Friday, October 30, 2015

10.30.15 - For The Birds Enrichment - Wixon Innovation School - Dennis, MA

What's the best way to spend your last class of the week when you're a 4th or 5th grader?  Why running around outside of course!  Toxic Tag (a game of chase used to illustrate bioaccumulation of toxins in birds' diet) was such a hit last week, these bird nerds asked to play it again - so we did just that.  Before the game began and we were walking to the field with our binoculars, we spotted 2 birds in the very same tree we'd seen the American Robin in last week.  2 American Robins were checking out this pretty tree, but not for it's beauty - for it's food offerings.  This tree ( I suppose I should learn which kind of tree it is... ) is covered, WAS covered last week, in bright red berries.  American Robins, a type of thrush, love berries of all kinds and rely on them as a food supply.  Another well-loved thrush was lurking in the other branches... Eastern Bluebirds!  THREE of them!  
One of the students got so excited, he approached the tree too loudly and quickly.  The birds flew off to protect themselves, so sadly I didn't get a great photo.  Patience and quiet - two VERY difficult practices when you're full of "it's the WEEKEND energy" are attributes we will continue to promote so that we will see an hear more birds during this enrichment.  Looking forward to another week... hopefully with more warm sunshine.  Here comes November!  (double click photos to enlarge)

Our List: 
American Robin
Eastern Bluebird
Black-capped Chickadee
Blue Jay

American Robins

That blue blur in the center of the photo is an Eastern Bluebird 
best I could do today...

Showing our knowledge of Old Man's Beard lichen

Toxic tag in the upper field

A new "predator" for Toxic Tag

"Prey" fleeing from the "predator"

Not all "prey" can fly away... check out these amphibian "prey".
Somehow they managed to elude the "predator" for quite some time.

When the "predator" strikes and we run out of "food" the prey "dies" too.

Lucky "amphibian prey" enjoying the sunshine.

The "predator" is closing in on her "prey".

Too many toxins for this "predator". 
She's a goner.

The next "predator" ready to hunt for "prey".

Toxic Tag - a Friday afternoon favorite!

Happy Birding young bird nerds!  See you in a week!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

10.28.15 - Bird Nerd Moment - Yarmouthport, MA

Living today is financially daunting.  Parenting will level you flat at times, and when doing your best to balance family life & care with work, part-time, full-time... It is often overwhelming.  Life is complicated in 2015!  Cape Cod life is filled with beautiful beaches and sunrises and sunsets and ocean views and wildlife, but that doesn't mean it isn't filled with the same challenges that exist wherever you may be.  Seven years ago I decided to quit my full time job in broadcasting and work part time hours so that I could be at home with my kids as much as possible, without going insane.   When we used to vacation here on the Cape when I was young, our family's big dinner out, and my FAVORITE, was the annual family dinner at Thompson's Clam Bar... which sadly is no more.  Every local, and former Cape Cod visitor knows the jingle by heart.  In fact, another local restaurant has adopted the jingle... but that's another story, not for a bird nerd blog!   When we'd be enjoying the sights, sounds and flavors at Thompson's, my parents would always ask the server, undoubtedly a college student, which school they were studying at, where they were from, what they loved to learn...  I remember deciding from listening to this conversation that working in a restaurant would be a good life skill to have.  So I got my first server gig when I was 20, and I've worked in countless places.  Why am I telling you this, and how is it related to birds?!?! I'm getting to it.  

I currently work at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, as well as the Old Yarmouth Inn and I continue to work on cape cod bird nerd as much as time will allow, all part time. What I learned quickly about my coworkers at the Old Yarmouth Inn is that they are animal lovers, animal-loving-FREAKS!   I found more of my people!  Most of us have rescued animals and have no shame posting and sharing photos of them both on social media and with each other.  The animal love does not end with the creatures who've adopted us right back and stolen our hearts, they are wildlife lovers and protectors of the fluffy, scaly & feathery.  SO much so, that one of the owners, Sheila FitzGerald, has the IFAW logo as a tattoo on her ankle!!!  (Yes, IFAW is aware.  Their international headquarters is right around the corner...)

OK - here is the connection...  When I got to work today... a couple minutes late because of a bird walk at the museum... my boss Sheila happened to be on the phone and seemed to be gesturing for me to NOT punch in, so I waited 'til she was off the phone to see what was up.  She hung up the phone and said, "Wanna see an OWL?!".  "YUP!", said I!  So we jumped in her car and drove a short distance through tall trees and through gorgeous Yarmouthport neighborhoods, 'til we got to a sturdy old tree, with a nice sized hollow... and there she was!!!  A sleepy-looking, sunning herself, sweet little Eastern Screech-Owl (red morph) perched oh so perfectly in the protection of an ivy-embraced tree.  See Sheila's photos below. 

