The cams were originally developed as part of The Birdhouse Network, a citizen science project where participants monitor a nest boxes, or a trail of boxes, and submit the information to an ever-expanding database. The data help uncover details of breeding biology for over 30 species at a geographic scale a single researcher could not logistically track.
The nest cams are always the most visited of the Lab's web pages, and for good reason. Lots of species to observe, lots of interesting behaviors to witness that used to take place privately, behind the walls of a snag or a birdhouse. Now, it's all displayed and archived on the Internet allowing anyone to learn about the lives of their backyard neighbors.
So, what's new? There are a variety of features available from the main page at "NestCams.org".
First, check out the NestCams, described as, "A virtual window into the natural world: View our exciting live cams, explore our extensive collection of photo, video, and daily archives, and view HD footage of breeding behaviors from Macaulay Library." Note: you will not find anything about breeding behaviors of the staff of Macaulay Library, I already looked. You will find four cams are up-and-running right now, Barn Owls and Northern Flickers from California, Barn Owls and Wood Ducks from Texas. The Texas owl is incubating eight eggs (did I hear that right?), the Wood Duck is still laying - seven eggs at a recent count. There should always be four highlighted cams on the main page, with many more to come in the near future, accessed through the drop-down menu on the page.
Next, explore NestWatch data (and contribute, too!). NestWatch is a citizen science program that teaches people about bird breeding biology and engages them in collecting and submitting nest records, and it's not just about cavity-nesting species anymore. You don't need a nest box, just a nest you can monitor on a regular basis. Got a robin nest in an ornamental shrub? Find out how to monitor it and submit your observations!
Finally, join the newest and most innovative citizen science program, CamClickr. Over the years the Nest Cams have generated over 7,000,000 images, all of which are archived. In this project,
. . . participants move through two levels of behavior classification in an effort to tag and code all of our archived images! Users choose the species and phase of the nesting cycle they want to start off with and then launch Level 1.
In Level 1, you simply drag and drop images into photo albums that are classified according to presence or absence of nests, adult birds, eggs, or baby birds. Once you tag 99 images, you are ready to move to Level 2, where the classifications become more challenging! Every Level 1 image tagged earns you 1 point towards fun prizes!
In Level 2, all images that passed through Level 1 can now be classified according to pre-defined behaviors. Every image tagged in Level 2 earns 4 points towards fun prizes! Your tags will be compared with those of others and given a score based on how consistent they are with other users. Once individual images are tagged by 5 different users, they can be added to the searchable database that will be available to scientists and the public, to help us answer behavioral questions.
Soon our neighborhoods will be bustling with birdsong and the mad rush of adult birds caring for eggs, nestlings and fledglings. Enjoy!