Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Home-schoolers Discover Birds at Halls Branch--Knox County Library!

Monday, October 5, 2015, a Discover Birds program was held for home schoolers at the Halls Branch, Knox County Library.  
KTOS members Doug Schneeberger, Billie Cantwell, Morton Massey and Merikay Waldvogel met with 13 home-schooled students and their parents who gathered at the library on beautiful clear day. 
The group ranged in age from 4 through 12.  Doug Schneeberger held them all in rapt attention as he showed them bird skeletons, feathers, and other interesting bird-related items that they could see at close range.  
After Doug's session, Merikay handed out binoculars to each student and demonstrated how to use them.  

The whole group then took a walk along the Halls Marsh Greenway.  Near the start, they had a wide view of the wetlands.  
A Northern Mockingbird was chattering away in a tree top and on the ground in the shadows, the students easily focused on an Eastern Towhee. 
Morton heard a Song Sparrow, but for the most part, the birds were quiet and the water was higher than normal.  The students used their binoculars to get closer looks at tadpoles in the puddles and to spot the beaver lodge. 
Finally, at the bridge, a Downy Woodpecker landed on a nearby tree and everyone was able to see details on the bird.  Morton pointed out that this bird was a female because it did not have a red patch on the back of its neck.
Below, Morton shows students a Downy Woodpecker on his phone bird app.  
  On the walk back, we heard Carolina Chickadees and got close-up looks of two crows on a wire.  
The checklist of birds found were submitted to Ebird.  It included:  Carolina Chickadee, Song Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Northern Cardinal, American Crow, Blue Jay, Northern Mockingbird, Downy Woodpecker, and American Crow.  

When asked what impressed him the most, Malaki (age 12) said seeing the Northern Mockinbird was cool, "I've never seen one before.”  Ginger (age 8) liked the Downy Woodpecker because she learned how to tell whether or not it was a girl.  Beth (age 5) liked the crows because she learned how smart they were.
Above, Merikay talks with students about what they enjoyed most about their bird walks.  Each child received a copy of the Discover Birds Activity Book from the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society (KTOS).

A special thank you to Billie Cantwell for providing the photos in this post and to our Discover Birds volunteers for making this program possible!  A big thank you also to the home-school teachers and students who participated in the program and to Halls Branch Library for providing an excellent location!

Links and Resources:

Halls Branch--Knox County Library
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

Friday, October 2, 2015

Creative Learning Academy Students Discover Birds!

On October 1st, Discover Birds volunteers presented the Discover Birds Program to 30 home-schooled students from Creative Learning Academy at the Dean Hill Recreation Center in West Knoxville. 
Above, Discover Birds volunteer Jerry Ledbetter with Creative Academy students.

KTOS members Morton Massey, Doug Schneeberger, Jerry Ledbetter and Merikay Waldvogel presented the program to students from pre-kindergarden to 5th grade on an overcast day.  
The students were divided into three age groups and cycled through the three parts of the program:  a bird slide show, a bird walk, and a hands-on bird show-and-tell activity.  
While Morton showed a slide show about birds inside to one group, Jerry and Merikay gave binoculars to another group of students and demonstrated how to use them.  
Inside, Doug had many bird-related items to show the students, including feathers, bones and skulls that students could pick up and examine closely.
All the students, no matter what age, had lots of questions.  Some had hung bird feeders fashioned from plastic drink bottles and spoons the week before.  
The checklist of birds found included: Carolina Chickadee, Northern Cardinal, American Crow, Blue Jay, Northern Mockingbird, Chimney Swift and Great Blue Heron. We heard a Carolina Wren.  

The best look occurred when the older students climbed to the top of a piece of playground equipment. With their binoculars on their eyes, a Great Blue Heron flew slowly and gracefully by.  
Asked what impressed him the most, Jackson, a 5th grader, said, “I’m impressed with these binoculars. I’m going to use my money and buy some.  I’d go over to the Cove [in Farragut] and look at birds there.”  
Carpenter, who kept spotting birds no one else had seen, also liked the binoculars, and said it was the Great Blue Heron that impressed him the most.
The group's sponsor, Clare Dattilo, and other parents present were impressed with the Discover Birds program activities. Several were birdwatchers themselves.  Each of the students were given a Discover Birds Activity book to take home, presented by the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society and the Discover Birds Program.
Creative Learning Academy meets twice a week at the Dean Hill Recreation Center.  They take advantage of the outdoor environment to study nature, including trees, butterflies, and birds.

