Saturday, September 20, 2014

Young Adventures Group Students Discover Birds!

Friday, September 19th, the Discover Birds Program and the Young Adventures Group (YAG) homeschool students and teachers met at the University of Tennessee Arboretum in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to learn about birds!
Doug Schneeberger began the program with his trunk of bird treasures including beaks, feet (castings), bird skeletons, talons, feathers and other items that demonstrate the unique and varied characteristics of birds.
Above, the skull and beak of a Wood Stork. A Wood Stork's bill is very sensitive allowing it to forage in muddy water and capture small fish and invertebrates that swim through its open bill. When a Wood Stork touches prey with its bill, it can snap its bill shut in 0.025 seconds!  This is one of the fastest reaction times known in vertebrates!
Here's what a Wood Stork looks like.  Biologists believe that his bald head may make it easier to clean the mud from his head.

Below, Doug shows students a comorant beak.  You can visit the cormorant at Cornell: Double-crested Commorant.  Commorants can be found in Tennessee, while Wood Storks are most often found in coastal wetlands in Florida and South Carolina.
Below, Doug discusses the skeleton of a bird and talks about features in common with humans and what is different.

Birds create a variety of nests!  Below, Doug shows students some of these nests.  No two nests are built exactly alike, and birds build a variety of nest shapes with a variety of materials. Some birds create tightly woven nests.  Others, such as the killdeer, make no nest at all and simply lay their eggs on gravel.  (You can find a killdeer on the Common Tennessee Birds page.)
As Doug was talking, I noticed that one of our students (shown below) was carrying a notebook and a pencil and making sketches of the bird-related items that were discussed. This is what explorers and field biologists have done for centuries--recorded and sketched their observations in a notebook!

By the end of the demonstration, Jean-Philippe, age six, had captured a visual record of a robin's nest, a talon and a Wood Stork's skull!  An excellent way to record what you find in nature!
Photo credit:  Jean-Philippe's Mom

Above, two students pass a bird's nest for a closer look.  After Doug's presentation we went on a bird walk along the arboretum trails.
It was a very hot afternoon (81 F degrees!) and the birds were mostly quiet but we found some very interesting habitat, including Jewel Weed (above), cardinal flowers and other hummingbird-attracting plants along the creek's edge.
The birds species found were American Robin, Tufted Titmouse, Eastern Phoebe (heard his song), Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren and a flock of calling American Crows flying over the trees tops.  

Each of the students in the program received a Discover Birds Activity Book, compliments of the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society (KTOS).

A special thank you to Kate Owens, of Young Adventures Group, and Billie Cantwell, from KTOS, for arranging this program.  A big thank you, also, to Discover Birds volunteers Doug Schneeberger, Michael Plaster and Vickie Henderson!

KTOS--Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society
KTOS on Facebook
Discover Birds Program
Discover Birds Activity Book
Discover Birds Curriculum Guide
Discover Birds in the Tennessee Conservationist
eBird at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Tennessee Birds
Tennessee Watchable Wildlife--Birds
Cornell's free beginning birding app--Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Audubon Mobile Field Guides

Monday, September 1, 2014

Discover Birds Featured at the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge

Discover Birds Activity Books are available in the brand new visitor's center at the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge in northwest Tennessee!
Photo credit:  Cyndi Routledge

Cynthia Routledge, who coordinates the distribution of the Discover Birds Activity Books for the Tennessee Ornithological Society (TOS), is affiliated with the Friends Group at the refuge and acquainted with Ranger Joan Stevens.  "I knew that Joan hosted many field trips through the year with many local schools kids in Henry, Benton and Humphrey Counties.  ...I saw this as a wonderful outreach opportunity and donated 205 books to the Friends Group for use in the bookstore."
Above and below, teachers try out binoculars and learn the best way to locate a bird or other wildlife.  Joan, the refuge's Educational Specialist, conducted teacher workshops on July 21st and 22nd at the refuge's new visitor's center near Britton Ford and Paris, TN.  
The workshops were held to introduce area teachers to the new facility, the programs offered at the refuge and the educational opportunities for student field trips during the school year.  Each teacher received a Discover Birds Activity book and a copy of the new curriculum guide, compliments of the Nashville Chapter of the TOS.  
Ranger Joan Stevens describes a bird field guide and how it is used in the field.

The teachers in the workshop try out a "bird beaks" activity that demonstrates how varied beak shapes help birds eat their preferred foods.

Thank you to Joan Stevens for providing the teacher workshop images!

TOS member Cyndi Routledge, of Clarksville, coordinates the free distribution of the Discover Birds Activity Books. The only requirement is that the books be used as part of an educational program that includes a bird walk experience introducing children to the birds around them.  Educational programs are also asked to provide a brief description of their activities and photographs that can be shared with others on the Discover Birds Blog.

To make a request for activity books for your classroom or program, contact Cyndi Routledge at

To download and print a copy of the activity book, visit:  The Tennessee Ornithological Society--Educational Resources page.

Discover Birds Activity Book
Discover Birds Curriculum Guide
Discover Birds Program
Nashville Chapter, TOS
Tennessee Ornithological Society
Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge
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