ANNAPOLIS — Following a crowdfunding campaign and corporate donations, the Chesapeake Conservancy on Monday, April 4, announced the launch of its third wildlife webcam.
In addition to the osprey and peregrine falcon cams, visitors to the Chesapeake Conservancy’s website can now also access a live-streaming webcam at chesapeakeconservancy.org/blue-heron-webcam for around-the-clock coverage of a heron rookery located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
“We’re thrilled with this chance to share these majestic birds with the public. We often see great blue herons soaring in the sky or hunting fish by the water’s edge, but rarely do we get to see them up close and at home in their rookery,” Chesapeake Conservancy President and CEO Joel Dunn said. “We’re so grateful for the more than 100 people whose donations have made this possible and to the homeowner who is lucky enough to have this magnificent habitat in their backyard and is willing to share it with the world.”
A private homeowner contacted the Chesapeake Conservancy last month expressing an interest in sharing the rookery located on their property via a webcam, according to a press release from the conservancy. For the last 10 years, the property has been home to between 10 and 12 nests, and as many as 50 herons, 100 feet off the ground in loblolly pine trees, the conservancy said.
Logistics moved quickly as the herons were soon to return to the rookery to mate and incubate their eggs. The Chesapeake Conservancy turned to the public for financial support to launch the new webcam by crowdfunding through a gofundme.com campaign. To date, more than $6,500 has been raised from more than 100 donors, ranging from $5 to $500, according to the release. While the Chesapeake Conservancy will continue to fundraise to support and maintain the webcam, this was enough to get the webcam up and running.
The cam is powered by Mediacom, who donated equipment and internet services for the live-stream. Skyline Technology Solutions Inc., based in Glen Burnie, provided a discounted installation rate and equipment. Skyline also supports the Chesapeake Conservancy’s osprey and peregrine falcon cams. Axis Communications also provided discounted equipment. A tree company based in Rehobeth, Del., donated its services to mount the cam in the 100-foot-tall pine.
“The Chesapeake Conservancy uses technology to connect, conserve and restore the Chesapeake. Through our wildlife webcams and virtual tours of the John Smith Chesapeake Trail, we hope technology will help connect people to the Chesapeake Bay,” Dunn said. “People see these iconic species and fall in love with them. They see how the birds interact with their habitats and it creates a desire to support conservation efforts such as Maryland’s Program Open Space and the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect the ecosystems that sustain these and all wildlife in the region.”
Heron cam features a wider-angle view to capture activity from multiple nests, as well as infrared night vision. Currently, two nests can be seen on the camera, and one is home to two herons alternating incubation of their eggs. It is believed that the eggs are due to hatch in mid-April. The homeowner has named the couple “Rell and Eddie” after the surfers Rell Sunn and Eddie Aikau.
“Another nest featured more prominently on the cam seems to be serving as a ‘supply closet’ for the heron rookery. I jokingly call the visitors ‘great blue bandits’ as they periodically land there to ‘steal’ sticks for their own nests. It is quite a surprise when one of the bandits land,” Chesapeake Conservancy Director of Communications Jody Couser said. “The pines sway in the breeze and sometimes, when it’s windy, I wonder how the eggs will stay in the nest. At night, you can often hear an owl nearby.”
The Chesapeake Conservancy currently hosts two successful webcams featuring osprey and peregrine falcons, which have each attracted more than a million views a year from around the world, the conservancy said. “Tom and Audrey,” are Kent Island’s celebrity osprey couple, and peregrines “Boh and Barb “ live in downtown Baltimore on the Transamerica skyscraper.
According to the Chesapeake Bay Program’s website, great blue herons live in colonies called rookeries. These tall, bluish-gray wading birds have long, pointed bills and S-shaped necks.
They live year-round in marshes and wetlands throughout the Chesapeake Bay region and are also found on freshwater lakes, ponds and impoundments. The great blue heron grows to 4 feet tall with a 6 to 7 foot wingspan. Despite its large size, its hollow bones allow it to weigh only 5 to 6 pounds.
The great blue heron eats mostly fish, but will also feed on insects, amphibians, crustaceans and other small animals. It silently stalks its prey in shallow waters, and then plunges its bill into the water to capture it. It will spend about 90 percent of its waking hours hunting for food.