Monday, May 19, 2014

I. B. Tigrett Middle School Students Discover Birds

Earlier this year, Marsha Parsons, science teacher and Project Learning Tree facilitator, requested 200 Discover Birds Activity Books for sixth grade science students at Tigrett Middle School, in Jackson, TN. This spring, she received those books courtesy of the Tennessee Ornithological Society.
Since receiving the books students in Mrs Parsons, Mr. Shackelford and Mr. Pledger's classes have been going on daily bird walks on the school grounds to study the ecosystem in which the birds in their area live .
Tigrett Middle School is located in an urban area with an open grass yard and bordering trees.  Though it is often hard to identify birds at a distance, noticing the bird's relative size, color, if possible, the way it flies and its general behavior can often help in identifying the bird.
Common birds found in urban areas include:  Mourning Dove, Rock Pigeon (feral pigeon), Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, House Sparrow, Common Crow and American Robin.  Pictures and information about the life and behavior of these birds can be found at Cornell's All About Birds by entering the bird's name in the search space.
While on their bird walks, students study the habitat and have even discovered bird nests. They are using the bird adaptation section of the Discover Birds Activity Book to aid their discussion about the kinds of adaptations birds need for this urban environment.  

A special thank you to Mrs Parsons, Mr Shackelford and Mr. Perkins for sharing their class activities and sending the above images of their students discovering birds!

Links and Resources:

Discover Birds Activity Book
Discover Birds Curriculum Guide
Tennessee Ornithological Society
Tennessee Birds
Tennessee Watchable Wildlife--Birds
Cornell's free beginning birding app--Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Audubon Mobile Field Guides

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Brownie Troop 20869 in Oak Ridge Discovers Birds!

Discover Birds volunteers and Oak Ridge Brownie Troop No. 20869 had a great time at Big Turtle Park in Oak Ridge this week, on May 14th.  
The group met in the playground area to visit with Paula Schneeberger and learn about her interesting bird treasures.
Her collection of bird items gives students the opportunity to learn details about the physical characteristics of birds and their behavior and to see some of these things up close.  Everyone enjoyed a close look at one of the characteristics that make birds different from all other animals--feathers!
Paula discusses the individual feather parts or filaments and explains they can separate leaving gaps. Each filament also has barbs that help hold the filaments together.  Birds take care of their feathers by preening. Paula compares preening to a zipper on a jacket. Preening zips the filaments back together!
The girls already knew some ways that feathers help birds, including flight and protecting them from cold.
Some students also knew that bird bones are hollow.  This characteristic helps bird flight making the bird's body very light.

Above, owl pellets are passed around.  Students are challenged to figure out what they are seeing in the pellets.  Owls can not digest hair, skulls and some bits of bones.  Sometimes there is enough of a hint remaining to identify the animal that was digested.
Birds' nests come in many sizes, shapes and materials. Some birds weave their nest between two twigs so that it is suspended in between.

Volunteer, Billie Cantwell, bought a bird poster, offering the students an opportunity to get familiar with some of the birds they might see on their bird walk.  Many could already identify the American Robin and Northern Cardinal.
Students also received a Waterford Press pocket guide of Tennessee birds to take with them on their walk to help identify birds.
Doug Schneeberger (behind the leaves) talks with students about the birds they are hearing.  The group stopped to listen to a Blue-headed Vireo.  At the pond, students showed interest in the fish and insects they found.  
As they were leaving the trail area, the group moved into a field and saw a small flock of Cedar Waxwings. Everyone was excited to also find this bird on their pocket guides.

A big "thank you" to Brownie Troop No. 20869 for their enthusiasm and interest in discovering birds! Thanks also to KTOS Discover Birds volunteers Billie Cantwell, Paul Schneeberger, and Doug Schneeberger.  Each of the students received a free Discover Birds Activity Book to continue their interest and learning about birds!

Photo credit for all images:  Billie Cantwell

Links and Resources:

Waterford Press Pocket Guides--Tennessee Birds
KTOS--Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society
KTOS on Facebook
Discover Birds Program
Discover Birds Activity Book
Discover Birds Curriculum Guide
Feather parts--filaments
Tennessee Birds
Tennessee Watchable Wildlife--Birds
Cornell's free beginning birding app--Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Audubon Mobile Field Guides

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Discover Birds Program Visits Sevierville Primary School!

The Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society visited Sevierville Primary School on May 9th, 2014, to present the Discover Birds Program to 260 second graders and 13 teachers!
Above, volunteer Chris Welsh talks with students before their bird walks and tells them what to look for when they're watching birds. Color, size, length of tail, crest or no crest, and the color of the beak are some of the many ways that birds can be recognized and remembered.  
Volunteer, Doug Schneeberger, passes out Naturalist Pocket Guides on Tennessee Birds for students to share and use as reference to identify birds on their bird walks.   Most of the birds they saw on their bird walks could be found in the pocket guides.

Below, volunteer Tony King, assists students in viewing Cedar Waxwings through the birding telescope. The scope brings the bird closer and allows students to see even the color of the bird's eyes from a distance away.
An American Robin, below, stares back.  Students noticed the yellow color of its beak, his dark head, red breast and white markings around his eyes.  Talking about these observations aids memory and makes it more likely the robin will be recognized the next time it is seen.
Below, Warren Bielenberg, gives his student group an introduction to their bird walk activities.  A Common Yellowthroat, a yellow warbler with a black mask, was heard throughout the day singing, "witchity, witchity, witchity, witch".  Students in one of Warren's bird walk groups saw this bird while on their bird walk.
The students were divided and rotated through the three parts of the program:  a slide presentation introducing birds, a bird treasures program with bird-related items the students could see up close, and a bird walk to find birds and view them through binoculars and telescopes.  
Above, Billie Cantwell, talks about bird habitat, bird beaks, legs and feet, and shows the many different varities of birds we can find.  Her program also includes listening to the calls and songs of some of the birds. Many students recognized the birds and knew their names. 
Above and below, Paula Schneeberger, talks about bird eggs, talons, different kinds of feet and how they function and many other fun facts about birds.  For example, a perching bird has three toes in the front and one in the back for grasping a perch.  A woodpecker usually has two toes in the front and two in the back to help in climbing tree trunks.  
Paula's bird items include an egg display, cast impressions of bird feet, bird skulls, bird castings or pellets (containing hair and bones the bird can't digest), nests, feathers and other items for the students to see up close.  
On their bird walks, students enjoyed seeing birds at a distance away through the scope, seeing more of the vivid color and detail.  Some of the birds, like one Rough-winged Swallow, perched for a long period so that all the students got a look through the scope.  Others, flew away more quickly, giving students opportunity to watch for movement and locate another bird.  
The Blue Jay above came to the bird bath for a drink.  Blue Jays have a tall crest of feathers on their head.   The jay above has his crest lowered. During nesting season, a jay often lowers its crest and makes soft squeaky sounds around its nest and mate.
Binoculars help bring birds closer so you can see more characteristics for identification.  The way a bird moves and their songs also help in identifying birds.
Sevierville Primary School has a wonderful outdoor classroom.  The school yard has many nest boxes, feeders and bird baths to attract birds.  Tree swallows and bluebirds were nesting in some of the nestboxes and other birds were coming to feeders and visiting the bird bath.

Tree swallows have beautiful iridescent feathers that shine green and blue in the light.  Chris explained that the feathers are not actually blue but the structure of the feather reflects the light so that our eyes only see the blue in the color spectrum.

The tree swallows were very cooperative and went about their nesting activities while we watched and continued our bird walks in the area. Tree swallow flight is fun to watch. They fly fast with lots of turns and twists to catch insects. They even dip down to drink water while in flight.
A big thank you to Sarah Green, her fellow second grade teachers, and Sevierville Primary School for inviting the Discover Birds Program to return for a second year.  All of the students received a Discover Birds Activity Book, compliments of the Knoxville TOS.  A big thank you, also, to our Discover Birds volunteers:  Chris Welsh, Tony King, Denise Nauman, Paula Schneeberger, Doug Schneeberger, Billie Cantwell, Warren Bielenberg and Vickie Henderson.

Chris Welsh recorded the birds he saw during the morning on eBird.  These reports help scientists learn where birds are located and how their populations are doing.  On our Sevierville Primary School bird walks we saw or heard a total of 32 bird species!

