Some people have bird feeders, birdhouses and/or birdbaths in their back yards and can watch the local feathered wildlife from their windows. Thanks to the internet, I have an even closer window: nest cams.
There are cameras trained on hummingbird nests, storks, penguins, ospreys and hawks as well as my favorites - owls, bald eagles, and peregrine falcons. March through May is when most of the nests are active. Viewers can watch courting behavior ranging from bowing in falcons to eagles adding branches to their huge nests. Right now eagles and owls are sitting on their eggs, despite often being buried in snow. Since I'm in Minnesota, I tend to watch through the Raptor Resource Project, which has several owl, eagle and falcon nests. Midwest falcons are just returning to their nests for the season, but San Jose has a falcon couple currently sitting on three eggs, with a fourth expected in a day or two.
Watching a falcon or eagle sitting on eggs isn't exciting right now (other than shift changes), but after the eggs hatch there will be little fuzzballs learning how to sit up and how to walk. And once they start to walk - rather than just stomping around like little old men in fuzzy coats - those chicks have definite personalities. San Jose has a video archive of the 2007 season if you want to see. Compare "Growing Fast" to "Drain Expedition".
Some teachers include nest cams in their classrooms and their students watch the chicks grow up and learn how to fly. There are sad times, too. Chicks do die, or a parent can vanish over the season. There are often forums or mailing lists associated with the cams to discuss behavior or identify which bird is which (in raptors the females are larger than the males).
I have been able to use my experience in watching nest cams in a short story written for the Fencon VI program book. In "The Rescue" nest cam watchers report a chick fallen from an eagle nest, and the rescuer finds a bit more than she expected.
I'm looking forward to the new season of nest cam watching. Clara and Esteban Colbert in San Jose, Snowflake and Dan in Fort St. Vrain, CO, several eagle nests in Canada and Iowa - always something to see!
My name is Kathy, and I am a nest cam addict.