By Michele S. Byers
Imagine a fantastic wildlife safari with bald eagles feeding chicks, wolves curled up in their den, elephants at a water hole in Africa, polar bears making their way across arctic ice and brightly-colored Brazilian rainforest birds in the canopy.
You don’t need a passport and fat bank account! Thanks to the newest generation of webcams – video cameras set up at wildlife hotspots – you can get a daily nature fix in real time on your computer at home.
Webcams are set up all around the world, allowing wildlife lovers to spy on animals as they eat, sleep, play and care for their young. It’s awe-inspiring and completely addictive!
Here are some of the coolest, starting with three in the Garden State:
Duke Farms in Hillsborough set up its “eagle cam” several years ago to monitor a bald eagle nest in a tall tree. The eagle cam was damaged in a storm last spring, but it’s now back in operation. Two eggs were laid in mid-February, and the eaglets should be hatching in late March or early April. Watch for the emergence of the chicks at www.dukefarms.org/en/ Stewardship/WildlifeCams/eagle-cam/.
Ospreys were once rare in New Jersey, but they’re making a comeback. Osprey cams with a view of nesting platforms are up at Island Beach State Park and the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Neither was live as of March 22, but both are expected to be activated soon. Check the Forsythe osprey cam at www.conservewildlifenj.org/education/ospreycam and the Friends of Island Beach State Park website at friendsofislandbeach.org/osprey-cam-2013.
Peregrine falcons are the world’s fastest bird, and for the last few years viewers have avidly monitored a nesting pair on a ledge at a high-rise office building in Jersey City. Due to budget cuts, the webcam isn’t live yet, but stay tuned at www.nj.gov/dep/fgw/ peregrinecam/index.html. In the meantime, check out this streaming video of a peregrine nest in Columbus, Ohio: ohiodnr.com/wildlife/dow/falcons/live_nestbox_ video.aspx.
One of the world’s most popular wildlife webcams shows Pete’s Pond, a waterhole in the Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana, Africa. Many animals come to drink, including herds of elephant, eland, impala, lions, warthogs and baboons. The live-streaming camera continuously pans and zooms to show many views, and the pond is illuminated at night. Become a “pondie” by visiting www.ustream.tv/petespond.
If you’re fascinated by polar bears, you’ll love the Polar Bear cam on the National Geographic website. Rigged with a live camera, a “Tundra Buggy” roves the tundra in Manitoba, Canada, tracking polar bears and other native species like arctic fox during daylight hours. Go to http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/polar-bear-cam.
To get acquainted with wolves, check out the webcam at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minn., during daylight hours. The wolves aren’t howling out in the wild, but viewers can appreciate the beauty of these magnificent creatures in their protected reserve. See the wolves at www.wolf.org/wolves/ webcams/exhibitcam.asp.
To go on a birding trip to the rainforest, visit the Ornithos Atlantic Rainforest webcam in Brazil. You can see tons of colorful birds, including parrots and hummingbirds, as well as fruit bats, as they come to feed. Check them out at www.worldlandtrust.org/webcams/ornithos.
Next time you’re feeling a touch of “nature deficit disorder” and need a quick cure, click on a wildlife webcam. Even a few minutes as an armchair naturalist will lift your spirits!
And to learn more about preserving land and natural resources in New Jersey, visit New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michele S. Byers is the executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.