Learning about the Birds and the Trees

By Katie Kienbaum on May 23, 2017.

For AmeriCorps Project Conserve members, our service terms are not only an opportunity to serve the communities we live in, but they’re also a chance to learn and to gain experience in the conservation field. Throughout the year, groups of members organize peer trainings that promote personal and professional development. Project Conserve members from across western North Carolina attended one such training on May 15 to learn about bird identification and forestry. The training, hosted at the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville, was for some members a first introduction to the fields of ornithology and forestry. For others, it was an opportunity to hone their knowledge.

We started off the morning with a lesson in bird identification, led by our very own Ericka Hincke, the AmeriCorps Citizen Science Educator at the North Carolina Arboretum. First, we ran through some interactive activities to teach us the different characteristics of birds, including shape, size, color and call. Ericka has used many of the same activities with student groups throughout her service term. One key takeaway from the morning: vultures sound terrifying.

To test out our new birding skills, we headed outside to the Arboretum’s Forest Meadow. The birds that we successfully identified included the eastern phoebe, blue jay, American robin, red-bellied woodpecker, brown-headed cowbird, tufted titmouse, and ruby-throated hummingbird.

In the afternoon, we changed up the pace with a session on forestry and tree identification. Andy Tait, Director of Ecoforestry at EcoForesters (a new host site for the 2017-18 Project Conserve term), educated AmeriCorps members on the challenges faced by our forests and positive-impact forest stewardship. Unlike some other forestry practices, positive-impact forestry tries to not only maintain but actually improve the ecological health of the forest through practices such as crown thinning and invasive species management. Andy then led us on a walk around the Arboretum trails to teach us how to identify some key tree species and talk about their ecological and economical importance.

The training ended with the opportunity for Project Conserve members to check out the bonsai exhibit and explore the rest of the Arboretum. We hope that our fellow members found the day fun and informative and that it will help them when they’re out “getting things done for America!”

A big thank you goes out to the North Carolina Arboretum, for hosting the training; to our presenters, for sharing your knowledge; and to The Fresh Market and Harris Teeter, for graciously providing lunch. We couldn’t have done it without you!