Friday, November 20, 2015

11.20.15 - For The Birds Enrichment - Wixon Innovation School - Dennis, MA

When I lead bird walks, rain cancels any scheduled walks.  This morning was cold, rainy & dark, so I had been prepared with an indoor activity for the Wixon Bird Nerds.  I understand that 9, 10 & 11 year olds would much rather RUN around than walk around, particularly during the last class of the school week.  I get it.  Who isn't ready to let loose by 2pm on a Friday anyway?  They love Toxic Tag and of course we'll play that again.  Today I had a lesson plan based on bird nests.  In the spring, I attended a fantastic bird workshop at Clark University in Worcester through MITS (Museum Institute for Teaching Science).  One of the many fun & interesting activities I participated in was nest building.  Birds are engineers, and when I present my Birdwatching For Beginners class, I pass around some bird nests that people have donated to the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History to illustrate that concept.  Imagine a bird's nest you've seen on a tree branch or one on the ground.  Now imagine constructing that nest with your feet and your face.  That's what they do.  Some nests are SO elaborate with the materials they incorporate!  Tennis rackets have been featured in the Osprey nest behind CCMNH, as well as Barbie dolls!  Our avian friends are resourceful and they will use trash & other discarded materials un-natural materials along with natural materials if they feel it will support their precious egg(s).  It's all about making more...birds that is.  Nests are REMARKABLE.

Nest building was our objective today, as you might imagine... I brought along a fan to test the final constructions in "wind", thinking we'd be indoors.  Turns out I didn't even need the fan because I decided to take this activity outdoors.  The natural breeze did the trick on testing the sturdiness of their creations and THEY WERE INTO IT!  Please view the photos below so you can see their hard work!  These students were amazing today with their willingness to cooperate with one another, not only as separate pairs, but also as a group...of bird nerds. They were so focused and thoughtful (and quiet!!!) and we talked about what kinds of materials the birds might use, and which bird might use what. I brought along yarn, pieces plastic bags, cut up old socks, shredded news paper, & cardboard rectangles and cardboard tubes for duct-taping together for the bases to hold the true branches.  I collected "eggs" (rocks) from around the edges of the school yard to be placed in the nests when they were completed.  Some of the eggs were even decorated!  One nest even got a fun tire swing installed on a nearby branch!  All thoroughly enjoyed this activity!  Some students were missing enrichment today because they had been at the fifth grade seashore trip (NEED Academy) this past week, an INCREDIBLE opportunity for 5th graders in the D-Y district!  I asked if those present if they'd enjoy revisiting this project another time, perhaps on another rainy day so that every Bird Nerd in this enrichment class can have an opportunity to test their engineering skills by nest building like the birds. They agreed. These students are an inspiration!  (double click photos to enlarge)

Getting to work, making the bases and gathering materials

Working together

Team work!

Imagine the focus on a Friday afternoon... 
their dedication was impressive!

Dedication and determination

The nests needed to support 3 "eggs" each

Decorated "eggs"

Focused collaboration

Tricky business

Proud nest builders!

Smiling engineers

This nest's nearby branches got a tire swing installed!

Working together is rewarding!

Another proud pair!

Bird Nerds with their accomplished nests

Happy Birding Young Bird Nerds!!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

11.17.15 - Cape Cod Museum Of Natural History - Tuesday Tweets - John Wing Trail

Brewster, MA

Here comes the chill!  We had a sea breeze to contend with, but nothing too terrible.  Sunny skies were above and we had our share of sightings and sounds this morning!  I can't remember the last time we spotted a House Finch during Tuesday Tweets, so that was a nice find this morning.  Turns out American Goldfinch seemingly cannot get enough of those juniper berries!  As we were walked the rocky, root laden meadow trail toward the beach, something surprising and spectacular caught my eye... a White-tailed Deer - all alone.  She seemed equally curious of us and we had a nice long 400feet apart stare down, then she hopped down into the safety of a salt panne in the marsh.  It was a moment of peace and beauty - and how can you beat starting a chillly November morning?  I really couldn't say.  Thanks for joining me Bird Nerds!  It's a treat having you along for the walk (double click photos to enlarge. Photo credits to Rick as noted)

Our List:
Black-capped Chickadee
House Sparrow
Blue Jay
American Crow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Hawk (Red-tailed juvenile?)
House Finch
American Goldfinch
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
American Robin

Bonus Mammal
White-tailed Deer (!!!)

House Sparrow - male

Blue Jay (photo credit: RICK)

Does it call to you too?

Deciduous Holly (I believe)

American Goldfinch - male

American Goldfinch - male

American Goldfinch - male (photo credit - RICK)

Bird Nerds checking out the House Finch and the American Goldfinch

Black-capped Chickadee... chickadeeing on a pitch pine branch

Cape Cod Bay in November

Nest box on the marsh - inhabited typically by Tree Swallows in the summer,
and occasionally by Eastern Bluebirds

There she is...

I know it's blurry, but it looks like a painting to me

(photo credit - RICK)

The mud puddle, looking peaceful & pretty

So many Cape Cod Bay colors

Crow tracks

Natural artistry, beach grass ballet I call it, the 
circular patterns the grass, wind & sand make together

Camouflage... can you see him?

Northern Cardinal - male (photo credit - RICK)

American Robin - juvenile

American Robin - juvenile

John Wing Trail heading southward, back towards the marsh

Next opportunity for Tuesday Tweets: 12.1.15 9:30am $2Members/$4Non-members
Happy Birding!

Monday, November 16, 2015

11.16.15 - Bird Nerd Moment - My yard and road in Yarmouth

Pay attention when you hear the crows caw-caw-cawing, especially when there are a few of them and they're flying around near the tree tops.  Chances are, if you're able to be close enough and this behavior is continuing from tree top to tree top in a neighborhood... you're about to see a raptor.  In this case it was a spectacular Red-tailed Hawk.  I believe to be a male due to his size.  He was still large, but not as large as some females I've seen.  The crows mobbed him this way and that, and for whatever reason, eventually decided to stop pestering him when he landed near the top of an oak tree across the street.  There was another brief moment when a Blue Jay came right near him to complain as well.  Brave bird... or foolish.  I was fortunate enough to get some decent photos of this handsome creature.  Hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed the brief visit I had with him.

Getting tired of me staring I think...

I had some other visitors to my yard that day too.  We have a crab apple tree that is extremely fragrant & flowery in the spring, and this time of year it is LOADED with ripe red fruit.  Turns out it's not only pretty to look at, but some birds, Northern Flickers, American Robins, Bluejays and others, find it a tasty treat to feast on!  Check out this Northern Flicker having a wonderful crab apple feast!

See the crab apple right in his mouth!?

I also had some other visitors to my yard, thanks to the many trees in our not so large yard, and the 1 seed feeder & 1 suet feeder, I do get to see several species each day doing their thing and finding some shelter & nourishment in my yard.  It makes me happy that they feel welcome here.
Northern Cardinal & House Sparrows (Mrs.&Mr.)

House Sparrow

Silhouette of Northern Cardinal - female

Happy Birding!