High Flying, and a High Five to the “Lab of O”

Series producer Marsha Walton takes a look at the many wonderful stories featured on the first two seasons of This American Land on birds, and exciting news from our friends at Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology. 

We cover all types of outdoor activities on our show. Any guesses on the most popular? Hiking? Fishing? Mountain biking? 

For the answer—look up! Birding is the number one sport in America. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says there are more than 50 million birdwatchers out there.

So it’s no surprise some of your favorite stories have featured exotic, endangered, and engaging birds. In season one, Sharon Collins of Georgia Public Broadcasting showed us “Herons and Heroes,” a look at how wading birds have recovered from over-hunting. 

In season two, our colleagues at Oregon Field Guide captured amazing pictures of Arctic white geese by the tens of thousands, and healthy new populations of bald eagles in the northwest. 

We also showed you the almost unbelievable “Miracle Eagle,” a female bald eagle that crashed into a truck driver’s windshield in Idaho and fought back to a healthy recovery.  From a haven for hawks in Idaho, to the birds of Dyke Marsh near Washington, D.C., to a most unusual peregrine falcon home in Iowa, birds and their habitats constantly mesmerize us. 

But birds and other wildlife can be pretty mercurial. On a typical video shoot we aren’t always lucky enough to get pictures of all the birds or other critters we report on. 

That’s where our friends at Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology (known by most as “The Lab of O”) come to the rescue! Ask just about any birder in the country, and chances are they have checked out the live nest cams, or taken part in citizen science projects on the Lab of O website to learn more about our feathered friends. 

The Macaulay Library at the Lab of O is the world’s largest and oldest scientific archive of biodiversity audio and video. And they’ve just reached a milestone!

All the archived recordings at the lab, dating back to 1929, have been digitized and can now be heard at www.MacaulayLibrary.org

That’s nearly 150,000 digital audio recordings of about 9,000 species. While birds are by far the stars, you can hear, (and in many cases see) recordings of whales, elephants, frogs, and primates.  And on many of these recordings, you’ll hear the scientists on site discussing their work. 

So set aside some time to check out these treasures. And our sincere thanks to the folks at Macaulay for providing sounds and video to help us out on “This American Land.” 

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