Webcams are becoming the new binoculars for armchair ornithologists. Last year a family of hawks were the toast of New York as they raised a nest of eggs on the ledge of a building in the Big Apple.
This year, bird watchers are addicted to herons.
A great blue heron family's exploits are drawing great big attention. Cornell University ornithologists set up high-definition cameras that have been watching the birds day and night and beaming the live video out via the internet to more than half a million people from 166 countries.
Like an avian soap opera, spectators watched as the heron pair first courted and mated beneath the pale moonlight then built their nest. Drama glided in on the silent wings of great horned owls, which repeatedly attacked the nest. The show was almost canceled when a snowstorm blew in. The whirling snow would have buried and frozen the eggs were it not for the stalwart parents steadfastly sitting over them.
Finally, this past weekend the eggs started hatching. As of April 30, there were four hatchlings with one egg yet to go. You can take in all the action here, or below, but be warned, it's surprisingly addictive.
Great blue heron, Ardea herodias (Walter Siegmund, Wikimedia Commons)