The group of campers, also devoted bird watchers, captured a few photos before the songbird flew from the branch and disappeared into the woods. Before the group continued the hike, the leader offered a few more facts about the bird. The audience absorbed the information then walked slowly with hands on their cameras and binoculars, eyes darting between the sky and the vegetation bordering the trail. And ears intently focused on every word coming from the guide of the nature walk.
The campground's volunteer naturalist paused and pointed to movement at the water's edge. A raccoon was walking the pond's edge in search of a meal. Ahead of the group and its guide was a family of four also watching the raccoon. The naturalist informed the group of how the raccoon washes its food before eating, or at least appears to. The naturalist invited questions regarding the bandit that waded in the water as the group looked on. The father of the family, now listening to the guide, raised his hand with a question. The naturalist answered additional questions and the hike proceeded — with the family in tow.
The camping activity of wildlife observation has always been a popular camping activity. Spotting a critter going about its duties in its native habitat never gets old. But what enhances the wildlife experience is knowing more about what you're seeing. Campgrounds, both public and private, are employing or accepting volunteer naturalists and guides to lead campers on hikes. Field guide books are informative, but an experienced naturalist or guide adds even more. Little known details about the animals and their habitat surface during guided nature tours as do interesting and amusing stories from the guides and campers as well. Most guides are volunteers and their enthusiasm for wild places is energizing.
Parks and other natural areas that host conservation programs offer insights into what specific species and their habitats are currently facing. By simply walking or driving through a park or natural area, much is missed. But with a naturalist joining you on your visit, not only will what in front of you will be identified, but its needs for preservation will be revealed as well. It's common to enjoy a few moments watching a wild animal in action and then leave it behind without knowing its species' struggles to survive in the changing landscape. Joining an organized hike during your next camping trip, with a guide leading the way, will reveal what you can do to assist active conservationists.