As part of our Bird Surveys section, we sat on the grassy knoll sloping down to the Asiatic Arboretum pond. First identification exercise: waterfowl. This massive pond has a proliferation of both exotic and native species, and we learned the field markings of hooded mergansers and wood ducks - both North Carolina year-round residents. A great blue heron refused to be left out of the party and landed gracefully in a tall cypress tree directly behind us.
|observing and recording|
"I chose Duke Gardens to practice birding because it's one of the only easily accessible spots on main campus where we can see both passerines (perching birds) and waterfowl," our instructor, Dr. Nicolette Cagle, wrote me in an email. "I wanted the students to be able to practice observing different families of birds."
|Wildlife Surveys and Duke Gardens|
I watched them forage along the ground, dart into trees and bushes, and stow away more than a few bird-feeder seeds for the duration of the winter ahead. Sketching and recording their movements in my outdoor notebook, for an hour I practiced the craft of a long line of field naturalists, including Charles Darwin, Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson, who spent their lives observing the natural world.
Blogger and photographer Erika Zambello is a graduate student studying Ecosystem Science and Conservation at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.