There is so much that goes on in one single person's life in one single day, sometimes in one hour!  We connect of course through media of all sorts and texts and phone calls, if you're lucky, and in so many ways.  When you have a moment, when you can connect with someone else over the spectacular beauty and simplicity of nature just being itself, a beautiful little owl in a tree... well, I just don't know how else to put it.  It's a moment.  You never forget it, and that's why I wanted to share it with you.  

Thanks for sharing the owl with me Sheila!  I'm so glad you love the critters the way you do. I will never forget it.  (double click photos to enlarge)
Eastern Screech-Owl (red morph)

May you share a moment with a nature lover today!
Happy Birding!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

10.27.15 - Cape Cod Museum Of Natural History - Tuesday Tweets - John Wing Trail
Brewster, MA

So, it's starting to get CHILLY around these parts!  Saw my first Dark-eyed Junco on the walk with my dog this morning!  No photo... sorry.  As sweet and as cute as I find them, it breaks my heart a lil' bit when I see them for the first time in the fall... I'm a summer time girl. Cold weather on the way for months...
OH well - it also means there are some fall colors that we only get this time of year and it's like a natural bouquet!  We had a sweet morning, with smells of autumn and NO wind - so YAY!  We didn't travel very far, but what a wonderful group of folks to begin a day with.  Please see photos below.  I got a great group shot!  We also got to see a rarity - one of Sue Finnegan's nets out for banding - way cool!  I did walk up to it and managed to have 2 birds become ensnared because I walked up to the net... no worries.  Susan is out there for the morning and of course will take care of our feathery friends.  She does it for them after all - a wonderful motive.  Please visit her blog, capecodbander.  The photography is so GOOD!  The birds are literally photographed in her hands, or her volunteers' hands so they are SO UP CLOSE and you can so appreciate their individual field marks from a true inches away perspective.  That's just rare and oh so special.  By the way Bird Nerds... I mentioned the wrong "next Tuesday Tweets" date:  It's 11.10.15.

Our List:
European Starling
Black-capped Chickadee
Blue Jay
Downy Woodpecker
White-breasted Nuthatch
Mourning Dove
House Sparrow
American Goldfinch
Northern Flicker
American Crow
American Robin
Song Sparrow

European Starlings

Mourning Doves marching through the cracked shells, foraging for food

Downy Woodpecker

House Sparrow 

House Sparrows - Mr.&Mrs.?

American Goldfinch 

House Sparrow - female

House Sparrows

One of Sue Finnegan's nets on the marsh

How cute are THESE bird nerds?!

One of Sue Finnegan's nets

House Sparrow - male (all puffed up)

Forest floor bouquet - SO many different types of leaves!

We didn't have a lot of bird sightings during the end 
of our walk - but this view...


The fall colors of Glasswort (sea pickle)

Poison Ivy, looking so alluring in the fall

Poison Ivy berries

Hard to see, but I couldn't help noticing the 
brilliant red of this shrub's branches.

Cedars on what I call the "secret trail"

More brilliant yellows

I LOVE being outside

Virginia Creeper, creeping up this Pitch Pine trunk

Next opportunity for Tuesday Tweets: 11.10.15 at 9:30am $2Members/$4Non-members
Happy Birding!

Friday, October 23, 2015

10.23.15 - For The Birds Enrichment - Wixon Innovation School - Dennis, MA

So for the first half of this school year, I have my enrichment class on Friday afternoons.. the LAST CLASS OF THE WEEK!  It was a pretty chilly afternoon, and I was hesitant to get these kids outside, expecting that they might be unprepared for the cold breezy afternoon.  I knew there was NO WAY I could get them to stay still, and who wouldn't rather be outside?  So that's what we did.   I wanted them to play what I call Toxic Tag.  I know, sounds awful.  This game is a physical demonstration of bioaccumulation.  I discussed the history of DDT and its adverse affects on several species of birds, Osprey and Bald Eagles and American Robins in particular.  Thankfully DDT is no longer in use and the populations of these beautiful animals are protected in several ways.  So back to Toxic Tag.  I had seven students on this day, and I let them randomly select whether they were to be 'predator' (only one) or 'prey'.   Once the 'predator' was chosen, a Great Horned Owl, we sent her off to survey her habitat, she ran off and the 'prey' were given their food tokens.  Some of the tokens represented toxins.  GAME ON... the 'predator' had to keep 'eating' and tagging her 'prey' so that she could survive, but... if she 'ate' (tagged) her 'prey' and they were full of toxins, the Great Horned Owl 'died'.  Thanks to our teacher's assistant, we have some fun photos of Toxic Tag - enjoy below (double-click photos to enlarge)

bioaccumulation:  The accumulation of a substance, such as a toxic chemical, in various tissues of a living organism.  

Our List: American Robin

Discussing Toxic Tag game rules

Choosing predator or prey

'Predator' tagging out her 'prey'

The next 'predator' is chosen

The 'predator dying' from ingesting too many toxins

Racing to choose the next 'predator'

Demonstrating toxic death - myself included

On the way back to school to catch rides home... we spotted this American Robin female!

American Robin - female.  Isn't she beautiful?

Happy Birding young Bird Nerds!