North Carolina county #19 Catawba College Ecological Preserve
Just after noon on Thursday I arrived at Catawba College Ecological Preserve. I haven’t been on a college campus in over twenty years so I was a little apprehensive about just driving to some parking lot behind a building there and walking into the woods. Which is strange because I used to feel most at home on a college campus. But I shouldn’t have worried, it was a non-event. There were lots of cars and people going into and out of buildings and no one paid much attention to me putting on my gear and marching into the woods.
There were few people actually on the trail – I maybe saw five or so in a little more than two hours. Getting into the woods is somewhat complicated and there is no map to go by or instruction really. To get in, go to the back parking lot of Keppel Auditorium in Catawba College. Once there, you park and in one of the corners of the lot there is a sign for the Preserve. Follow the trail behind a different building. Once you pass some smaller buildings in the woods you come to the gate which gives the hours for the Preserve, and you can enter there.
Once in, it feels like a preserve. I heard a Barred Owl within a couple of minutes and there was a lot of bird activity. I wasn’t quick enough to record the owl but since I took my recorder out I got a snippet of these Chorus Frogs.
They were in a few different spots in the Preserve and they were very loud. I looked them up and they are tiny little things to make such a noise.
Once you are on the path you will hit a fork. Take the left fork which will lead you to a path that goes around a pond. That trail has arrows marking it, which you should follow closely. I actually didn’t trust them at one point and got myself lost for about 10 minutes. It is not a very large place so you won’t be lost for long though. The path around the lake is about one mile.
The whole place has the feel of a well cared for wilderness, and the birds seemed to like it very much. At one point I heard loud calls from a Red-shouldered Hawk, but it actually turned out to be three! They were circling very low to the ground and probably annoyed because people were walking near their nest, which was easily visible in a tree just off the path.
The path is heavily wooded so it was hard to get a clear shot of one but I managed to snap the above shot just as one landed. I am not sure what he is doing with his feathers in that photo.
There is even one small clearing near the pond where someone had hung a dozen or so homemade pinecone feeders.
I have made these before and they are really easy. You just get a pinecone and smear peanut butter onto and into it. Then you roll it in some birdseed and hang it up – instant feeder!
On the pond there was what initially looked to me like a Snow Goose, but on closer inspection I realized it was some sort of Domestic Goose hybrid. I am not sure exactly what hybrid but I put it into ebird with photos so hopefully if I entered it wrong it will be corrected. There was actually a good number of bird photo-ops here and I put most of them into ebird.
If you can’t tell, I was impressed with this place and really enjoyed the birding. The path was level (except for the entrance) and even and a pleasure to stroll on. Highly recommended.