From what I have pieced together, здесь and вот differ in exactness.
Здесь is used if something is in the general vicinity of here. Because of this, the sentence translates to the more general "there are..." rather than "here are..."
Вот is used if something is exactly here, right in front of us.
The meaning of вот is the same as "here is/are" 90% of the time. Very rarely when you say "here is/are" are you focusing on the location of thing(s), instead "here is/are" roughly means "I present [something]"and that is what вот means.
In the rare case that "here is" means "this is the location of", rather than "I present", then you use здесь or тут instead.
You ( and a lot of Duo users) need to undererstand there is, there are. There as a location is там. There is or there are simple shows that they, or it exists. The location is здесь. Здесь медведи и утки. Word for word, Here (the location), bears and ducks. In English we have articles, abd would put location last.. Russian usually puts it first unless it's new info. The bears and ducks are the new info. Only way to translate this in English is There are(exists) bears and ducks here.
I think what he's saying is that to early learners the "Медведи+и" combo before the ducks sounds as if it would sound exactly the same as "Медведь+и" at the speed she's talking, so how would we know she wasn't saying "There are a bear and ducks here". Would you have to add the "oдин" as you mentioned if you wanted the listener to know the difference?
This is exactly the kind of detail I was fishing for. Thanks Madspark, and to Ectheroi for correctly clarifying my question (and catching my typo in медведь! Interesting... so "-дь" is un-voiced, sounding like a "т", while "ди" is voiced, sounding like "di". Other native speakers agree?
You're welcome. The reason that "-дь" is pronounced unvoiced is not because of the "ь" (which just tells you to pronounce a soft -i.e. palatalized- consonant), but because "д" appears at the end of the word. See the following for more information and examples: http://masterrussian.com/aa081201a.shtml
Think of Здесь as meaning more like around here in English. You are talking about their presence and not the fact of their exact location.
It would be a strange English statement to say....in this area are bears. The more natural construction would be to say ...there are bears in this area. That is a lot different than saying .....Here are the bears, right behind you actually, we better run!!
Duo can't tell if you know the difference if they let you answer with Here are bears.
Edit.......I should point out that running is the last thing you should do if you are concerned about the bears.