Monday, October 31, 2016

10.31.16  Birdwatching - Wixon Innovation Middle School
Dennis, MA

When you've been inside for most of the day and you're 10 or 11 years old, why not end the school day with time outdoors running around playing Toxic Tag?  what is THAT exactly?... you'll have to ask one of the bird nerds in my enrichment class.  Kids LOVE tag.  Recently my ten year old son spoke with great admiration for the inventors of tag, wherever they are...

What I will tell you that Toxic Tag teaches (in theory...) is how pollutants can be anywhere, and those pollutants can have very serious, potentially lethal effects upon our wildlife.  Birds are sensitive to their environment, and when we humans aren't careful about how, where and when we treat our waste... well, it often becomes toxic to the birds, the wildlife, the habitat.  I like to believe, we all can agree that the world is a more interesting and beautiful place with the wildlife in it.  They were here first.

Back to the fun part though... I get to convey these sensitive and important messages through play and active participation.  I think you'll agree that the photos below, prove, they were having fun learning about how to protect the earth.  They'll do it better than those before them.  That is my hope. (double click photos to enlarge)

Toxic Tag - can you spot the raptor?

Pretty sure I can see smiles on these kiddos ! : )

Exercise & learning - a great combo platter


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

10.25.16 Tuesday Tweets - John Wing Trail - Cape Cod Museum of Natural History
Brewster, MA

We had a brisk start to our day with the wind working against us, but what a lovely walk it was this morning!  We had some newcomers visiting from England - such a treat!  I find it's a simple reminder to NOT take the species we see as "just a this, or just a that" because they're our their fighting for their own survival, invasive species or not.  More often than not, I believe species typically become invasive due to human well-intentioned ignorance... sigh. We are not perfect.  We make mistakes.  OK - time to enjoy the birds.

Tuesday Tweets has grown to an enthusiastic bunch of smiling nature-loving 'regulars' as well - which makes my soul happy.  Knowing that these trails, even though so well-traveled and familiar, manage to delight those of us who know them by heart, is a gift worth sharing. I love exploring new places, but when you come to know that fallen tree and those lichen covered rocks, they begin to tell their own seasonal stories.

I opted to NOT walk the beach this morning.  When it's as windy as it was, even though we would've probably had a much closer viewing of the Brant in the distance, when you're watching birds with binoculars in that weather, your hands are shaking, your eyes are watering and it can be bone-chilling.  That's no fun. The woods were happy to have us marching through this way and that and we got to observe some of the plants as well, some of them quite showy in their autumn shades.

It's always nice when a Grand Finale occurs... usually when you least expect it.  The raptor that was soaring right above our heads and the salt marsh at the very end of our walk I will re-identify as a juvenile Cooper's Hawk.  I studied and cross-compared.  Sometimes when I have a spectacular photo (THANK YOU RICK!!!) of the bird, when I'm reviewing our adventure, I can then properly identify a bird.  I do believe it was a juvenile Cooper's Hawk; more than likely a female because she was BIG for a Cooper's Hawk.  (double click photos to enlarge)

Our List:
House Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Black-capped Chickadee
Blue Jay
American Goldfinch
American Crow
Northern Flicker
Northern Cardinal
European Starling
White-breasted Nuthatch
Yellow-rumped Warbler (sadly don't think anyone else saw...)
Red-tailed Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Turkey Vulture

Glasswort (sea pickle) casting marsh shadows in fall colors

Northern Flicker (PHOTO CREDIT: RICK)
Woodsy view of Paine's Creek in Brewster

Great Blue Heron hunting on Cape Cod Bay
Tuesday Tweeters

Red-tailed Hawk (PHOTO CREDIT:RICK)

Cooper's Hawk - juvenile (PHOTO CREDIT: RICK)

Next opportunity for Tuesday Tweets: 11.1.16 $2Members/$4Non-members
Happy Birding!

Monday, October 24, 2016

10.24.16  Birdwatching - Wixon Innovation Middle School
Dennis, MA

I don't happen to have a bird list today, but what I am able to report on is a group of 12 smiling, enthusiastic & nature treasure hunting kids!  It was another sunny afternoon, and even though it's getting seasonably chilly, which these and all kids seem to be immune to...we enjoyed ourselves outdoors thoroughly this afternoon.  

The end of the school day is cause enough to celebrate for any youngster - and if you get to go directly outside - I can't blame anyone for wanting to run and appreciate the wide open space all around.   There were several findings along our way: feathers, goose poop, mushrooms, pine needles, pollution (garbage), moss, different shaped leaves, trees changing to autumn colors, beetle damage on trees, fallen trees in the woods, galls on the bottom side of leaves... success!

