As much of the country bundles up for winter, the birding gets easier, whether indoors or out. That’s right. Indoor birding! In this December issue of Bird Watch and Wonder, we are rolling out a new RCC feature, “American Live Bird Cams” with our selections from Ross Feldner — our bird, photography, and computer maven — of the best bird cams around the nation. Whenever you need to be, or want to be, inside, you can bird watch without binoculars and with your favorite brew.

Of course, winter birding outside has its own joys, from the Christmas count, to finding Artic birds along the coast, to seeing backyard and woodland favorites through bare branches as easily as a Cooper’s Hawk snatching starlings from your feeder. And, as it turns out, studies now show that birding (outdoors) is actually good for you!

We also offer tips on bird feeding for beginners and how to get your own backyard patch of wildlife preserve ready for winter. And, as a special treat, we’ve included a reader favorite essay from Bob Musil’s collection. “The Gift of a Cardinal” talks about how and why even this red, crested beauty had to be saved from being shot and now adorns gifts, cards, and art, especially during the holiday season. And, on a very different note, you’ll find Musil’s latest bird book review, “Rachel Carson and a Drug Dealer Named Dog” on why Musil finds former felon, Rodney Stott, the epitome of Carson’s ethic, empathy, and sense of wonder. You’ll want Bird Brother at the top of your gift list.

You’ll also want to take action beyond your own yard as you read about the well-documented decline of birds in North America and globally. So, we’ve given generous space to action and advocacy tips on effective steps you can take to keep hope for the future alive.

And, as we head into a New Year filled with both peril and possibility, we give kudos and many thanks to our RCC Presidential Fellow, Maggie Dees of Virginia Tech, who has been a stalwart co-lead for our Bird Watch and Wonder Program with Ross Feldner and Bob Musil for nearly a year and a half. Maggie is headed for study abroad near Lugano, Italy, where she undoubtedly will begin a world list of birds and continue to emerge, along with other RCC Fellows, as an outstanding young environmental leader. That should give us all real hope.


State of the Birds 2022 - We Can Bend the Curve to Bring Birds Back

The United States and Canada have lost 3 billion breeding birds since 1970—a loss of 1 in 4 birds, according to research published in Science in 2019. This steep decline in abundance can be reversed with new scales of conservation actions that benefit not only birds but also wildlife and people. When birds thrive, we all win. The State of the Birds 2022 report sounds an alarm about steep population losses in virtually all habitats. The report identifies 70 Tipping Point species that have lost half or more of their breeding population since 1970 and are on track to lose another half or more in the next 50 years.

The Surprising Health Benefits of

Tammah Watts remembers the exact moment she became a bird-watcher.

It was April of 2007. She was stuck in her house, struggling with chronic pain resulting from complications after a surgery. The pain had become so debilitating that Ms. Watts, formerly an avid biker and hiker, couldn’t hold a pencil or pick up a cup at times. It had forced her to leave her job as a therapist and confined her to her home, where she had sunk into a deep depression.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is Helping America’s Birds

It’s not your imagination, there are fewer birds than there used to be. In fact, there are more than 3 billion fewer birds in the skies than in 1970.

We can help prevent species loss by preserving habitat for birds across the country by creating and expanding national wildlife refuges and other protected habitat areas. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has invested in landscapes across the country that protect bird habitat, flyways and provide excellent bird watching opportunities.

Five Things to Do for Birds in Late Fall

1 Check and clean your feeder.

2 Provide heated water.

3 Let your lawn go wild.

4 Leave the leaves.

5 Clean out dirty or old nestboxes.

Birding Festivals and Events

A great way to enjoy bird watching is by going to festivals—they’re organized to get you to great birding spots at a great time of year, and they’re a great way to meet people.

Experts and locals help you see more birds, and you’ll meet other visitors who share your hobby.

For a wonderful nature show, it’s hard to beat a bird festival. Some of the best bird fests occur at or near national wildlife refuges.

A Nichols Worth of Nature

You can easily attract a wide variety of birds and provide hours of entertainment in easy viewing range by putting up a bird feeder. My good friend and buddy, Larry Walthall, has a feeder just outside his window at Lincoln Community Care Center. Backyard bird feeders are a great place for children (and adults) to learn about and identify different species of birds. Kim and I always keep a yearly list of all birds that we identify at our feeders. Backyard bird feeding is the second most popular hobby in the United States, surpassed only by gardening.

