In what might be a first in the world, a web camera is streaming live video of a couple of nesting gray jays near Caroline.
Already, since the camera was installed on March 18, 7,000 viewers have seen the birds finish off their intricate nest, and then the female lay a clutch of three eggs last weekend. Now she’s settled in for the hatch, expected to occur in about two weeks.
“We’ll have Easter bunnies and Easter jays hatching on Good Friday,” a delighted Myrna Pearman, biologist at the Ellis Bird Farm, said Friday.
Pearman said that a couple approached the bird farm’s booth during the recent Red Deer Sportsman Show to tell them they had some nest gray jays outside their home near Caroline. Normally gray jay nests are far off in the woods and well above ground.
Pearmen went out to have a look and found a perfect situation. The nest was close to the ground, and a power supply as well as an Internet source. With permission, an electronics specialist quickly installed the camera.
The boreal forest bird is known for having adapted to living in cold regions. It is found in every Canadian province and territory. The friendly, tough and clever bird was recently chosen by the Royal Canadian Geographic Society as the preferred candidate to become Canada’s national bird, and suggests Canada’s 150th birthday is a great opportunity to declare it such.
Pearman said the Caroline jays have been dubbed Elizabeth and Philip, after Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip.
Gray jays are very tame and have a great reputation for pilfering food at a campground or if you’re hiking, she said.
“The interest has been incredible. It’s somehow caught the imagination of people. It’s such a rarity to be able to see this,” Pearman said, adding that according to the geographic society, the gray jays web cam is likely a world first.
Gray jays typically nest probably 10 to 15 metres up in a tree. Theyusually way back in the bush. “Everything just aligned,” Pearman said.
Red Deer is just outside the normal range of the gray jay. They are further west and north, so Caroline is prime habitat.
Pearman noted that the photos on the Ellis Bird Farm website are only screenshots from the web camera. They are not going back and disturbing the nest to get new photos, she said.