It’s spring, and there’s a lot of loving going on in the skies as birds mate, build nests and start sitting on eggs. There’s also a lot more intrigue and drama than the steamiest soap opera could provide.
If you’ve ever longed for a peek, several organizations and at least one individual have set up cameras focused on the nests, giving viewers a 24-hour look inside this annual event, from nest building to egg laying, hatching and fledging.
Viewing isn’t always easy. Nature can be shocking and brutal, but when things work out, it’s a beautiful vision to behold.
Here are some cameras to tune into:
Red-tailed hawk cam, San Francisco
The Presidio hawk cam is currently focused on a pair of red-tailed hawks. The camera was installed in 2018 in the wildlife-friendly park, sitting 100 feet up in a blue gum eucalyptus tree.
The hawks were ousted from their nest in 2019 by a rather brutal home invasion and takeover by a pair of great horned owls, who were also looking for a prime nesting spot. The change in residents prompted wildlife ecologists observing the nest to change the name to “Raptor Cam.”
The female owl laid one egg that season, which did not hatch, and the nest was abandoned the past two seasons. Good news came this year, when a pair of hawks believed to be the original nest inhabitants returned. Even better news: There are eggs in the nest, which are scheduled to begin hatching in mid April.
Thanks to an unobtrusive camera, you can view the nest at any time, day or night, and the channel hosts an occasional Q&A with the experts.
San Jose peregrine falcons
Drama and peregrine falcons just seem to go wing in wing. This nest was established in 2006 after a pair of peregrines were seen hanging around the upper floors of San Jose City Hall.
The birds weren’t a pair, but the Santa Cruz Predatory Research Group installed a nesting box and apparently sparked a romance between the birds, which they later named Clara and Jose. In 2007, Clara laid three eggs, and a dynasty was launched.
Jose was replaced the next year by Carlos, who served for one year before Esteban Colbert won Clara’s affections and lasted three seasons. Her final mate was Fernando, who was paired with Clara for 8 years until interlopers drove both of them away in 2019.
The nest was taken over by Grace, who hatched at the San Francisco PG&E site in 2016. Grace has had three successive suitors, Hopper, followed by H2 and then H3. In October 2021, a new falcon arrived on the scene and drove H3 away.
Watchers thought Grace had finally found her guy, named Lucas, but in early March there was another change of cast, when a new, bigger tiercel – a male hawk – showed up and claimed the territory.
The human overseers of the nest have decided not to name this bird yet, but they call him TT, shorthand for “the tiercel.” He’ll be awarded a permanent name once they’re convinced he’ll be sticking around for a while. Both TT and Grace have been fighting off intruders, called floaters, almost daily.
Grace, meanwhile, has managed to lay three eggs and might lay a fourth. Look for the eggs to start hatching in early May.
UC Berkeley peregrine falcons
Talk about drama. The peregrine falcons roosting atop the Campanile at UC Berkeley have had nothing but for several months, starting when the male falcon, Grinnell, was challenged by a floater and seriously injured.
Grinnell recovered and returned to reclaim his territory and his longtime mate, Annie, who then mysteriously disappeared for a week in March and was feared dead. Suddenly, Annie returned and although things weren’t exactly normal, they seemed headed that way with courtship, mating and nesting signs.
Then, after Annie laid two eggs, Grinnell was killed, apparently hit by a car. The future of the nest seemed in doubt, but Annie hardly skipped a beat and was soon accepting the courtship of another peregrine falcon, who appears to have become Annie’s new partner.
To consummate the deal, Annie laid another egg and has been busy incubating all three while New Guy, as he called for now, shares some of the chores and brings her food.
The quick move from Grinnell to another mate shocked fans of the couple, but it’s good news for the welfare of the nest and peregrine falcons in general. A single parent is unable to tend the eggs and raise offspring alone, so in the absence of a mate, the nest is typically abandoned. However, since Annie and New Guy have hooked up, there’s a much better chance the Campanile will see some hatchlings early next month.
The territory, however, remains far from settled.
Gray Chang has been watching chestnut-backed chickadees fly in and out of his nesting box on the Peninsula for 20 years, so last year he installed a camera and began broadcasting the view over YouTube.
The nesting box is home to a chickadee who started building her nest in March and has laid six eggs that should be hatching in mid-April. Mama bird spends all night and most of the day sitting on the eggs, which are nestled in a cozy nest of fluff.
Ospreys of San Francisco Bay
Rosie and Richmond, a pair of ospreys, roost atop a World War II whirly crane in Richmond. They are part of a rare but growing number of ospreys that nest in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before 1990, there were no known nests on the shores of the Bay, but because of efforts to protect shorebirds, including the ospreys, the number grew to 30 in 25 years.
In the off season, the osprey nest tends to get raided for parts – of gulls and other birds. Rosie and Richmond began the work of rebuilding the nest in the past few weeks, and observers have declared it ready for eggs. Rosie and Richmond apparently thought it ready, too, laying the first egg on April 5.
The osprey cam – which you can watch at http://sfbayospreys.org/ – is operated by the Golden Gate Audubon Society.