A big thank you to our Discover Birds volunteers, and to Merikay Waldvogel for sharing her photographs and details about this event!

Links and Resources:

Creative Learning Academy website
KTOS on Facebook
Discover Birds Program
Discover Birds Activity Book
Discover Birds Curriculum Guide
Discover Birds in the Tennessee Conservationist

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Discover Birds Inspires Second Grade Art and Research!

In May of 2015, the KTOS Discover Birds Program visited Sevierville Primary School for the third consecutive year, enjoying an outstanding morning Discovering Birds with 280 second graders and their teachers.

You may enjoy seeing our morning activities, including a low pass over our heads by a magnificent Bald Eagle at  Sevierville Primary 2015.  This posts revisits that day to show you how some of the students got ready for our visit!
As the program was coming to a close, Ms Kathy Porter, second grade teacher, caught my attention and showed me a bulletin board filled with her students' art and research.  I was so happy she showed it to me!
In preparation for our upcoming Discover Birds Program, her students each selected a bird from anywhere in the world, researched the bird on the internet, drew the bird and wrote about what they learned.  The results of their efforts were beautifully displayed as "Birds of a Feather Flock Together!"

I wanted to read every word and savor the art the way I would a gallery of art in a museum! Everyone's work was so creative!  I will share a few of them here, but they were all wonderful!
Hummingbirds were a favorite bird selected.  "Let me tell you about hummingbirds." one artist wrote. "A hummingbird sings with its wings."

"Some hover like bees." another wrote.  "They lick nectar with its quick tongues.  Bugs get licked too."

Some of the birds chosen were selected for their unique feathers or behavior.
"Male Peacocks find an enemy and they shoot their feathers up and it looks [like] eyes watching them."

"A Roseate Spoonbill is a wading bird.  It has long legs to keep it high above the water.  It also has a big beak to help it catch fish....A Roseate Spoonbill swings its beak underwater."

"The Yellow-billed Woodpecker eats only ticks and other bugs [on the animals] it rides.  The animals it rides are giraffes, zebras and oxen.  The Yellow-billed Woodpecker lives in Africa because the big animals it rides live there....They clean the heads of the animals they ride."
"Wild parrots live in North America, South America, Australia, Asia and Africa.  The Macaws are the biggest parrots.  Wild parrots screech when they try to talk....Many parrots wear brilliant green, yellow, red and blue."

"Flamingos are pink and reddish.  They live in Asia, Africa and North America.  They live near mud and water.  Flamingos like to sit in water."

A big thank you to Sevierville Primary School and Ms Porter for sharing their students' creative work with us!

Links and Resources:

Discover Birds Visits Sevierville Primary School
Sevierville Primary School
Discover Birds Activity Book
Discover Birds Curriculum Guide
Discover Birds in the Tennessee Conservationist

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Discover Birds Participates in July Youth Naturalists' Rally!

The Friends of Roan Mountain sponsor a summer naturalist rally for youth at Roan Mountain State Park each summer.  Volunteers Brookie and Jean Potter and Joe McGuinness, members of the Herndon Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society, brought the Discover Birds Program to the rally and enjoyed a day of getting children excited about birds!
Photo credit:  Jean Potter

The presentation part of the program included viewing and learning from specimens of birds, bird feathers and nests that were loaned to the program by Milligan College ornithologist, Dr. Gary Wallace.  Larry McDaniels, Steele Creek Park Naturalist, provided binoculars for students to use during their bird walk, and the Herndon bird club provided bird check lists for participants.  
Photo credit:  Jean Potter

