By Molly Kirk
Photos by courtesy of Monica Hoel
Each month in the Wildlife Watching Notes from the Field email, we at the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) are going to highlight one of our constituents and the role wildlife viewing plays in their life. Are you a wildlife viewer or photographer who would like to be featured or know someone who would be great to feature? We’d love to hear from you! Just email firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know!
Name: Monica Hoel
Hometown: Emory, VA
Occupation: Alumni Director, Emory & Henry College
How did you get interested in wildlife viewing?
It’s safe to say that my enthusiasm for watching wildlife has grown by leaps and bounds (and hops and slithers) since getting involved with Virginia Master Naturalists (VMN). Every day presents new information, wonder, and fascination—and new opportunities to protect and promote healthy habitat.
What do you love about wildlife viewing?
There is just so much to learn! Working from my porch for most of 2020, my new “office” has allowed me to glance up from my computer and see animal behaviors that I have never witnessed. Not only did I see more species of birds than I had ever counted, I also saw courtship, nesting, and parenting behaviors that were all new to me. We’re surrounded by wonders every minute of every day; we’re just not always watching.
Do you have a group you wildlife view with?
Members of our Holston Rivers Chapter of VMN are always ready to observe and learn. I’m also fortunate to have friends at Emory & Henry who call me to go birding at our field station. It’s so much fun to be out with folks who know and share so many insights about the natural world.
What’s been your most memorable sighting?
At my little house in Emory, I’ve seen everything from black bears to chipmunks—but it’s the birds I most enjoy. And in the spring of 2020 I had a bird in my yard that was so foreign to me that I didn’t even know how to find it in a guidebook. I drew a bad picture of it, texted it to a friend, and found out it was a yellow-billed cuckoo. Until that moment, I assumed cuckoos were tiny birds—small enough to fit inside a clock!
Are you a wildlife viewer who would like to be featured or know someone who would be great to feature? We’d love to hear from you! Just email email@example.com and let us know!