Here are five of the Washington area’s best, ranked from least to most entertaining.
5. Washington Monument cam
Admittedly, not much happens, at least in a minute-by-minute sense. But the Washington Monument’s cam, which is affixed more than 500 feet in the air, offers an all-day look at the money shot: That gorgeous view of the west side of the Mall that you used to snap pictures of when taking off from Reagan National Airport. The World War II Memorial glitters; the Lincoln Memorial dazzles.
It’s especially striking at sunset and during weather events. On stormy days, this is the best way to observe the clouds rolling in, and then swirling and dispersing, and the sky’s mood changing.
If you miss the arrival of storm, click over to the cam’s 24-hour feed. You can easily jump to whatever part of the day at which you’d like to take another look. There’s also a camera button that allows viewers to save an image and share it via email or social media. It’s the 2020 version of photographing your city. nationalmall.org/monumentcam.
4. Reagan National Airport webcam
If the pandemic foiled your summer vacation plans, here’s one way to get reacquainted with your old stomping grounds, the airport. Five different cams offer varying perspectives, including close-ups of the planes and runways, plus a solid view of the Potomac River and Arlington Memorial Bridge.
If you keep the volume on, you can listen as air traffic controllers monitor and direct aircraft, which is interesting — and distracting, if you’re trying to keep the flight path that is your day on track. Activity levels ebb and flow throughout the day; tune in during the morning or afternoon for the most action. One click, and you’ve arrived at your destination: the Land of Quarantine Entertainment. Please enjoy your stay. youtube.com (search for “DCA Airport webcam”).
3. National Arboretum Bald Eagle Nest cam
A word of advice to those trying to tell Mr. President and the First Lady apart: She’s slightly larger, with a two-toned yellow beak and clean feet. His beak is a deeper shade of yellow, and his feet are usually dirty.
The District’s most famous feathered couple — a pair of bald eagles who moved in circa 2014 — delight viewers whenever they spend time in their nest at the National Arboretum. Both made a number of appearances during August, and will be home more regularly starting in September and October. The best time of day to catch a glimpse of the birds is early morning, late afternoon or before sunset, says nest liaison Carol Caesar.
There were no eaglets this season; Caesar is hopeful that there will be next season. But the nest remains captivating to watch. There are two views on the cam that showcase the truly majestic birds. Expect close-ups that allow you to study their feathers, talons and tongues. Occasionally, one will level its gaze directly at the camera, with those beady eyes, thrusting you into an eagle stare-off.
Though Mr. President and the First Lady are the official residents, other eagles do visit the nest. A great horned owl was also recently spotted, as was a skink who shed its skin on camera. Keep an eye out for these moments: “We watched the First Lady dive bomb a couple visitors out of the nest, which is always exciting since she flies in like a torpedo,” Caesar says. naeaglecam.org.
2. The National Aquarium's cams
It feels a bit like we’re being chased by a shark these days: The virus is lurking in the dark, waiting to pounce. The fish at the National Aquarium in Baltimore can relate. Check them out via three cams, including a live view of the Blacktip Reef exhibit. In addition to sharks darting about, there are colorful clown triggerfish, emperor angelfish, guinea fowl puffers and more than 3,000 pieces of coral.
The aquarium’s Jellies Invasion cam is perhaps the only way one would want to inspect a jelly fish. From a safe distance, eye up the blue blubber jelly, which ranges in color from white to light blue to dark purple. It pulses in and out rhythmically, like it’s in the black light at a nightclub for invertebrates, dancing to a staccato beat.
Perhaps most stunning of all, the Pacific Coral Reef cam features lots of the diversity found in coral reefs. Highlights include the spot fin butterflyfish, yellow tang and Banggai cardinalfish. Connect the stream to your TV, and watch the fish float peacefully around their home all day. It’s a soothing activity. aqua.org/explore/livestreams.
1. The National Zoo's cams
Perhaps the brightest spot in this unusual summer was the arrival of one VIP — that is, very important panda. When Mei Xiang gave birth on Aug. 21, there was finally something to celebrate. Since then, a rapt audience has watched the attentive mother and her quickly growing cub as they snuggle and snooze.
The cam streams 24/7 out of the zoo’s Giant Panda Behavior Research Station. There are three large screens, 12 smaller monitors and 41 cameras throughout the panda habitat that staff and volunteers monitor constantly. Those at home have access to two views, which are focused on the den.
Keep an eye out for when Mei Xiang sits in an upright position, which often signals nursing. The best time to catch a glimpse of the cub, the zoo says, is when her mom is shifting positions; this is usually accompanied by cub vocalizations. Soon, Mei Xiang is expected to routinely leave the den, providing ample opportunity to take a good, long look at the baby.
When it’s about 6 weeks old, the cub’s eyes will open, and between then and the eight-week mark, it will begin to crawl. The distinctive black and white panda markings will continue to emerge over the coming months.
Though the panda cam is monopolizing much of viewers’ attention, other animals’ fascinating lives are also on display. After you get your cub fix, check in on the very active mole rats, lions and elephants, among other creatures. nationalzoo.si.edu/webcams.