julia Roberts. And she's messy: she constantly has blood all over her feathers, and sometimes drops entrails on her babies. C'mon, Mom! You're teaching them bad habits.

And then there's lunch, which is prominently displayed in the foreground of the screen. It varies from day to day, but often consists of some body parts of a rabbit, like the head or hindquarters, which Mom greedily dips her beak into from time to time, coming away with long strands of rabbit meat hanging down the sides of her beak; a fish, or some part of one; and, frankly, I wouldn't be that surprised if a cat showed up one day. Yum!

It's pretty awesome, as you can tell. Coming up soon on the eagle cam: sibling rivalry continues; the awkward teenage days; and the outcome -- will all the eaglets survive? Seriously, it's better than a soap opera.

Check it out!

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