‘Bird, bird, bird, bird is the word!’ Our Earth Morning theme for October was Backyard Birds! Red-tailed hawk forest school students started out practicing bird spotting skills in the apple orchard during opening circle. As birds are wary of a lot of movement, we also tried birding from inside a blind. Several students were already able to identify woodpeckers (we spotted both hairy and downy woodpeckers), a chickadee and a blue jay at the feeder and in the orchard, as well as turkey vultures flying overhead. Throughout the morning, we celebrated fun facts, like this one: ‘Blue Jays can imitate sounds - like the scream of the red-tailed hawk or even that of a car alarm’! ‘Common grackles love eating corn!’ In a game of bird banding tag, students were banded as a backyard bird for the rest of the morning. Migrating, in a ‘V’-like fashion, we moved into the forest.
In the forest, we made marked stops to connect bird food/homes to the students’ birds. We practiced our `pishing` skills while a flock of chickadees were checking us out in the trees above. We spotted two trees full of large squarish pileated woodpecker nest cavities. We documented our bird sightings including those in the forest (cardinal, sparrow, hairy woodpecker, crows, white-breasted nuthatches, red-breasted nuthatch, chickadees) on ebird. If you are already a bird lover, you might like to check out this global bird database: http://ebird.org. On ebird, you can keep an online track of your own bird lists, while contributing as a Citizen Scientist. Also, find out about local bird hotspots and print area checklists and much, much, more! Students were excellent at spotting hand-crafted bird feeders, placed in the forest, made of reused items (e.g. coffee tin, carton, plastic jug and mesh vegetable bag).
In the field below, students rotated through three stations. 1) Woodpecker Station – students practiced drumming loudly like pileated woodpeckers and soft and quick like downy woodpeckers. We used long barbed woodpecker tongues to catch felt carpenter ants - a delicacy enjoyed by Pileated woodpeckers; 2) Egg Station – students matched and found their birds` egg. Students were able to view a wren nest, a robin nest and a chickadee nest, noticing the different materials they are built with. They made some excellent guesses at a mystery egg (e.g. bird? turtle? dinosaur? snake? crocodile? chocolate? lizard? bee?); and 3) Sound Station – black-capped chickadees sang ‘Cheeseburger’; blue jays called out their names ‘Jay’, ‘Jay’, ‘Jay’; red-winged blackbirds sang `Konkareee`; goldfinches called `potatoe chip` and cardinals sang `purdee, purdee, purdee`. Back at closing circle, we discovered that our dinosaur eggs had hatched – celebrating that a group of dinosaurs are thought to be the ancient relatives of birds!
If your family is interested in learning more about birds this winter, Project Feederwatch is a great way to do it (November through April) – you can find out more here: https://feederwatch.org/about/how-to-participate/. FeederWatch data help track broad scale movements of winter bird populations and trends in bird distribution and abundance. Also, stay tuned to find out when the Kids Christmas bird count is happening at the Tiffin Centre this coming January. Looking forward to Wednesday, November 22nd, where we will be exploring Wild Homes, Wild Connections and Winter Preparations.