We’re getting a PondCam!

April 20, 2020 • 10:00 am

This morning the University is beginning installation of a camera that will survey Botany Pond, so before too long all of you will be able to see the doings there (e.g., moms and ducklings). I hope I’ll be able to control the camera a bit so we can all see the action. The camera will be on the western wall of Erman Hall, shown in the first photo below, and will of course face the pond.

Our attempts to get a NestCam were unsuccessful:  installing one would have disturbed the hens already sitting on the eggs, which simply wasn’t allowable. Still, now you will be able to tune in on the goings-on at the pond 24/7.

Thanks to the University of Chicago Facilities, and Media Relations, for having the idea and carrying it through.

Other preparations are underway for the impending hatch. First, Facilities put up a “duck fence” to allow mother and offspring to have some area of the bank to themselves (ducklings sometimes need to come out of the water):

And last year’s “duckling ramp” (allowing egress from the pond the eastern bank) has also been refurbished. Here it is next to the duck food station (note the six pounds of mealworms and big boxes of mallard food).

22 thoughts on “We’re getting a PondCam!

  1. Very nice. I would guess that the U of C administration is pleased with the good publicity, and heart-warming story in these troubled times, that you have brought about. I wonder if in the future you will have more fame and glory as the “Duck Man” of UC than for your scientific achievements or Faith vs. Fact.

  2. I just hope the ducks and ducklings appreciate the effort being put out on their behalf.

    Too bad about the NestCam. Is there any consistency at all in their nesting spots that would enable you to install one for next season? What about putting a camera on a long stick installed on the roof of that building, extending out far enough to zoom in on any window ledge on which the ladies choose to nest? Once they nest, it could be moved without disturbing them.

    1. What about putting a camera on a long stick.

      I was thinking of something like that too. It might be easier to mount the thing on an adjacent window ledge.

      1. I was thinking that one on the roof would be able to look down on any of the building’s window ledges. I don’t know what’s available with such cams but I would think a decent zoom could work even if the nest was on a second floor window ledge. I assume no self-respecting duck would nest on the ground floor.

    2. Mallards are easily spooked and the camera is pretty big. When a huge camera on a plank appears looming in front of a nesting mallard, I wouldn’t want to be responsible for the consequences. I nixed that idea from the get-go. The welfare of the ducks trumps everything.

      They tend to nest where there are Virginia creeper vines to act as a scaffold for the nest, and that’s why Honey nested in such a dire place this year. Dorothy got first dibs and got the only window on the pond side of the building that had a good set of vines.

  3. This PondCam invokes our natural compassion and is a teaching moment to look into ourselves and see evolution of natural compassion in Homo Sapiens. There must be good evolutionary reasons your work is appreciated Jerry! In your retirement you are educating more people all around the world and by any criteria you are an outstanding/distinguished teacher for our species.


    1. Indeed! Sadly, proofreading is hard to switch off – I often catch myself spotting typos or mentally rewording sentences when I’m supposedly reading for pleasure…

      1. Doh! What I actually came here to say was “congratulations on the PondCam – I look forward to seeing the Botany Pond duck soap opera in real time”.

  4. I hope you’ll let us know your approximate feeding times so when can tune in then. That’s when all the action happens.

  5. Is there maybe some kind of message wall or something that we could all use to thank the administration for all the help they have provided? School budgets are tight right now (Northwestern has just announced big salary changes going forward, froze hiring, etc. for just one example). They’ve gone to some expense to make this happen (signage, redoing the pond) that you have documented over time. It isn’t free I’m sure and it’s a very nice gesture.

  6. It’s so good to hear that the university is looking out for the ducks. Of course, now that the whole world knows about the ducks, it would be a public relations calamity if the administration were guilty of negligence concerning their safety. Honey and friends have found a perfect nesting place and an excellent sponsor.Good work!

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