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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