From the Field

More Nature Cams You Need in Your Life: 2020 Coping Edition

April 1, 2020

UPDATED:

September 21, 2020

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Sep 2020: Screenshot of alligators from the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park

What strange and difficult days in this time of Covid-19. Normally I’d hit a trail or a beach (or both) to deal with stress and anxiety. Since those aren’t options right now, I’ve been, like many others, turning to virtual ways to connect with nature. So far, nature cams do the best job of helping me cope.

It’s the sound. It probably should have been obvious, but I’ve realized I need the sounds of those cams as much as — maybe even more than — the sights. As much as I enjoy watching animals, studying their ways, I often leave these cams on for a kind of natural soundtrack to my days. Somehow the sounds from a streaming nature cam work better for me than a white noise machine or a relaxation app.

Like the earlier post, this list owes a tremendous debt to explore.org. Thanks also to people who’ve been leaving recommendations in the comments. I second the Katmai bears and all of the brown bear cams you can access on that page. I’ve also included an albatross cam below as well. This one from New Zealand. I’m still on the hunt for a good reptile cam.

Updated 21 September 2020: Panda Cub! The National Zoo/Smithsonian just keep bringing it with babies this year. I’ve been enjoying following giant panda Mei Xiang and her cub. He or she is about a month old now (born Aug 21) and it’s easier to catch glimpses of the cub on Giant Panda Cam.

Updated 08 April 2020 — Cheetah Cubs! I’ll keep adding to this list as I find more nature webcam treasures. Newest addition is a cam of cheetah cubs born today at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park  Conservation Biology Institute. Check out Echo and her four cubs.

Scroll for more nature cams below.

  • Roseate Spoonbills + Alligators Swamp Cam

    St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park (Florida)

    They had me at “Swamp Cam.” Confession: The St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park is one of our family favorites to visit whenever we’re back home. It’s near where both my husband and I grew up and our extended families still live. This is my “homesick cam” because, well, it’s the sound of home.

    It also showcases the spectacular rookery within the park that is a sanctuary for roseate spoonbills, endangered wood storks, cattle egrets and other birds that nest in its trees. Why do birds flock (sorry) here? In a word, alligators. Because of all the gators in the waters below the trees, there is little fear that raccoons, opossums or other tree-climbing Florida predators will run the gauntlet of toothy reptiles to get to the eggs and nestlings.

  • Decorah Eagles Cam

    Streaming from Decorah, Iowa

    I could probably fill an entire post with links to eagle cams alone — even the most cursory search for “Eagle Cams” will fill your results with lots of streaming eagle goodness.

    I picked the Decorah Eagles to highlight here because of recommendations from readers, and because the Eagle North nest has two new hatchlings as of 30 March 2020. For viewers knew to live-streaming nest cams, there’s nothing quite so addicting as tuning in over weeks and months to watch hatchlings become nestlings become fledglings become juveniles.

    Because eagle cams are so plentiful, I tend to follow several all year, starting in the south and tracking the North American spring and summer north. The cams of the Bald Eagle Foundation make this especially easy with their cams in Florida, Washington, D.C., and Tennessee. Bonus: one of the Tennessee eagle cams is at Dollywood, bringing two national treasures (Dolly Parton and bald eagles) together in one place, so to speak.

    The eagles in Northeast Florida have two nestlings right now and I spent a very happy 20 minutes watching one of them perch on the edge of the nest. There are also the famous eagles who live at the National Arboretum. Last I checked (March 30, 2020) the eagles had returned, but no eggs were in the nest yet. As they say, stay tuned.

  • Koala Cam

    San Diego Zoo (California)

    koala sleeping in a eucalyptus tree
    A koala sleeping in a eucalyptus tree. Photo © J. Philipp Krone / Flickr

    Like many zoos, the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have a collection of web cams to let you have a virtual visit. You can check out the full listing here.

    I particularly enjoy the koala cam because (a) koalas, but also (b) there always seem to be local bird fauna making use of the koala enclosure. The mallards of San Diego seem to be particularly fond of the habitat. As a bonus, the zoo also has a new baby hippo (no live cam), but some features and images. If you’ve never seen a baby hippo before, take a peek.

  • Panama Fruit Feeder Cam

    Canopy Lodge, Panama

    This cam is a collaboration between the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and Canopy Lodge (and is also another cam indebted to Explore.org). It’s exactly what it sounds like, a fruit feeder set out near an ecolodge in Panama where guests (and virtual guests) can view Prothonotary Warblers, Thick-Billed Euphonias (which sounds like some kind of wind instrument to me), as well as any number of other colorful, interesting species with colorful, interesting names.

