Wednesday, March 16, 2016

One nest

Once again, the pair of red-tailed hawks affectionately known as "Big Red" and "Ezra" are nesting at Cornell University, watched by an ornithological webcam and a host of birdwatchers, expert and amateur. For the past four years, this pair have successfully hatched three eggs and fledged three juveniles while we watched. (Today, Big Red laid her second egg of the season. The next egg is due March 19, if she stays true to her established pattern of laying three eggs three days apart.)

Every year, I follow these hawks and their offspring; I await the eggs, the hatching, the fledging, with bated breath. A community of online chatters follows the webcam, teaching one another about hawk behavior, trying to guess when the next milestone will occur, worrying whenever a fledgling is injured.

It's comforting to me to think that these birds' drama is being played out all over the world in millions of nests. Birds go about their business of mating, nesting, and raising young, unwatched by any camera, and I only know about it because I've been privileged to see it happen at a handful of nests on a handful of webcams. When one of the Cornell hawks first learns to fly, I know about it because one camera is trained on one nest. The camera's focus on this nest shows us a story. A story makes us care about a particular life, or small group of lives, but that story also stands for all the rest--all the stories happening around us, the stories we might not otherwise notice.

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