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Video: For the Birds – A live birdcam experience (6 photos)

Birdcam helps tally up the number of species of birds around the world.

MANITOUWADGE -- Bird watching in Canada is a popular pastime, but Tammie and Ben Hache of Manitouwadge take it to a whole new level with their backyard boreal forest birdcam.  

One of 15 live action cameras around the world funded by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Hache’s is the only Canadian location. In 2002, Tammie began participating in Project Feederwatch; a mission in which thousands of birdspotters around the world tally up the number and species of birds at their feeders in order to provide information about population, migration, and other scientific data. In 2011, the Cornell Lab announced they were on the hunt for a new birdcam location, and Tammie applied. The organizers were thrilled to hear she lived in a unique location, deep in the boreal forest, and the position was hers.

At first, the setup was very rudimentary. The picture was grainy and there was no sound, but over the years, Cornell has upgraded the equipment several times. Now, with a high-definition camera, microphones, and a fibre optic internet connection, viewers from around the world can clearly see and hear their feathered friends gather for a meal at one of the many feeders in the Hache’s back yard.

The livestream is available, 24/7, on YouTube from mid-November until late April. Here you’ll have a front row seat to watch the antics of the visiting pine grosbeaks, black-capped chickadees, redpolls, whiskey jacks and other beautiful birds of the boreal forest. The crows and ravens can be noisy and frequent, and on occasion, a rare bird such as a western meadowlark or a saw-whet owl may show up, but the ruffed grouse is the feeder’s rockstar, strutting its stuff and putting on quite a show.

The bird feeders are kindly provided by their sponsors, Perky-Pet®, but Ben builds the stands himself, strategically setting up the feeders and platforms in such a way as to discourage squirrels and other animals from crashing the party. He’s also the technical engineer of the operation, connecting all the cameras and microphones to the computer inside the house.

“Ben is the mechanical guy. The computer wiz.” Tammie admits. “I leave all the hardware stuff up to him. My job is to watch and research the birds and answer any questions the viewers may have.” These questions are usually received through Facebook and (amusingly!) Twitter, but they sometimes get actual letters and cards mailed out to them. One year they received a lovely gift of a peanut grinder from an elderly viewer.

The grinder came in handy, as peanuts are one of the main menu items at the feeders, along with peanut butter and black oil sunflower seeds. There’s also a variety of berries and flowers growing in their yard in the summertime; highbush cranberries, mountain ash, pin cherries, honey suckle and other flowering plants attract both birds and insects to the immovable feast.

The birds, squirrels and insects aren’t the only critters chowing down in the Hache’s yard. Mice scamper under the snow and scavenge the dropped bits of food. Foxes, coyotes and feral cats will hunt the feeders, snacking on the nuts and seeds and snaring a bird or visiting mouse when the opportunity presents itself. They’ve even had the occasional bear and pine marten drop in to see what’s for dinner, too!

So, remember: birds of a feather flock together! Anyone with a TV or computer screen can gather with people from around the world to watch this amazing backyard boreal forest birdcam video from the safety and comfort of their own home. Thank you, Tammie and Ben Hache, for taking the time and making the effort to bring us all this wonderful gift of education, nature and peacefulness.

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