Saturday, November 15, 2014

Discovering Birds with South Knoxville Elementary Students!

On November 7th, Discover Birds volunteers paid a visit to after-school students at the South Knoxville Elementary School to present the Discover Birds program and help students find birds that live around their school yard.

Learning to use binoculars to get better looks at the birds, was the first activity students experienced before going outside for their bird walks on the sidewalks of the campus.
Students learned to adjust the binocular focus for their vision, to focus on stationary objects and to bring the binoculars up to their eyes while still looking at the object or bird in order to get the binoculars on the object.  
Jerry Ledbetter suggests students focus on the words on a sign in the lobby for practice.
Below, Lynn Davis talks with students about using their ears to listen for birds.  The presence of birds is often noted first with our ears because they make many vocalizations while foraging and flocking.  Being quiet increases the chances of hearing a bird and reduces the chances of scaring the bird away.  
Once outside, the students watched for movement and listened for the sounds birds make while feeding or flying.  There were several types of berry producing shrubs near the school grounds that attracted birds.

Above, Jerry Ledbetter helps a student get his binoculars on a bird.  Once the bird is in view, students took note of the bird's characteristics.  What markings are on the face?  What is the bird's overall size and shape, the overall color?  What color is the beak?  
Look closely to find the bird in the image above.  Sometimes leaves and limbs get in the way of seeing the entire bird at once, but we can often see enough to identify the species.  A small flock of Cedar Waxwings was feeding on the ripe, red berries found in this honeysuckle shrub.  Normally, the waxy tips of a Cedar Waxwing's tail are yellow, but if the bird eats many of these honeysuckle berries while the feathers are developing, the red content in the berries turns the tail tips orange or reddish-orange!
A female Downy Woodpecker, above, was another big hit and easy to see as she foraged on insects on a tree's bare limbs and trunk.  
Marikay Waldvogel and Lynn Davis pass out Tennessee Birds--Naturalists Pocket Guides, to help students identify the birds they see.  Students also used the guides to identify some of the birds they have seen in their yards at home.

Before returning to the school building to rotate into a different part of the program, third grade students pause to have a group photo made, below.  The Discover Birds Program was presented in three parts--a guided bird walk with binoculars, a show-and-tell experience with bird-related objects students can view up close, and a slide presentation about birds.  Approximately 66 energetic students participated in the program.
Below, Billie Cantwell talks with students about hummingbirds and their small size and long migration.  By placing a tiny band on a hummingbird's leg, biologists are learning about hummingbird migration patterns and their life span.
Billie, who organizes the Discover Birds program visits, has had a male Rufous Hummingbird wintering in her yard in Knoxville for the past four years.  She knows it is the same bird each year because of the unique number it wears on its leg band.
Above, Billie talks with students about the unique characteristics of birds that make them different from other animals.
Volunteer, Doug Schneeberger, talks with students about the characteristics of a bird's feathers, including the overlapping barbs at the end of each filament that act like a zipper to hold the feather filaments in place.
A holly full of red berries at the corner of the sidewalk is an attraction for several birds species. A Song Sparrow foraged on the ground underneath for seeds and insects.
A Northern Mockingbird perches on a high holly limb to over look his territory.  He didn't seem to mind the movement of the students or the sound of their voices.  After all, he lives around the school grounds all the time.  Everyone tried to get the mockingbird in focus through their binoculars.

Below, Marikay Waldvogel recalls the bird species seen with a student.
The birds seen during our bird walks included:  Northern Mockingbird, Carolina Chickadee, Song Sparrow, Common Grackle, Canada Goose, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Downy Woodpecker, American Robin, Mourning Dove and American Crow.
Each of the students received a Discover Birds Activity Book that they could take home with them to continue learning about birds.  The books were contributed by the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society.

A big thank you to South Knoxville Elementary School for inviting the Discover Birds Program to visit the school.  Appreciation, also, to Discover Birds volunteers Jerry Ledbetter, Marikay Waldvogel, Lynn Davis, Billie Cantwell, Doug Schneeberger and Vickie Henderson for bringing the program to the school!

South Knoxville Elementary School
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

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