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

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