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


  1. I love this post, as do my children! We had a wonderful time! Thank you for taking the time for the "show and tell" as well as the hike with binocular use! You captured the event well on camera, and we love the picture of the actual live Wood Stork. Thank you for writing this up. I'm so glad we were able to go and experience this and meet a real author and illustrator! My children want binoculars now, so they can find birds. We live out in the country and in the mornings, we often see hawks and vultures circling the pasture next to us, as well as being perched on our fence posts. We also see many other birds. There's a little mockingbird, we think, that is always trying to get our blueberries before we do! :-)

    Thanks again,
    Anna Guillaume and kiddos

    1. Anna and kiddos! Thank you so much for this feedback. That is what it is all about! So glad that you went home with more enthusiasm for birds. The hawks and vultures offer a wonderful opportunity to see big birds and watch them hunt. Mockingbirds are notorious for claiming berry patches. Good luck getting some blueberries for youselves! Vickie


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