JUNE 2023

As summer approaches, the outdoors beckons. Our pace slows. June is the ideal time to sit with a good book (and accompanying libation) whether in the backyard, on the beach, or on a cool mountain lake. When you do settle back, wherever you are, birds will begin to appear around you and, if you are very still, right next to you. That’s when you will begin to feel some indescribable sense of well-being, of tiny smiles, of rich contentment.

Yes. There is science to show that being with and watching the birds is actually good for your health. It produces those elusive states of peace, even joy. As you’ll see in this June issue of RCC’s Bird Watch and Wonder, RCC’s Ross Feldner’s feature, “The Joy of Birding,” recounts the evidence from Scientific Reports and elsewhere that bird watching, or merely listening to birds, can lead to a myriad of health benefits - including long-lasting stress relief.

Most of us live in cities and suburbs, but even these well-developed areas are filled with birds. In the denser parts of bustling Washington, DC, amidst the row houses, as Melissa Block reports, you can be with and learn about migrating birds for whom the capital is an inviting stopover. 

But birds still can use our help, as habitats dwindle because of development or climate change. That’s why we offer tips on how to get or construct the best bird houses to attract or help our feathered friends. Just plug in your zip code to the database provided by the Cornell Ornithology labs and you are on your way to creating your own bird sanctuary.

Maryland naturalist and nature writer Nancy Lawson expands the meaning of the word sanctuary in her featured photo essay in which she urges us to eliminate the human noise assault on birds and wildlife that can actually interfere with their well-being. Turn off and get rid of the leaf blowers, lawn mowers, chain saws, and the rest of our human din. Turn instead to quiet, to soothing sounds of birds and insects and amphibians. And perhaps we should say bird music, as you’ll discover in a piece by Marlowe Starling (yes, his real name…), since bird song (as opposed to birds calls) is actually learned, adjusted, tuned, and made more melodic much like human composers.

And, if you want to feel a sense of peace and spiritual connection with the birds and other creatures with whom we share this world, don’t miss “The Best of Momentary Mediations” our monthly pick of the poetic and philosophical musings from RCC Senior Correspondent Stephen Shick. Shick’s revealing short nature video clips and prose grace our home page and weekly RCC eNews from the woods and fields and streams that surround his home in Lexington, Massachusetts.

So, settle back, put your feet up, and reach for a book, a drink, and your binoculars. For June, we recommend Joan E. Strassmann’s Slow Birding: The Art and Science of Enjoying the Birds in Your Own Backyard (Penguin Random House, 2023). Then, while you are very, very still, a world of song and serenity will open up around you.

– Bob Musil


Bob Musil is the President & CEO of the Rachel Carson Council and author of Rachel Carson and Her Sisters: Extraordinary Women Who Have Shaped America’s Environment (Rutgers, 2016) and Washington in Spring: A Nature Journal for a Changing Capital (Bartleby, 2016). He is also the editor of the forthcoming annotated edition from Rutgers University Press of Rachel Carson’s Under the Sea-Wind with his Introduction, updated marine science, and historic and contemporary illustrations and photographs.

The Joy of Birding

Want to improve your health? No crash diets, no pills, no medical appointments necessary! Bird watching or merely listening to birds can lead to a myriad of health benefits - including long-lasting stress relief. Now who couldn’t use that these days?

There have been a series of studies that show seeing or hearing birds improves your wellbeing. One study in Scientific Reports found this positive effect on your mood can last for up to eight hours!


Heads Up! Stunning Birds Are All Around Us, Even in Dense Cities

This time of year, there are a lot of seasonal visitors to our nation’s capital — the avian kind, that is. Washington, D.C., is rated as having the nation’s best city park system, and migratory birds flock here on their journey north, many of them having traveled thousands of miles to nest and breed. Early on a Sunday morning, I meet up with a few fellow birders to catch the tail end of spring migration. We gather in Fort Slocum Park, which formed part of the city’s defenses in the Civil War.


Man Accidentally Hits Bird Nest, Then Drives Hundreds of Miles With Last Egg in Hand

A Texas man drove for hours with one hand on the steering wheel and the other clutching an egg, on a mission to save a life.

He was working a job at a property in West Texas, near Odessa, when he accidentally ran over a bird’s nest, destroying all but one egg, the Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center said in a May 31 Facebook post.


This Island and Its Birds Are Like a Hitchcock Movie — It’s Madness, But Also Part Miracle

Bird Island has become a sanctuary for endangered terns. Not so much for the scientists who care for them.

“Let’s hope they go for the stick instead of your face,” Carolyn Mostello said as she took a reporter’s hat and readied it for Bird Island by duct-taping a wooden paint stirrer to the back, sticking up like an antenna. “And whatever you do, don’t look them in the eye.”

Restoring Seabird Populations Can Help Repair the Climate

Seabirds evolved about 60 million years ago, as Earth’s continents drifted toward their current positions and modern oceans took shape.

They spread across thousands of undisturbed islands in the widening seas. And as flying dinosaurs and giant omnivorous sea reptiles died out, seabirds also started filling an ecological niche as ecosystem engineers.


