Saturday, December 7, 2013

BHEA Students and Parents Discover Birds

On November 21st, the The Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society (KTOS) and the Discover Birds Program hosted 33 students and their parent-teachers from the Blount Home Education Association at Ijams Nature Center for a great afternoon of discovering birds!
The event started with a bird slide show presentation by KTOS President, Billie Cantwell, introducing students to the variety of birds they can find in Tennessee, including some of their nests and eggs.
Paula Schneeberger, above, shows the students "bird treasures" and passes many items around to students for a closer look. Above, Paula holds a display of owl pellets and points out one that contains a complete tiny bird skull for the students to notice. Other items include bird eggs, nests, talons and feathers.  

Below, a student compares the talons of a Harpy Eagle and a Golden Eagle.  
After the indoor program and a break, everyone gathered at the Ijam's outside pavillion to enjoy a beautiful Red-tailed Hawk exhibited by senior naturalist and author, Stephen Lyn Bales.  

Red-tailed hawks live in Tennessee year-round and many hawks from northern areas come south to Tennessee to spend the winter.  They hunt mice, voles and other small mammals by perching in an open area to find them with their keen eyesight.  We often see them perched on posts and tree limbs along the side of roads and fields.  
The hawk and its interesting story inspired lots of questions.  
Next, the students had the opportunity to look at birds through the birding telescopes, also called birding "scopes".  
A pair of Mourning Doves found perched on tree limbs at the edge of the field became the first birds they viewed and the birds remained still for everyone to get good looks.  
Photo credit:  Billie Cantwell

Mourning Doves (below) are named for their soft song that is often considered a sad or mournful song. They are ground feeding birds and will sometimes come to feeders and eat the seeds dropped on the ground or visit the bird bath for a drink.

Photo credit:  Billie Cantwell

Photo credit:  Stephanie Bowling

Below, Oliver Lang, Discover Birds volunteer, shows students the field guide he carries to help him identify birds.

After viewing the birds near the pavillion, the group divided into three smaller groups for bird walks.  Each group took a different trail and spotted birds to view with the scope, giving them an opportunity to enjoy the different kinds of birds found on the many acres at Ijams Nature Park.
Below, Kelly Sturner, Discover Birds volunteer, talks with students about birds and how to find them.

Quiet voices and keeping your eyes alert for movement are some of the best ways to find birds.

Chris Welsh, below, takes his group on a wooded hike along the River Walk Trail.  

Photo credit:  Billie Cantwell

Photo credit:  Stephanie Bowling

Photo credit:  Stephanie Bowling

Above, a wintering Hermit Thrush was one of the great finds on their bird walk.  Be sure to click the link and listen to this bird's beautiful song
Photo credit:  Stephanie Bowling

Photo credit Stephanie Bowling

Each of the participating students received a Discover Birds Activity book to help continue their excitement and learning about birds.  

For more information about the Discover Birds Program contact Billie Cantwell at
To order printed activity books, contact Cyndi Routledge at 
To download and print the activity book, visit:  The Tennessee Ornithological Society-Educational Resources page.

Links and Resources:

Discover Birds Program
Discover Birds Activity Book
Hermit Thrush
Mourning Dove
Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society (KTOS)
KTOS on Facebook
Tennessee Ornithological Society
Blount Home Education Association
Stephen Lyn Bales
Ijams Nature Center
Tennessee Birds 
Tennessee Watchable Wildlife--Birds
Cornell's All About Birds--ID birds and their songs

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