A few years ago I discovered Cornell University’s live bird cams. I became obsessed with watching Big Red and Ezra as they prepared their nest, nurtured the eggs in all kinds of weather, kept their young well fed and finally helped them to fledge to continue their education free in the wild. It was so beautiful and tender and mind blowing to watch this family survive and go about their activities of daily living. There was much drama throughout the months that spanned egg laying to fledge time.
I traveled via bird cam to Hawaii where I watched a Laysan Albatross hatch and survive to spread his wings and soar for the first time out over the Pacific six months later. There was a beautiful video of Spike (my nickname for him) as he took to his wings for the first time. I learn so very much from the postings of expert birders on these cam sites. A Laysan Albatross may be hatched in January and his parents have to care for him until July before he can fly away on his own to spend a couple of years riding the thermal waves above the ocean. Doesn’t sound too difficult until we learn that the preferred food of the Albatross is squid. To get this squid food, his parents fly as far as Japan or Alaska, gorge themselves, fly back to their chick and regurgitate the rich liquid to their offspring’s begging mouth. And they do this over and over and over again.
I’ve enjoyed a backyard cam in Ontario Canada in the dead of winter and the feeders on Sapsucker Woods Pond in Ithaca, New York. Each feeder explodes with different species of birds and can be a source of great entertainment for birdwatchers particularly if they are physically handicapped and are unable to trapse around in the bushes in search of new birds.
So, here is my conundrum….Many birders keep a Life List of all the birds they have seen or identified. We work hard at adding new birds to our Life List. It is an exciting endeavor filled with much anticipation. So, if I am watching a bird cam in some far away place and I see a species of bird that is new to me, is it politically correct for me to be able to add it to my Life List? I ask this question sometimes to different birders and have received all different kinds of replies. The staunch dyed-in-the-wool birders say “No way…cam birds aren’t legal to count. You have to go out looking for them.” The way I interpret this response is…” I have spent a lot of time and money doing this hobby the hard way and if I suffered then so should you”. This mindset is similar to the way some experienced nurses will treat new graduates…I suffered and you should also. However, many times the response is “I’m not sure” or “I have never thought about that” but when I back my choice with justifiable reasons FOR bird cams being a legitimate means of adding to a birding Life List, often I am able to swing them to my way of thinking.
Since I am a nurse, I have spent a career dealing with many patients with impaired mobility. These people, many times through no fault of their own, can’t physically get out and about to pursue a hobby such as bird watching. I strongly believe that in this advanced age of technology, why not take advantage of the live bird cams to experience the joy of nature, observe and learn about the many different species and by doing so expand our world. Why not let it count? I will always resoundingly say “Yes” since I don’t believe that one has to be physically present to experience the thrill of spotting your very first Pileated Woodpecker. I am forever thankful for the technology that has enabled me to see many species and their habits up close and personal when otherwise it might not have been possible.
Happy bird searching in person or via cam. In my world it counts!!!