These Web sites are just right for nature lovers


Each holiday season I recommend books and other gifts that might interest readers. Today I give a gift to you — a series of Web sites chock full of valuable information that nature lovers will appreciate. And they’re free. If you don’t have Internet access at home, visit your local public library.

The University of Pittsburgh deserves thanks and congratulations for sharing this gem, a complete set of John James Audubon’s Birds of America. It’s considered to be the single most valuable set of volumes in the collections of the University Library System. Only 120 complete sets are known to exist. While Audubon was creating Birds of America, he was also working on a companion publication, namely, his Ornithological Biography. It, too, is available at this site.

The Encyclopedia of Life is an ambitious work-in-progress to organize virtually all information about life present on Earth. At its heart lies a series of Web sites — one for each of the approximately 1.8 million known species. Each site is constantly evolving and features dynamically synthesized content ranging from historical literature and biological descriptions to stunning images, videos and distribution maps.

A real-time, online checklist program, eBird has revolutionized the way that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds. Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, eBird provides basic information on bird abundance and distribution. It is one of the largest and fastest growing biodiversity data resources in existence.

Daily photographic highlights from the bird banding station at Powdermill Nature Reserve, the biological station of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

The station was established in 1956 and is located in the Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania. The banding program began in the summer of 1961 and may be the longest running, year round professional banding operation in the country.

Journey North engages visitors in a global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change. Track the coming of spring through the migration patterns of monarch butterflies, robins, hummingbirds, whooping cranes, gray whales, bald eagles — and other birds and mammals; the budding of plants; changing sunlight; and other natural events. Journey North is a premiere “citizen science” project for students of all ages.

Follow the migration of 10 tundra swans from Alaska’s North Slope at the Swan Research Program.

Track golden and bald eagles in migration with researchers at the National Aviary.

An invaluable source of information on attracting, watching, feeding, and studying North American hummingbirds, including spring migration maps that track the northward migration of ruby-throated hummingbirds.

Learn about whale communication at the Right Whale Listening Network, part of the Bioacoustics Research Program at Cornell University.

Based on a PBS NOVA program from 2000, this site is all about honey bees.

Butterflies and Moths of North America is a searchable database of verified butterfly and moth records in the United States and Mexico. This site includes distribution maps, photographs, species accounts, and species checklists for each county in the U.S. and each state in Mexico.

A dedicated to the education, conservation, and research of monarch butterflies. It has everything from kindergarten class projects to a complete scientific bibliography of monarch literature. Also included is information about several monarch research projects that need volunteers from all over North America.

News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids. Log in your home location and get scheduled passes of the International Space Station.

View a stunning “Astronomy Picture of the Day.” Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

Current news about the earth-sun environment; sign up for space weather alerts so you don’t miss auroras, sundogs, and other space-weather events — local and national weather forecasts from The Weather Channel.

Debunk urban legends and e-mail tales here.


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Scott Shalaway, who holds a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology from Michigan State University, writes from his home in rural West Virginia. A former faculty member at Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma Biological Station, he has been writing a weekly nature column for newspapers and freelancing for magazines since 1986. He can be heard on Birds & Nature from 3-4 p.m. Sunday afternoons on 620 KHB Radio, Pittsburgh, or live online anywhere at, or on the Tune-In radio app. Visit his website at or contact him directly at or 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.



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