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Watching a wonder unfold

April 12, 2012

For the past week, I have fallen under the thrall of a mesmerizing event that is being streamed live via two webcams hosted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. A pair of herons are tending five beautiful blue eggs in a nest built in a dead white oak in the middle of Sapsucker Woods pond outside the Cornell Lab’s Johnson Center for Birds and Biodiversity in the Ithaca, NY region.

The fifth egg was laid on April 6. At month’s end, viewers are in for a treat when the eggs hatch, during the final week of April. Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, the dedication of Cornell staff and the pair of herons providing the show, we can all experience the moments when the eggs crack and the chicks, covered in pale gray down, begin to emerge.

According to the website, herons have nested there since 2009, hatching and fledging four young each year. The male and female share incubation duties for 25-30 days and the young hatch at various times over a period of two to five days. They will remain in the nest for seven to eight weeks before taking their first flight.

In summer 2009, the herons began building the nest. Now nearly four feet across and a foot deep, it wraps almost entirely around the trunk of the tree. Herons also form colonies or “heronries,” with multiple nests made from sticks placed high in trees.

Accessing the Cornell Lab’s webcam also allows viewers to hear the natural sounds emanating from the ten-acre pond and surrounding woods, such as a chorus of spring peepers and occasional honks from Canada geese. As the herons’ feathers ruffle in the wind and the clouds drift overhead, the effect can be likened to viewing a living painting. See the not-so-minor miracle underway at Join in the lively chat that has developed. And consider making a donation to sustain this wonderful resource.