Friday, April 6, 2012
More from the Heron Web Cam
If you didn’t see my last post, you should probably read that first. I’ve been watching a web cam put up by the Lab of Ornithology at Cornell, University, New York. ( http://www.allaboutbirds.org/page.aspx?pid=2433 ) The birds first nested in Sapsucker Woods, Cornell in 2009. This year Cornell put up a web cam before the birds returned in the spring. On April 1 I was watching when the female laid her third egg. Here are today’s notes:
April 3 -- 2:45 PM: With a little luck and information I’ve come back to my computer to heron watch. If the heron lays a fourth egg in the same time line, it should happen in the next couple of hours. Big IF. I’m going to sketch while I watch.
The female was on the nest when I first arrived. I knew right away I hadn’t arrived late for the party. One of the herons was standing, carefully tucking a couple very fine sticks into the nest cup. When I’ve looked at a heron nest from below all I see are rather coarse sticks. With the web cam I see fine twigs line the nest cup. It isn’t nice and fluffy like an eagle’s nest or a raven’s, but at least more comfy looking that I expected. I’ve seen adults bring in lots of sticks, but not little twigs.
The male just brought in a funny looking stick. Lots of little branchlets on one end. Is that where little twigs come from? The female stands, then bows low with her long neck plumes wired out. She croaks as she dips, then reaches for the offering. All too soon it is the female that flies off. Darn. The waiting game is on.
The web cam even has sound. Occasionally I hear a heron, but there is also a pleasant chatter of crows cawing in the distance, a hen mallard quacking and maybe a cardinal. Canada geese erupt into a squabble every so often. There are more calls, but I don’t know my eastern bird calls well.
3:45 PM: The male starts calling. The female is on her way in with a stick. She doesn’t stay long. I’m juggling drawing and trying to get a little housework done. Nothing is going to happen while he is on the nest!
5:25 PM I’m still watching. The sun has gone down (remember the nest is on the East Coast and I’m on the West Coast). The female has been on the nest for awhile. The web cam gives us a surprisingly good image using just ambient night light. I can see her plumes, an eye, and even some bill color. The calls of spring peepers fill the night. Earlier over 34,000 people were watching the web cam, but now that it is dark the numbers of people have dropped way off.
The female still lies flat on the nest, but she is fluffing the long plumes on her back -- a slow motion bellows. The feathers go up ... and down ... and up ... and down. Is this it??
All is quiet for about a minute and then she stands ....... yes! A fourth egg lies in the nest. 5:26 PM West Coast time (8:26 PM cornell time). Laura, at the Lab of Ornithology, did a wonderful job of predicting when the fourth egg would be laid.
According to the web cam moderators four eggs is what they expect, although a fifth could come. Incubation is about 28 days. First egg could hatch May 24. It’ll be a long wait between now and then.