August 2, 2012 —
Since March, I and thousands of other fans of the great blue heron have thrilled to the close-up observation of a pair of herons, and ultimately their five chicks, thanks to a live webcam hosted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, NY.
As the months unfolded, we watched the pair engage in activities beginning with nest building and concluding with feeding their ravenous chicks. Swept into the drama of their daily survival, we worried over the shocking nighttime attack of a great horned owl, which cost the female her “nuptial plume” feather, and a late snow that blanketed the adults as they huddled over their clutch of beautiful blue eggs. We also marveled at the heroic parenting provided by the male, who devoted extensive hours to nesting and feeding activities.
A similar circumstance transpired in the peregrine falcon nest on the Rachel Carson Building in Harrisburg, PA, when the male was suddenly forced to assume full parenting responsibilities after the female failed to return to the nest one day. Those two chicks successfully fledged and a new adult female has lately appeared.
I am pleased to report that all five heron chicks have fledged. While achieving this milestone is a critical advancement in the young birds’ lives, it by no means guarantees their survival, since many threats to their wellbeing remain. Still, observing the process was indescribably satisfying, as noted in the abundant comments posted by folks who followed the adventure thanks to the webcam.
To see a wonderful video of the most memorable moments from the 2012 heron cam, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=bH5K4tjjBjs&feature=related . The Cornell Lab of Ornithology hosts several other live webcams featuring American kestrels, ospreys and red-tailed hawks. Visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=hP9gUvMQWJA&feature=youtube  to see a video of the red-tailed hawk pair, Big Red and Ezra, who successfully raised three chicks. And consider donating to support this excellent resource.