Nature up close: Filming wildlife in one's backyard

"Kissing" cardinals, photographed by Roy Neher in his Oklahoma backyard.

Roy Neher

By "Sunday Morning" contributing videographer Judy Lehmberg.

This week's Moment of Nature in Oklahoma's Beavers Bend State Park was filmed by Roy Neher, a lifelong resident and wildlife advocate in that state.

Roy lives in central Oklahoma, in a forested area rich in biodiversity, in contrast to the flatter plains of Western Oklahoma.

Oklahoma -- including the land Roy has preserved and enhanced as prime bird habitat -- is located in the Central Flyway, a bird migration route followed by many species of warblers, vireos, buntings, grosbeaks and other species that winter in Central and South America and nest in North America. Many of these birds travel through his land, where they are rejuvenated as they migrate.

Roy's love of nature was nurtured by his veterinarian grandfather and his father, who was a naturalist and avid birder. By the age of five he was raising baby mourning doves and spending many hours each week with his father learning to observe, appreciate and understand nature. He says lesson one was "Sit down, shut up, quit moving and just watch."

Think about how much better off we would be if we all took that advice. Not only would we learn to appreciate other organisms, but we might even realize they have just as much right to survive, raise their families, and live in peace as we do.

We might even come to recognize how much we have in common with them.

By the time he was 10 years old he was doing field work with Dr. George M. Sutton, world-renowned artist, writer, explorer and professor of ornithology at the University of Oklahoma.

Roy's photography career began almost by accident. For his birthday one year, his wife helped him dig a pond on their heavily-forested land. Birds began showing up at the pond almost immediately, including some he couldn't identify. He got a video camera so he could have a record of the new ones and learned to recognize them. Since then he has identified more than 150 species on his land.


A painted bunting at one of Roy's feeders.

Roy Neher

Over the years his career has evolved, and now includes successful television programs such as "The Birds of Roy's Pond," which depicts a wide range of birds, including spotted towhees, American goldfinches, pine siskins, summer tanagers, great-crested flycatchers, brown thrashers, gray catbirds, cardinals, Carolina chickadees, tufted titmice, and a number of warblers -- as well as a thriving business of photographing his birds on bird feeders for companies who manufacture and sell feeders.

Although he has filmed all over the U.S., he prefers to highlight the rich diversity of birds and other wildlife in Oklahoma. Neher says, "Although I live and breathe wildlife conservation, my programs don't beat people over the head with the gloomy forecast for the future of wildlife. Instead, I prefer to entertain my viewers with beautiful images and the joy of observing these wonderful creatures." 

Judy Lehmberg is a former college biology teacher who now shoots nature videos.

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