Friday, February 6, 2015

Discover Birds Visits Ms VanWinkle's Class at Nature's Way Montessori

On February 2nd, the Nature's Way Montessori School seventh and eighth grade students in Nancy VanWinkle's class enjoyed an introduction to birds provided by KTOS Discover Birds volunteers, Billie Cantwell and Paula and Doug Schneeberger.
A blustery, cold winter day may seem like an unlikely time to look for birds, but this is exactly the time of year that birders can find some of  Tennessee's exciting winter visitors.
Doug Schneeberger, above and below, talks with students about finding birds and how to get the bird focused in the binoculars.
Getting the binoculars on the bird takes some practice.  The best way is finding the bird with your eyes, then raising the binoculars to your eyes while continuing to look at the bird. The binoculars bring the bird closer, helping the viewer see details like the eye color and facial markings.

Birds are often located by sound but they sing less in the winter. They do make calls and chipping sounds as they forage, but the best aid to locating them is that the tree limbs are mostly bare of leaves this time of year!

On their bird walk, students found two Golden-crowned Kinglets, above, a small bird not much bigger than a hummingbird that breeds in the montane and boreal forests in Canada and moves very quickly while foraging.  Kinglets only come as far south as Tennessee to find food during winter months.
The bird walk revealed several other species including Northern Cardinal, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Tufted Titmous, Blue Jay, Mourning Dove and Song Sparrow.
 Another favorite wintering species, the White-throated Sparrow made an appearance!
White-throated Sparrows are one of the species we listen for to discover their arrival. They often sing when they arrive on their wintering territory and begin singing again in the spring before departing for their breeding grounds in the forests of Canada.  With the help of binoculars, students were able to see the sparrow's bright yellow lores or bird eye-brows!
Above, Paula Schneeberger shares her collection of bird related treasures including bird skulls, skeletons, nests, replicas of eggs and other items related to the biology and activity of birds.
Barn Owl                  Credit:  Wiki Commons

The small size of the barn owl skull caught some attention.  Most of the size we see in the barn owl's head is its feathers!
Students handled feathers and could see the individual feather filaments.  Each filament also has barbs that helps the filaments hold together.  Birds take care of their feathers by preening.  Paula compares preening to a zipper on a jacket--preening zips the filaments back together!

Above, Paula shows students a variety of bird talons before passing the case around for closer examiination.
Students engaged in a lively discussion about the difference between reptile eggs and bird eggs, noting that bird eggs have a hard shell while reptile eggs remain soft.  The hard shell of the birds' eggs is essential to support the weight of the parent bird's body during incubation.

Ms VanWinkle's class is enjoying an intensive series of lessons about birds called "Feathered Friends", including field trips and guest speakers to help expand student's knowledge and awareness of birds.

Students also enjoyed a slide show presented by Billie Cantwell that showed many different species of birds with a variety of beaks and feet adapated for the habitat and foods that the bird requires.  The presentation included bird songs played electronically.

Students examine owl pellets and indentify the prey by looking at the skulls that are expelled in the pellets!

Each of the students received a Discover Birds Activity book.  Ms VanWinkle has used the book to help introduce vocabulary related to the study of birds.
Above, the "Feathered Friends" class.  Following the Discover Birds visit, Ms VanWinkle shared the following:  "My 'Feathered Friends' students really have caught bird fever!  The KTOS program really opened up their eyes to how diverse and interesting different species of birds are--seeing the variations in nests and eggs, hearing the different calls, and understanding the value of birds in the ecosystem were all powerful lessons."

Ms VanWinkle's students are creating a field guide of the birds they find!  I hope they will allow us to share some of their projects with you on this blog!

A special thank you to Billie Cantwell for the images appearing in this blog post and to Ms VanWinkle and her class for a great experience!

Nature's Way Montessori 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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