People from around the world zone in on Central Alberta

Web cams for falcons and owls garner many watchful eyes daily

The web is buzzing with activity as cameras for the Peregrine Falcons and Grey Horned Owls are up and running.

Ellis Bird Farm is streaming live footage from an owl nest on the property which sits about 30 ft. above ground.

The nest is home to Albert and Ellie, two adult Grey Horned Owls. And last month they welcomed three owlets as they hatched just before April 23.

Grey Horned Owls have nested around the Ellis Bird Farm site for about 15 years. A few years ago the team at Ellis Bird Farm built a nest out of wire and sticks and the owls have continued to nest there.

“Ellie laid the eggs in about February or March and she continued incubating them until they hatched,” said Myrna Pearman, site services manager for Ellis Bird Farm. “The owlets are now eating on their own. Mom brings them food and they tear it apart and eat it themselves. They’ve grown quite a bit.”

She added people from around the world have watched the feathered family as they grow and evolve.

“We have a very active chat room on the site and the owls are watched 24/7,” said Pearman.

She added Ellis Bird Farm is lucky to be able to showcase the owls.

“We’re very lucky to have a power supply that goes up 30 feet in the air,” said Pearman. “Many times technology separates people from nature. But this technology is allowing people to have a connection with nature.”

Ellis Bird Farm will open for the season on May 23. A naming contest for the owlets also took place and will be announced as part of the opening celebration.

In addition, Perry and Windsong, the female and male Peregrine Falcons, who have become somewhat of celebrities the last couple of years in Red Deer, have laid five eggs in their nesting box which is located on the Telus tower in Highland Green.

Eggs were laid on May 1, 3, 5, 8 and 10. The pair began incubating the eggs on May 8 or 9. The incubation period will last for 28 or 29 days. Perry and Windsong have been switching on and off the eggs to allow each other to hunt for food.

A live 24-hour video stream allows watchful eyes from Central Alberta and beyond sneak a peek at the Falcons and are able to witness the babies hatch and grow before fledging the nest.

“The whole point of this is to educate people about the species,” said Judy Boyd, the secretary for the Red Deer River Naturalists. “I think we’re doing a good job of that. The chatroom on the web site gets very, very busy and it’s a good learning experience.”

Peregrine Falcons, a bird of prey that feeds mostly on other birds – have been classified by the federal and provincial governments as a “threatened” species in Canada and Alberta, although there have been initiatives in recent years to take them off the list because their numbers have rebounded.

The birds were severely impacted by DDT, an insecticide once used widely but ultimately banned. In the 1970s wildlife officials counted only two Peregrine Falcons remaining in Alberta, both in the northern section of the province. Following the ban, the numbers of Peregrine Falcons rebounded.

To view the falcons visit www.ustream.tv and type ‘rdrn’ into the search box.

To view the owls check out www.ellisbirdfarm.ca.

efawcett@reddeerexpress.com

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