Amusing Monday: Watching wildlife around the world

You can learn a lot about the birds and the bees — not to mention the bears and a whole lot of other creatures — by watching a live telecast among hundreds of webcams fixed on wildlife in every corner of the globe.

Each location has its own story and its own history, but many existing webcams are coming under the support and networking of Explore.org, an educational program funded by the Annenberg Foundation, with special attention from Charles Annenberg Weingarten.

One live cam is situated near an osprey nest on Hog Island (first video), an educational nature camp in Maine that has been associated with Audubon since 1936. Today, Hog Island Audubon Camp is operated by Project Puffin, which is part of National Audubon Society’s Science Division.

Staff at the camp are among the best at providing context for what we are seeing at the osprey nest, which can be viewed 24 hours a day. For example, here are yesterday’s notes, which you can access by clicking on “Pop comments” — a feature found on all Explore.org websites:

“Happy Sunday, Osprey Friends! Drum roll please! Our chicks have been named by Hog Island’s staff and instructors. May I present to you:

  • Halley, the female chick – banded as EU – is named after the osprey’s species name haliaetus
  • Dion, the male chick – banded ES – is named after the genus of the Osprey (Pandion)

The recent adventures of this osprey family include an incident in which the mother, Rachel, was injured on July 9. She was seen flying off as another pair of ospreys approached, and there was also an eagle in the area. When Rachel returned, she was not able to stand, and it was clear that she had a problem with her left leg. She stayed in the nest, unable to eat or feed her chicks at first, but she has been recovering and doing much better day by day. Worried people from all over the country have posted hundreds of comments as they watch Rachel get back to her daily duties.

Another great osprey cam is located at Dunrovin Guest Ranch along the Bitterroot River near Missoula in Western Montana. I can’t begin to discuss dozens of other live cams at nesting sites, but you can go to Explore.org’s website and click on “birds” at the top of the page.

As for bees, one can become hypnotized by watching the strange vibrations of honey bees in a hive in the town of Waal in Bavaria, Germany. An infrared camera shows the activities of the bees inside the hive (second video) , while a second camera captures the comings and goings of these fascinating insects. (Fullscreen, of course, is the only way to watch these videos.)

We must not forget the bears of Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park in Alaska, which is watched on computer and cell-phone screens by thousands of people each day. I don’t think there is a more popular wildlife cam on the web. Besides the main view at the falls (third video), there are other cameras on the river and even one under the water to catch a glimpse of salmon passing by. Go to Brooks Falls Brown Bears.

The Brooks Falls bears are so popular because you can almost always see these large animals doing their best to catch salmon, and the scene is constantly changing.

It is a different situation if you want to catch a view of orcas. The serene view at Cracroft Point in Johnstone Strait in British Columbia is said to be one of the most common foraging areas for the Northern Resident killer whales. Boats move through this area fairly frequently, and if you watch long enough you might see whales. Notes from OrcaLab about the whales’ location may be helpful.

If you don’t see something worth watching in one of the coastal cameras, you can click on the highlight videos on Explore.org. The cameras are maintained by OrcaLab, a research station on Hanson Island founded by Paul Spong.

One thing I should mention about all these live cams: If nothing is happening at the moment, you can usually put your curser on the timeline and scroll backward until something interesting comes into the picture. Sometimes, however, such scrolling will take you to a highlight video, so it’s important to know when you are seeing a live view and when you are not.

From Explore.org, click on “Oceans” and you might be amazed at the number of live shots you can see. At the time I am writing this, a diver is giving a lesson about sea life to a group of students visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif.

One of my favorite wildlife cams is one operated independently for years at Pete’s Pond in Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana. The webcam currently is offline, although a note on the Wild Earth website says it will return under the direction of Africam, which is associated with Explore.org.

Meanwhile, I’ve been enjoying a somewhat similar Africam webcam at Tembe Elephant Park situated along the ancient “Ivory Route” between Mozambique and Zululand in Northern Tongaland. If you scroll back through the recording, you are likely to see a number of interesting wildlife. I’m always amazed that we can watch incredible wildlife in real time on the opposite side of the globe.

While not always about wildlife, many of the national parks have live webcams of various views — often very scenic — that provide current or nearly current conditions as you would see them if you were there. In Olympic National Park, for example, the view from Hurricane Ridge is magnificent — if the clouds don’t get in the way. Turning to Mount Rainier National Park, I can get into a peaceful frame of mind just looking at the area around Paradise or Longmire. For a list of all available webcams at national parks and monuments, check out the list compiled by John William Uhler.

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