Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.
I've just spent five minutes watching a sleeping eagle breathe. This is one of the nesting Bald Eagles in Decorah, Iowa. The nest is illuminated at night; you can check in on these birds 24 hours a day. At about 9:25 p.m. Thursday one bird was on the nest, head tucked into a wing. When I watched closely I could see the bird's body expand and contract as it drew a breath. It was inhaling about once every seven seconds. There is no wind tonight, so noise from the neighborthood can be heard; the bubbling of the river below the nest, the sound of an occasional vehicle passing on the road just across the stream. This is extremely cool stuff. I recommend it, day or night. The address is www.ustream.tv/decoraheagles.
I took a look this morning at the Bald Eagle nest near Decorah, Iowa (http://www.ustream.tv/decoraheagles). The live feed shows what must be a wet eagle -- it rained down there last night -- but not a snowy one. The bird on the nest seems snuggled a bit deeper in the grass that lines the bottom of the nest than last time I looked two days ago. This morning it was busy tucking in loose ends here and there. There's really not much else to do up there if your job is to stay in place. The wind is howling; turn your sound up if you take a look. Snow is possible this afternoon. I wanted to see what the nest looked like if northeastern Iowa was sharing our weather. Lucky them. The photo is of one the eagles on the nest. Watching these birds -- and I did for about an hour today -- is like meditation, at least as I practice it. Everything goes away except the image of the quiet bird and the roar of the wind. Very relaxing.
The pair of Bald Eagles nesting on live video at Decorah, Iowa, now have three eggs. The third arrived Friday at 8 p.m. I just watched the female stand briefly to rearrange the eggs; three were visible. If you watch these birds, turn the sound up on your computer. The sound of the wind is wonderful.
Live television broadcast of the activities of a pair of nesting Bald Eagles can be found at http://www.ustream.tv/decoraheagles
This is an exceptionally good transmission, no loading time, large clear image, up 24 hours a day, complete with sound. Today, the wind was dominate, whistling through the tree top where the nest sits. Lots of bird song, too. See how many you can identify. I was dead certain on House Sparrows and European Starlings.
The camera and web commentary are provided by the Raptor Research Project. Information is on the web site. There are a few short commercials as you begin. Do not think you are in the wrong place.
Here is a screen shot of the kind of image viewers see. There have been over 218 million web hits for this site.
"Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer, & Build" was the best bird-related book I read in 2010. It discusses construction of bird nests. It recently was honored by winning top award for professional and scholarly excellence for a reference/science book in competition sponsored by the Association of American Publishers.
Author Peter Goodfellow uses clear text supported by fine photos and particularly wonderful drawings, diagrams, and how-to illustrations to show us exactly how particular types of nests are constructed. Have you ever looked up at the remains of a Baltimore Oriole's sock-like woven nest and wondered how the bird did it? (This is a good time of year to look for nests.) I found an oriole nest this weekend, and wished I could take it in hand for close examination. I needed arms 20 feet long to reach it, though.
Goodfellow solves the nest retrieval problem for us. He selects bird species that best demonstrate construction technique and secrets for various nest types. I look at nests in a new way now, admiration first, curiosity second. Birds do many things I can't do (fly, eggs). Building a nest is high on the list.
The book was published by Princeton University Press. It's hard-cover, indexed, with dozens of excellent illustrations, and a list of resources to take you deeper into the wonder of nests. Price is $27.95.
The Richard Crossley identification book, by the way, won top award from the AAP for excellence in reference books. That also is a Princeton University Press publication.
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