Cam-tastic! Now showing: falcons, hawks

Red-tailed hawk hatchlings at the Franklin Institute in 2011. (MATT ROURKE/Associated Press)

Oh boy. Another season begins.

The female peregrine falcon that is nesting on a ledge of the Rachel Carson building in Harrisburg -- which just happens to be the home of the state Department of Environmental Protection - has laid her first egg.

And the red-tailed hawks nesting on a window ledge of the Franklin Institute are apparently putting the final touches on this year's next.

All the action is being captured by web cams, a wildlife watching tool that has seen massive growths in popularity.

The animals -- in this case, the falcons and hawks -- often attract thousands of followers from far and wide. The Harrisburg falcons have an international cadre of fans via both still images and the web cam. And the birds have never looked better. Earlier this year, the department installed new HD cameras.

The Franklin hawks have a web home not only on the Frarnklin Institute site, but also on a Facebook page and a dedicated blog.

People find themselves mesmerized by the drama -- the count as eggs are laid, the hatching, the feeding of the nestlings. And, finally, those first flights.

Last year, the local "hawkaholics" who stake out the corner below the Franklin hawk nest lived through the angst of the male going missing. Piecing together events, they later concluded it had been hit by a vehicle on the Schuylkill Expressway. That could have meant the end of the nest and the young in it. The female simply could handle the feeding AND the sitting.  But, astoundingly, another male showed up and began helping, and she accepted it. They're both back this year.   

So join in. Just beware. It's addictive.