Webcams tucked inside wood duck nesting boxes near West Richland are enabling people worldwide to sneak peeks at baby peeps.
So far, the cams have caught new families of wood ducks and kestrels. The ducklings, which leave the nest within 24 hours, already are out and about with mom.
"Mama duck doesn't bring food back to the nest, so they jump out and begin foraging on their own right away," said Dale Schielke, a longtime member of the Richland Rod and Gun Club.
Schielke and other club members have been building and maintaining nesting boxes for wood ducks since 1982, but the webcams are a new project this spring.
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Club members nominated Schielke for a Heros of Conservation award through Field and Stream magazine. Along with the award came $500 donated by Toyota.
Schielke used the money to buy two webcams, a smaller inspection camera and some equipment to allow the cams to interface with computers. Because the rod and gun club is part of Team Battelle, he was eligible to apply to receive a couple of excess computers from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Though the cams are tucked into nesting boxes for wood ducks, it seems many other bird species make themselves at home as well.
Early in the spring, Schielke discovered a screech owl egg in one box, but it didn't hatch.
Later a kestrel -- a type of hawk -- took up residence and laid six eggs. They hatched May 24 and 25 and will stay in the nest for about 30 days.
"At first they were huddled together in a big fuzz ball, but now they're moving around quite a bit, especially when food arrives," he said.
A friend of Schielke, Dan Robertson of Richland, who is a falconer, said it's probably tough for the two adult kestrels to keep all six chicks fed.
"They're in and out of the nesting box constantly. So if you keep watching, you're bound to catch them feeding," he said.
Not long ago, a second wood duck hen found a nesting box to her liking and laid 10 eggs. Schielke said they should hatch just about the same time the kestrels are ready to take flight.
For more information about the club, go to http://rrgclub.tripod.com/clubhome/.