A slide show showed birds often seen in the Roan Mountain area, and participants learned about the characteristics that make a bird a bird and what birds need to survive.  The recovery of the Bald Eagle in upper east Tennessee was used as an example of population changes and a species that has been helped locally by conservation efforts.
Bay's Mountain State Park's educational Great Horned Owl was shown to participants during the program.   Photo credit:  Jean Potter

A 30 minute bird walk included some great finds!  Participants got good looks at a Gray Catbird in a marshy area.  Eastern Bluebirds were also present along with Mourning Doves and American Goldfinch.
Gray Catbird    Photo credit:  Cephas/Wiki Commons

In addition to binoculars, a spotting scope was set up and students got close-up views of an American Robin and a Song Sparrow.
Each of the children participating in the program received a free Discover Birds Activity Book provided by the Tennessee Ornithological Society.
Jean reported that the table exhibit set up for the rally attracted a lot of attention from children and parents participating in other programs at the rally.  The Herndon club volunteers were invited to bring Discover Birds back again next year!  Birds and children--a fun combination!
The Discover Birds Activity Book and its curriculum guide are available online at the following link: Discover Birds Activity Book

Links and Resources:

Discover Birds Activity Book
Discover Birds Curriculum Guide
Discover Birds in the Tennessee Conservationist
Tennessee Ornithological Society, Herndon Chapter
Xtreme Roan Adventures--Youth Naturalist's Rally

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Discover Birds Program Featured in ABA's Birder's Guide

When Noah Stryker, editor of  Conservation Milestones, asked for information on how others are getting conservation information out into their communities, Cyndi Routledge seized the opportunity to tell him about our Discover Birds Program in Tennessee.

As a result, the Discover Birds Activity Book and program are featured in the current issue of Birder's Guide, published by the American Birding Association!  The article describes the initial beginnings of the program, the book's expansion into an educational tool with its own core curriculum guide, and the program's increasing out-reach with the publication of 12,000 books in August of 2014 through a generous grant!

Read the entire article by clicking on this link:  ABA's Birder's Guide

Thank you, Noah and Cyndi, for this national visibility!  And a big THANK YOU to all our many Discover Birds volunteers and participants!

The Discover Birds Activity Book and its curriculum guide are available online at the following link:

Links and Resources:

Discover Birds Activity Book
Discover Birds Curriculum Guide
Discover Birds in the Tennessee Conservationist

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Discover Birds Visits 280 Second Graders at Sevierville Primary School!

On May 15, 2015, Discover Birds volunteers from the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society visited Sevierville Primary School to present the Discover Birds Program to 280 enthusiastic second graders and their teachers!
The Discover Birds Program is a three-part program to introduce children to birds with a variety of interactive experiences.  The program is presented in three parts:  a slide show, a show-and-tell session and a bird walk that includes the use of binoculars and birding scopes.
Above, Billie Cantwell asks children about their favorite birds.  She then presents a slide show showing a variety of birds that live in different habitats with a variety of sizes, shapes, beaks and feet. 
The children also get to hear the bird's songs and stories about birds that Billie has in her own yard, including wintering Rufous Hummingbirds and a pair of nesting Screech Owls.
The children are divided into three to four groups to include a guided bird walk around the school grounds to find birds and learn to locate them with binoculars.  Above you see students practicing with their binoculars.  The Discover Birds Program recently acquired twelve new pair of student binoculars through a generous donation from the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological society and a matching donation from Eagle Optics.
Above Chris Welsh leads students on a bird walk along the creek that borders the school grounds. Among the birds found on our bird walks was the Mourning Dove, a bird whose name comes from the "mournful" sound of its song.
Sometimes the doves were seen on the electrical wires overhead.  At other times, they visited the bird bath.  At first glance the Mourning Dove looks like a large plain brown bird with some dark spots on its back.  
A closer look through binoculars or a scope shows that it is a colorful bird with a light blue eye ring, pink at the corner of its bill and pink feet!
Below, Doug Schneeberger shows students the difference between the size of a Bald Eagle egg (left) and the egg of a hummingbird.  The hummingbird's egg is about the size of a jelly bean.  The eggs he is showing are replicas of eggs made to the size and color of the actual bird's eggs.
Doug brought a variety of skeletons, samples of talons, eggs, nests, and other bird-related items to show the children, many of which were in cases and passed around for closer inspection.
Below, a display of owl pellet castings and the skulls and bones that can be found in them.  Owls eat small rodents with hair and bones that can't be digested.  These indigestible parts are gathered into a pellet in the owl's stomach and "cast" out or "thrown up" to expel them.
Below, Warren Bielenberg gets his telescope focused on a Tree Swallow perched on a wire so the students can see its shiney greenish-blue feathers that often look black in flight.
Sevierville Primary School has created a bird-friendly yard with many nest boxes erected to support cavity nesting birds.  A pair of Eastern Bluebirds, below, were on the nest box they have chosen for nesting.  The bright blue male is on the left in back, and the female, more grayish in color, is in the front.  Both the male and female have a rust breast.
Tree Swallows are also cavity nesting birds.  On the walk along the creek we encountered a male Tree Swallow bringing feathers to his mate who was waiting in the nest box.  Tree Swallows form a nest of dry grasses that is hollowed out and lined with feathers.  The feathers are often placed so that they curve over the nest.  In Massachusetts, 147 feathers were counted in one nest box!
Below, volunteer Karen Wilkinson talks with second grade students as they view birds through a scope.
Students rotated through each of the activities.  Below, Chris Welsh helps students get organized into smaller groups with an assigned leader for their bird walks.

