Many of us are drawn to the wild. It’s a connection Edward O. Wilson, author of “Biophilia: The Human Bond With Other Species,” describes as our innate love of nature.
“It’s one of the good things that’s built into us as this sort of reverence for taking care of our little natural spot and the cousins—all the other creatures and plants that live there—that we actually have a connection with,” explains Dr. William Avery, professor emeritus of biological sciences at Sacramento State university. “That makes you feel connected to something bigger than yourself, and that’s one of the most healing things that anyone can feel.”
Here are some opportunities close to home—and accessible from home—to stay connected with nature.
START LOCAL. “Get a map of the American River Parkway and start looking for trails,” says Avery. “Part of the joy is to find your own adventure.”
Explore Effie Yeaw Nature Center and Ancil Hoffman Park, located on the American River Parkway in Carmichael, with trails that weave through the riparian corridor and oak woodlands. Relax by the flowing river, search for trees freshly gnawed by beavers, watch for brightly colored warblers during fall migration.
With numerous entry points, Lake Natoma in Rancho Cordova—and its surrounding habitat—is an easily accessible destination rich with wildlife. Swallows nest on the dam, shoals of large fish swim beneath drifting kayaks, colonies of gulls float by and bald eagles perch on a snag or soar above.
Check out some other hot spots, such as Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Elk Grove, Yolo Basin Wildlife Area in Yolo County, and open spaces managed by the Sacramento Valley Conservancy such as Deer Creek Hills Preserve in Sloughhouse.
For those who remain at home, the power of the internet offers a different kind of screen time experience by streaming live footage of wildlife in their natural habitat from all over the world. “You never know what you’re going to see. There’s going to be a surprise,” says Avery.
GET TO KNOW THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY OSPREYS. Peer into the lives of a magnificent pair of ospreys that have nested on a crane since 2017. The species is making a comeback in the bay with more than 30 nests, according to the Golden Gate Audubon Society. Get an upclose view of the nest or pan out for a surrounding view at sfbayospreys.org.
TAKE YOUR OWN AFRICAN SAFARI. Virtually travel to Kruger National Park and the surrounding area in South Africa for wildlife adventures of a lifetime. Watch hippos, lions and their cubs, hyenas, giraffes, leopards and elephants. It all unfolds live at africam.com.
VISIT BIRDS OF THE WORLD. Drop in on the fruit-feeding birds of Panama, then hop over to New Zealand and watch the northern royal albatross with their entertaining behaviors and large bills. Visit hummingbirds in west Texas or Cornell Lab’s active FeederWatch cam at allaboutbirds.org/cams.
EXPLORE MORE WILDLIFE. Watch brown bears hunt their catch in Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska. Listen to the songs of beluga whales and orcas that swim by underwater cams in Canada. Peer inside a puffins’ burrow in Maine and spend a day with gorillas in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo at explore.org.