    And because this cam is associated with Cornell, there is also an excellent informational page featuring video highlights, species information and everything you would expect from Cornell.

    In fact, if bird cams are your jam, make sure to check out Cornell’s dedicated Bird cam page.  It includes the Canopy Fruit Feeder as well as Bermuda Petrels on Nonsuch Island, Bermuda; Northern Royal Albatross in New Zealand; Red-Tail Hawks in Ithaca, New York; and numerous feeder cams, like this one in Ontario, Canada or this one featuring a hummingbird feeder in West Texas.

    If you’re new to birding, I can’t recommend the Cornell Lab’s resources at All About Birds highly enough. My love for their Merlin Bird App is well known and time exploring their web resources and online learning courses is time well spent.

  • Australia Reef Cam

    Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park, Victoria, Australia

    If you like underwater cams (I’m a huge fan), this is a good addition to your list. It’s part of a TNC Australia project and live streams both below- and above-water sights and sounds from Port Phillip Heads National Marine Park. If you want to learn more about what you’re seeing, the site also includes a species list of the reef fish to add a little education to entertainment. If you’re more interested in feathers than fins, the above-water cam features birds, including gannets and black-faced cormorants.

  • Pipeline Cam

    Ehukai Beach, North Shore, Oahu, Hawai'i

    This is one of my Zen cams. The sound of waves breaking at Ehukai Beach on Oahu’s famous North Shore never fails to soothe. This is the home of the Banzai Pipeline — perhaps the most famous surf break in the world. While the biggest waves roll through in the winter (mainly January and February), the cam streams year-round.

    There aren’t usually any animals to observe — well, except for the mammals on their beach towels and surfboards, but it’s the sound and the mesmerizing roll of waves against the beach that draws me.

  • Mixed Species Flying Fox Cam

    Lubee Bat Conservancy, Gainesville, Florida

    Okay, bats. This one is kind of therapy for me. (I had a bad bat experience that resulted in some emotional scarring and a series of rabies shots about a decade ago and I’m still not quite over it. It wasn’t the bat’s fault, obviously, but well, phobias aren’t rational. Also obviously.) The bats at the Lubee Bat Conservancy are proving to be quite therapeutic for me since it’s kind of a problem for a science and nature writer to have any kind of full-on, make-you-hyperventilate animal phobia.

    Snakes? Insects? Arachnids? Sharks? No problem. Bats? Big problem. But I’m getting better. During the day, you can watch them hanging in their enclosures and the camera provides a nice up close view. Being able to study and learn about them without actually being in the same enclosure — or having them, you know, fly out of a cave above my head — has been helping.  I’m working my way up to building a bat house for our backyard, but am not quite there yet.

  • Bonus Zen Cam: Puppies!

    Warrior Canine Connection Service Dogs, Maryland

    Sometimes I just need to watch puppies play. One caveat: If you have your own pup around, be warned that the sound of puppy play time — all the yips and little barks — may make it hard to work without a furry assistant trying to get a look at your screen. When puppy cam is on, the sounds attract my eight-year-old dog even faster than the sound of me pulling his leash off its peg.

  • Cheetah Cubs Cam

    Smithsonian National Zoological Park Conservation Biology Institute Front Royal, Virginia

    Echo and her new cubs. Born 08 April 2020 at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park and Conservation Biology Institute

    As of this writing, the cubs are only a few hours old, and this cam will be on heavy rotation for me over the next few weeks and months to watch the cubs grow. Echo, the mother, is a five-year-old cheetah and this is her first litter. You can read up on cheetahs, the Smithsonian’s breeding program and the cubs on the cam page, and get more background from the release sent out this morning.

Cara Cannon Byington

Cara Cannon Byington is a science writer for The Nature Conservancy covering the work of Conservancy scientists and partners, including the NatureNet Fellows for Cool Green Science. A misplaced Floridian living in Maryland, she is especially fond of any story assignment involving boats and islands, and when not working, can be found hiking, kayaking or traveling with her family and friends. More from Cara

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3 comments

  1. Thanks.
    Its too bad those puppies didn’t have anyone to play with. It would have been much for fun to see them enjoying themselves instead of just moping around all the time.
    Nothing happened with the Birds or the Bald Eagles the Sea Lion Beach, or the underwater camera, the Ocean was great, I had better things to watch than bats.
    You tried,

  2. On Facebook I watch Appalachian Bear Rescue. Injured or orphaned cubs are cared for until they can be released back to the wild.

  3. Very cool. I have seen lots of video cams over the years. I would spend more time if I had it. I do like the surfing one and the puppies.