As students looked at birds through binoculars and scopes, Chris asked them what they noticed about the bird.  What color is the bird?  What color is it's beak?  Can you see the eye color?  Is the bird large or small?  These details help you recognize the bird the next time you encounter it.
Above, a student tells Karen Wilkenson about the birds he saw on the creek trail.
(Don't miss the feet in the air behind him!  One of the students was turning cartwheels as she returned from her birding walk!)
Above, Morton Massey leads a group of birders back to the school!
A mature Bald Eagle treated us to a low fly-over carrying food in its talons with a small bird chasing it!  This was an exciting sighting for all of us!
A pair of Bald Eagles                                       Photo credit:  David Roemer

All the students knew that the Bald Eagle is our country's national symbol.

Chris Welsh recorded an eBird list of the birds he encountered on our bird walks.  Thirty-one (31) species of birds were found in and around the school yard, many of them involved in various stages of nesting activities!

May 15, 2015
Sevierville Primary School
0.2 miles
190 Minutes
Observers: 1
All birds reported? Yes
Comments: Discover Birds program for -280 2nd graders at Sevierville Primary School.  Exciting flyby by the eagle; falcon more distant and moving away.
1 Osprey
1 Bald Eagle -- Adult, roof level flyover with something dead in its talons
1 Red-tailed Hawk
1 Peregrine Falcon -- Large falcon flyover, too big for kestrel or Merlin, but no details other than silhouette
4 Mourning Dove
1 Chimney Swift
2 Red-bellied Woodpecker
2 Downy Woodpecker
3 Eastern Phoebe -- 2 young in nest under bridge
1 Blue Jay
2 American Crow
2 Northern Rough-winged Swallow
3 Tree Swallow
1 Barn Swallow
1 Carolina Chickadee
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
2 Eastern Bluebird
2 American Robin
2 Gray Catbird
1 Brown Thrasher
5 European Starling
1 Common Yellowthroat
2 Eastern Towhee
2 Song Sparrow
2 Northern Cardinal
1 Red-winged Blackbird
3 Common Grackle
4 Brown-headed Cowbird
2 House Finch
2 American Goldfinch
2 Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
Each of the students and teachers received a Discover Birds Activity Book compliments of KTOS and the Tennessee Ornithological Society!

A big thank you to Sarah Green and her fellow teachers at Sevierville Primary School for inviting the Discover Birds Program into their classrooms.  THANK YOU also to KTOS Discover Birds volunteers Susie Kaplar, Morton Massey, Chris Welsh, Warren Bielenberg, Karen Wilkinson, Billie Cantwell, Doug Schneeberger and Vickie Henderson for making this program happen!

Links and Resources:

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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