The baby geese have just started showing up at CritterVision, making things a bit tricky for the squirrels. On HootHouseLivestream, mother Hootie has her wings full with rapidly-growing babies Dax, Jin, San, and Fiz. Speaking of babies, a new litter just arrived at Adorable_Kittens. I’ve become a Twitch nature stream enthusiast over the past month, a very happy and centered compulsive animal watcher.
I didn’t watch a lot of Twitch — gaming Twitch included — until last month, when Kotaku’s own Nathan Grayson wrote about the Stopsigncam phenomenon. The idea of people rooting for drivers to obey the law intrigued me, and after watching several hours of that nonsense I began to wonder what other entertaining distractions were lurking on the outer edges of Twitch. That’s when I found CritterVision.
CritterVision founders Chris and Jane have been feeding what others might call “nuisance animals” out of their backyard in South Carolina for nearly two decades. In mid-2019 they started streaming live. During the day, their various feeders are visited by hungry squirrels and geese, the latter of which have just started bringing their newly-hatch babies to the buffet. Once the sun goes down the night vision kicks in, and a different kind of party starts.
At night, CritterVision becomes raccoon central and deer headquarters. Herds of both critters are commonly seen feasting at the various boxes and bowls, restocked twice daily with corn, fruit, nuts, and other animal-friendly fare. Two bowls toward the back are usually packed with peanut butter, a favourite of another nocturnal visitor, the elegant and always well-groomed possum.
There are other, less regular visitors. I’ve seen vultures hanging about, along with various other birds. The neighbourhood cats stop by now and then. Over on the CritterVision YouTube channel, you can watch a quick cameo by a 3.05 m alligator friend who waddled through in the night.
Like all of the animal Twitch streams I visit, CritterVision has a nice little community that follows the lives of the critters closely. They keep track of certain animals, like the momma possums and raccoons who stop by to stock up on munchies while their babies nap. They’re also big fans of Gary, the stoneware frog with the ever-surprised expression who serves as the stream’s mascot and is often in-stock at the merch store (yes, I own one). It’s an outstanding place to hang out, and not a bad stream to have on as you drift off to sleep at night.
Once I started watching a lot of CritterVision, my recommended channels started filling with interesting animals. I started watching streams like DashDucks and OurChickenLife, a pair of multi-camera channels where subscribers can not only watch but also feed hordes of clucking and quacking farm fowl. Both streams have rigged up automatic treat dispensers that activate when a subscriber cheers with Twitch bits. The birds seem to love it.
Those birds led me to HootHouse, a 24-hour camera set up in an owl nesting box in California that a mated pair of barn owls, mama Hootie and daddy Winkler, have called home since late 2019. When I first started watching in March of this year, Hootie had just begun hatching and raising her third batch of hideously cute owl babies. Over the course of a few weeks, I’ve watched the four hatchlings grow from tiny, featherless nightmares straight out of The Dark Crystal into plump and fluffy balls of bird.
To be honest, I’ve kind of fallen for them. I’m actually a little worried about babies Dax, Jin, San, and Fiz. Since this is a straight-up nature cam without any human interference, it’s not always pretty. Only four of eight of Hootie’s first brood survived to leave the box. The second brood fared worse, with only three of eight surviving. I’m hoping all four of the newer babies make it, but you never know.
One disclaimer about HootHouse, aside from falling in love and potentially being crushed. If you’re a big fan of mice and rabbits, viewer discretion is advised. Hootie is a rodent murder machine, and the other day baby Dax did a real number on a bunny. If that notion bothers you, maybe stick to something more wholesome and sweet, like Adorable_Kittens.
Adorable_Kittens does what it says on the tin, streaming tiny baby cats and soothing music from morning until evening. The stream is run by a breeder of Scottish Fold and British kittens operating out of Orlando, Florida. The kittens on stream are sold for between $US1,500 ($1,932) and $US3,000 ($3,864) apiece. That means these are very fancy kittens indeed. Fancy kittens that do a whole lot of sleeping, because being a commodity is exhausting.
While I couldn’t see myself ever spending money on a cat with a proper pedigree when there are so many rescue cats waiting for their humans at shelters across the country, I have no problem watching these pricy babies growing, cuddling, feeding, and wrestling. I am particularly attached to one of the stream’s momma cats, who looks so stupid I want to hug her all day.
Just this morning I tuned into Adorable_Kittens to discover the brood I’d been watching for weeks had moved on, and a fresh batch of kittens was now the main event. I’ve only been watching this new five-kitten crew for an hour or so, but I’m already finding myself rooting for the orange and black siblings of the mostly-white litter.
Why am I so drawn to animal streams on Twitch? For one, no one is talking. I don’t have to worry about a host trying to be funny. There’s no human drama and generally only minimal animal drama. The modest communities that have arisen around these sorts of streams are generally friendly, respectful, and genuinely curious about things like animal behaviour and feeding habits.
Plus I don’t get outside very often since I became paralysed back in 2018, and streams like HootHouse and CritterVision feel like a backyard I can easily visit anytime, without worrying about getting dressed up, transferring into my wheelchair, and being driven somewhere in the back of a cramped accessibility van. I click a button and I am transported outside, where adorable animals do adorable things for my amusement.
Exactly like that, yes.