The Gift of the Cardinal

Outside my windows, the morning snow has coated the bushes and branches like a holiday card. Winter birds are everywhere, on the ground, at my feeders, behind holly leaves laden with berries, peeking out, posing for photos to be included in cards and catalogs. There are chickadees, titmice, Downy and Hairy woodpeckers, Carolina wrens, goldfinches, House finches, juncos, White-throated sparrows, Song sparrows, even a robin. A Red-shouldered hawk lands atop my bare tulip poplar. My birds instantaneously disappear. As they return, I focus my binoculars on a brilliant male cardinal.

Mindfully Alert

Lifting my head from watching the graceful and frequent direction-changing swimming of a small group of Hooded Mergansers, I caught a glimpse of this red-tailed hawk.

Motionless on a high branch, it witnessed another way to be alive in the moment, alert and motionless.

American Live Bird Cams

Dozens of species, 100’s of hummingbirds, puffins, owls. So many birds!

Take a break and do some bird watching from the comfort of your home. No need to bundle up or grab your binoculars and field guide.

These live cams give you amazing close up viewing of a wide variety of birds. Enjoy!

Binoculars and Beyond: Nine Tips for Beginning Birdwatchers

It’s one of the first eye-openers for people who are just starting to pick up birdwatching: the experience of hearing a birder call out names of birds in quick succession as a flock passes by, seemingly without looking. But like anything, it’s mainly practice—and it’s surprisingly easy to learn. You can watch (and listen to) birds pretty much anytime you’re outside. You mainly just need patience, careful observation, and a willingness to let the wonder and beauty of the natural world overtake you. Here are some tips on how to get started.


“Featherweight" by Suzy Kassem

One evening,
I sat by the ocean and questioned the moon about my destiny.
I revealed to it that I was beginning to feel smaller compared to others,
Because the more secrets of the universe I would unlock,
The smaller in size I became.

I didn't understand why I wasn't feeling larger instead of smaller.
I thought that seeking Truth was what was required of us all –
To show us the way, not to make us feel lost,
Up against the odds,
In a devilish game partitioned by
An invisible wall.

Then the next morning,
A bird appeared at my window, just as the sun began
Spreading its yolk over the horizon.
It remained perched for a long time,
Gazing at me intently, to make sure I knew I wasn’t dreaming.
Then its words gently echoed throughout my mind,
Telling me:

'The world you are in –
Is the true hell.
The journey to Truth itself
Is what quickens the heart to become lighter.
The lighter the heart, the purer it is.
The purer the heart, the closer to light it becomes.
And the heavier the heart,
The more chained to this hell
It will remain.'

And just like that, it flew off towards the sun,
Leaving behind a tiny feather.
So I picked it up,
And fastened it to a toothpick,
To dip into ink
And write my name.”
― Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem

Birders: The Central Park Effect

Birders: The Central Park Effect reveals the extraordinary array of wild birds who grace Manhattan’s celebrated patch of green, and the equally colorful New Yorkers who schedule their lives around the rhythms of migration. Author Jonathan Franzen, an idiosyncratic trombone technician, and a septuagenarian bird-tour leader are among the lively cast of characters in this charming, lyrical documentary that transports the viewer to the dazzling, hidden world of America’s most famous park.

Nominated for Best Documentary Feature at SXSW Film Festival. "A delight for everyone." - Wall Street Journal

Click here to watch for free with your library card or university ID
Click here to rent or buy



RCC’s Bob Musil on Bird Brother

Rachel Carson did not know any gun-toting drug dealers named Dog. But Rodney Stotts, the central figure in Bird Brother, channels her values of empathy, wonder in nature, and its restorative power. Carson’s feeling for those species and people who are “others” is clear from her very first book, Under the Sea-Wind. We swim along with, and come to identify with, Scomber, the Mackerel, and Anguilla, the eel, as we are drawn into their dramatic struggles for survival in the sea.

Once we make the imaginative leap of becoming an eel or a mackerel, it is an easy step to feel compassion, even love, for those far different than ourselves.

Like Rachel Carson, or I suspect you, I had not known any drug dealers from Anacostia, let alone one I come to like and worry about as he evades the cops, sees his friends shot and stabbed, fights for his own life, and fends off vicious bullies in prison. Rodney Stotts (with Kate Pipin) relates all this in vivid, colorful, often amusing prose in what is part memoir, part spiritual and psychological journey, and part brilliant, close-up nature writing about the raptors (hawks, eagles, owls, falcons) who led him to escape his old life, spread his wings, and fly free. Read more


The December 2022 issue of Bird Watch and Wonder was produced by Ross Feldner.


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