The Trouble With Oil and Gas Infrastructure

A new study led by the Wildlife Conservation Society that analyzed 17 years of migratory bird-nesting data in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, revealed that nest survival decreased significantly near high-use oil and gas infrastructure and its related noise, dust, traffic, air pollution, and other disturbances. Prudhoe Bay is the site of intensive energy development and is located on the Arctic Coastal Plain, one of the most important avian breeding grounds in the world.

It Rocks in the Tree Tops, but Is That Bird Making Music?

Scientists are finding more evidence that birdsong parallels human-made music.

When a bird sings, you may think you’re hearing music. But are the melodies it’s making really music? Or is what we’re hearing merely a string of lilting calls that appeals to the human ear? Birdsong has inspired musicians from Bob Marley to Mozart and perhaps as far back as the first hunter-gatherers who banged out a beat.


Flying to Freedom: 10 Street Artists Who Love to Paint Birds

Freedom is a word closely associated with all forms of graffiti, urban and street art. Painting in the street offers a place to create away from the restraints of the studio and the gallery, a place where an artist can freely express their imagery and feelings. The street is a breeding ground for creative energies to emerge, whether it is for purely imaginative artworks or for the freedom of speech, as can be found in 10 Favourite Politically Charged Art Expressions of 2014.


See Audubon's Famous Birds Like Never Before

The avian visions of John James Audubon, America's finest wildlife artist, are coming to life like never before.

Wired takes a tour of Audubon's Aviary, a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of 474 paintings, from his early work to the masterpieces that made his name synonymous with the winged world.

Right Bird, Right House

Find out which birds you can build a nest box or nest structure for in your region and habitat. Birds all across America are experiencing habitat loss that deprives them of former nesting areas. The right bird house can help bring birds back.

Bird houses help birds survive, and birds in turn, keep insects in check, pollinate plants, fertilize the soil, disperse seeds, and add biodiversity to our neighborhoods.


Quiet, Please: You Are Not Alone in Your Garden

There’s a multicultural world outdoors — and even the gentlest gardeners often disrupt it. Here’s how to avoid that. Spring unfolds each year in color, yes, but also in sound. And, regrettably, in noise — some of it emanating from our gardens. When Nancy Lawson, a Maryland-based naturalist and nature writer, speaks about the voices of frogs or birds, she uses the word “sound.” When she refers to humanity’s voice — the din of mowers, blowers and chain saws — she describes it as noise, specifically “anthropogenic noise.”


10 Ways to Help Birds

In 2019, scientists documented North America’s staggering loss of nearly 3 billion breeding birds since 1970.

It's easy to make real progress in helping birds by taking a few simple, everyday actions. Here are 10 ideas to get you started.


American White Pelican

This is one of America’s largest shorebirds with a length of about 5 feet and a impressive 9 foot wingspan, second in size only to the California Condor! American White Pelicans are very gregarious and nest in large colonies. They are snowy white with black flight feathers that are only visible when they fly. During breeding season they develop a yellow crest and a brilliant orange bill. Unlike Brown Pelicans, they don’t dive for fish, instead they float on the surface of the water submerging their heads to scoop up fish.

She Leads

Through briars and marsh, I made it to the edge of the river. As I rested against a swamp maple, I watched four Ring-necked ducks land on the still flood plain. The three males encircled the female who, when they sensed my presence, led them into flight.

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. While you’re there, keep an eye out for Cornell Lab representatives, as we do attend several festivals each year.

Slow Birding

The Art and Science of Enjoying the Birds in Your Own Backyard

By Joan E. Strassmann

A one-of-a-kind guide to birding locally that encourages readers to slow down and notice the spectacular birds all around them.

Many birders travel far and wide to popular birding destinations to catch sight of rare or “exotic” birds. In Slow Birding, evolutionary biologist Joan E. Strassmann introduces readers to the joys of birding right where they are.In this inspiring guide to the art of slow birding, Strassmann tells colorful stories of the most common birds to be found in the United States—birds we often see but might not have considered deeply before. For example, northern cardinals thrive in the city, where they are free from predators. White brows on a male white-throated sparrow indicate that he is likely to be a philanderer. This essential guide to the fascinating world of common, everyday birds features:

 detailed portraits of individual bird species and the scientists who have discovered and observed them

 advice and guidance on what to look for when slow birding, so that you can uncover clues to the reasons behind specific bird behaviors

 bird-focused activities that will open your eyes more to the fascinating world of birds Slow Birding is the perfect guide for the birder looking to appreciate the beauty of the birds right in their own backyard, observing keenly how their behaviors change from day to day and season to season.

Click here to purchase


The June 2023 issue of Bird Watch and Wonder was produced by Ross Feldner.


The Rachel Carson Council Depends on Tax-deductible Gifts From Concerned Individuals Like You. Please Help If You can.

Sign Up Here to Receive the RCC E-News and Other RCC Newsletters, Information and Alerts.

8600 Irvington Avenue 
Bethesda, MD 20817 
(301) 214-2400 

Follow Us

Having trouble viewing this email? View it in your web browser

Unsubscribe or Manage Your Preferences