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 (cam not active for the season yet, though you can see highlights) and have included an albatross cam below as well. This one from New Zealand. I’m still on the hunt for a good reptile cam.
Updated 08 April 2020 — 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.
San Diego Zoo (California)
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.
Orca SeaLab Sea Lion Beach Cam
Hanson Island, British Columbia, Canada
One thing I learned from this cam, Steller sea lions, the world’s largest sea lions, are very noisy. Running this cam in the background pretty much guarantees a rough symphony of barks, growls, and coughs occasionally punctuated by something that definitely sounds like a roar. Pro tip: Make sure you mute the sound if you keep this cam up while attending an online zoom or conference call. Trust me.
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.
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
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.