By Susan Shinn, Catawba College News Service
Visiting Catawba College's ecological preserve at night is as different as — well, you know.
Dr. Joe Poston led a group of 14 girls on a night walk at the preserve Monday night as part of the Catawba Conservation Camp (C3). Other groups went to the preserve on successive nights.
Each girl wore a headlamp and several carried large nets as they prepared to leave from the Center for the Environment.
Darkness was falling fast as they reached the lake.
"Let's circle up here," Poston said, before encouraging the girls to explore the edges of the grassy area.
The girls could use applications on their iPods — provided by the camp — to lure fireflies and frogs. Poston said that by training their lamps onto the grass, they might see the silvery eyes of spiders.
The girls wandered off alone or with a partner.
"I think it's real important to let them explore on their own," Poston remarked.
Flashlights and headlamps bobbed every which way in the growing darkness, the girls chattering away.
In short order, they found two turtles' nests at which the eggs had been plundered by raccoons, according to Poston.
He then collected their iPods and they returned to the trails, single file, in search of frogs.
Shortly, they circled up again. Poston asked whether the girls ever got to go out on their own outside and a couple raised their hands.
"Let's turn off our lights and just listen awhile," Poston urged the group, a tall order for middle-school girls.
They could hear the chapel bells tolling the half-hour. A motorcycle screamed by in the distance. Then they heard the natural sounds of katydids and bush crickets.
They continued into the "wilderness," as some of the girls termed it, pausing to look at a "really cool" spider web. Eventually, the spider scampered on its way, as did the group.
They hiked to a dry lake bed, the ground pocked with deer tracks.
City lights shining on the low-hanging clouds provided a bit of light as Poston used his iPod to play a barred owl call, hoping to lure one from the woods. No luck.
The girls were successful in finding a toad, which they deemed a mascot for their group, the frogs. The four other groups include ladybugs, lizards, turtles and fish.
Finally, the group returned to the center just after 10 p.m. They were tired and they had had a long day, but would be ready for another adventure the next morning.
Freelance writer Susan Shinn is a full-time student at Catawba College.
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