3  Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
5  Mourning Dove
3  Chimney Swift
1  Red-bellied Woodpecker
1  Northern Flicker
1  Eastern Phoebe
     Nest under bridge
     NY Confirmed--Nest with Young
2  Eastern Kingbird
3  Blue Jay
2  American Crow
2  Northern Rough-winged Swallow
5  Tree Swallow
     Breeding Code
     ON Confirmed--Occupied Nest
3  Barn Swallow
2  Carolina Chickadee
1  White-breasted Nuthatch
1  Carolina Wren
2  Eastern Bluebird
     Breeding Code
     ON Confirmed--Occupied Nest
3  American Robin
1  Gray Catbird
1  Northern Mockingbird
5  European Starling
9  Cedar Waxwing
2  Common Yellowthroat
      heard only
1  Yellow Warbler
4  Song Sparrow
2  Northern Cardinal
2  Blue Grosbeak
3  Red-winged Blackbird
1  Eastern Meadowlark
      heard only
4  Common Grackle
2  Brown-headed Cowbird
2  House Finch
1  House Sparrow

Links and Resources:

Tennessee Birds
Discover Birds Program
Discover Birds Activity Book
Discover Birds Curriculum Guide
Waterford Press Naturalist Pocket Guides
Sevierville Primary School
Knoxvile Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society
Tennessee Ornithological Society

Monday, May 5, 2014

Discover Birds Visits First Lutheran School

April 30th, the Discover Birds Program visited First Lutheran School in Knoxville, Tennessee, to introduce forty students to the amazing world of birds in their own school yard!

The forty students were divided into small groups to circulate through the three parts of the program:  a slide presentation, a close up bird treasures experience, and an outdoor bird walk.   Students learned how to find the birds in their school yard and how to recognize them.

Above, students and volunteers gather in the school yard to begin their bird walk.  Each of the students received a Waterford Press pocket guide to Tennessee Birds to carry on their bird walk to help them identify birds.  They also could find birds they often see in their own yards.
Above, volunteer Doug Schneeberger scans for bird movement, while students get familiar with the birds on their guide.  Students are taught how to spot a bird by watching for movement and listening.
The Discover Birds volunteers also shared binoculars and bird telescopes with the students giving them a special experience in viewing birds.  Jerry Ledbetter, below, was able to find several bird nests that students could view through the scope.  
Birds seldom are still for long, so adjustments to the scope were made frequently.
Inside the school, volunteer Billie Cantwell, introduces the students to birds with a slide show, showing how their beaks, legs and feet relate to the types of food they eat.  The slides also showed nests and the many sizes, shapes and colors of our world's birds.
Students were excited to already know some of the birds shown in the slides, such as the Ruby-throated hummingbird.  Many also recognized the Northern Mockingbird and knew that the mockingbird is Tennessee's state bird.
In another room, volunteer and naturalist, Paula Schneeberger, showed students bird treasures including talons, feathers, nests and other types of bird items that could be passed around and seen close up by the students.
 Below, students examine the long shaft of a flight feather.
Students enjoyed viewing the world around them through binoculars, including trees, flowers and windows! Each time they practiced looking through the binoculars they become better skilled at bringing the binoculars up to their eyes to find the item they wanted to see.  Birds will be next!
Volunteer, Marikay Waldvogel, above and below, shows students how to find birds through an application on her mobile phone which shows images of the bird and can also play the bird songs.
After the students identified a bird, Marikay showed them how to enter the bird in the eBird BirdLog, an application that enables the bird watcher to electronically record the birds seen on a website where bird records are kept.
Above and below, a student enters the information about a bird.
Below, students discuss the birds they've seen and find them in their pocket guide.
A student receives assistance with using the binoculars, below.
Chimney Swifts were the most active birds seen zooming and clicking over head.  Other birds included Northern Cardinal, American Robin, European Starling, and Rock Doves (pigeons). The students also noticed House Sparrows flying in and out of a hole under a roof in a house across the street from the playground.  They promised to keep an eye on it to see if the birds are nesting there!
All the students enjoyed the activities and were surprised to discover the number of different birds they could find around their school yard.  
One fourth grader responded, "I love nature, so this was really cool!"

Each of the students received a Discover Birds Activity Book, compliments of the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society.  A big thank you to First Lutheran School for inviting us to bring the Discover Birds Program to their school!

A special thank you to Colin Leonard for providing the above images.
A special thanks, also, to Discover Birds volunteers, Billie Cantwell, Marikay Waldvogel, Robin Barrow, Paula Schneeberger, Jerry Ledbetter and Doug Schneeberger.  For more information on the Discover Birds Program contact Billie Cantwell:

Links and Resources:

Discover Birds Program
First Lutheran School
Waterford Press Naturalist Pocket Guides
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