I did mention that as exciting and fun as this was, we need to figure out how to work together so that we'll be able to see birds sometimes.  We need to use those tough tools: Patience & Quiet, when we're observing birds and wanting to see & hear more of them.  Exploring in nature is a party though and I did not want to be a party pooper.  Everyone seemed to be enjoying telling bird stories and discovering the extraordinary freedom of being in the fresh air, playing in the space surrounding this wonderful school. (double click photos to enlarge)
Feather found!

 Crazy mushrooms

Beetle! (bird food!)

Another feather found!

Evidence of someone digging holes - chipmunk home?

Feeling the mushroom gills (lamellae) on the 
underside of a mushroom

Woodland adventure

Observing different sized & shaped holes/damage in the fallen tree trunk

The brown spots look like galls to me
Galls are essentially a microhabitat for the next generation of 
the particular insect who chemically injected the leaf.  
Crazy stuff & nice discovery!

Pointing out the different kinds of moss

I asked if any of them knew or remembered a book named 'Swimmy',
...though no one knew for sure.  I asked them why they thought we didn't 
see any birds today.  "We were too loud!"  they reminded each other. 
What's wonderful though is that even though we didn't see any birds, 
we did hear a few and there was MUCH investigative work.
I suggested that next time we'll get more out of our time together if we work
TOGETHER - just like Swimmy did with the new school of fish
he discovered while on his ocean adventures...

"He taught them to swim close together, each in his own place, ..."
Happy  Birding young bird nerds!

Monday, October 17, 2016

10.17.16  Birdwatching - Wixon Innovation Middle School
Dennis, MA

THIS WEATHER!!!  October sure can be quite the gorgeous month here on the Cape and today was simply PERFECT!  I was so thrilled to get this young flock out on the school grounds to see and hear whatever we could today.  The enthusiasm seemed contagious, particularly, when one student first heard the bird...and then another student spotted the bird... and yet another student correctly identified the bird!  It was the state bird of Massachusetts, the Black-capped Chickadee! We "chased" one who was darting here and there among the tree tops that bordered the playground.  The playground was noisy with happy climbing and playing children - these birds have adapted well to the proximity of humans, proof of their hearty survival adaptations and familiarity to most people.  They are bold little birds the chickadees!

The next bird we heard and spotted was a White-breasted Nuthatch, doing his/her upside down balancing act and scaling the tree looking for food, peeping that laughing sound that makes the nuthatch endearing to many.  The kids noticed how s/he went upside down and all around the branch... it was a great moment.  As we edged out of the trees we noticed many things, woodpecker evidence in tree trunks, spider webs, pine cones & pine cone cobs, earwigs on the ground and tucked into pine cones! (so gross and interesting all at once!)  We observed the ground cover and discussed how it's all working with this habitat that these birds seem to be thriving in.

We were able to fit in a quick round or two of the habitat game as we discussed the four aspects that make a particular section of an ecosystem a viable habitat: Food - Water - Shelter - Space.
We ran out of time before I could ask for ideas and thoughts on the habitat we were surrounded by... but we have time.  We even caught a glimpse of a Blue Jay flying off in the distance.  It turned out to be an ideal way to end a school day Monday. (double click photos to enlarge)

Our List:
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
Hairy Woodpecker
One of the Black-capped Chickadees we
were chasing from the ground

Pine needles, leaves, tiny branches
all vital pieces within this habitat

White-breasted Nuthatch

Woodpecker evidence!

Those Black-capped Chickadees just 
WOULDN'T stay still!

Black-capped Chickadee

Pitch Pine pine cone

Camouflage lesson... where is the Black-capped Chickadee...?

THERE s/he is!

Why did this piece of tree bark fall off?

The left behind dead branch

Pitch Pine cone cob - looks like a mini pineapple

Crowd pleaser...the Roly Poly bug

Happy Birding young Bird Nerds!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

10.4.16 Tuesday Tweets - John Wing Trail - Cape Cod Museum of Natural History
Brewster, MA

Originally, I was concerned about the chill in the air for our Tuesday Tweets, though I tend to overdress in cold weather.  It's no fun getting chilly on a walk.  Well it turned out to be absolutely perfect weather for an extended Tuesday Tweets!  It seemed there were an equal amount of both familiar faces as well as new-comers, some visiting from Ohio, some visiting from Florida.  The woods and marsh were relatively quiet, and as the bay drew us in, we had a few sightings (and soundings!) along the way.  

I would have to say the highlight this morning was a friendly American Goldfinch who tweeted about her business of pruning her feathers and fluffing up, just as we were walking by a juniper.  She wasn't bothered by us in the least and she allowed for great views and smiles of admiration, as she welcomed us onto Wing Island.  The foliage is changing naturally and even though the colors are generally more muted on Cape Cod than other New England areas, we could see and feel the season changing by observing the color and transformations of the plant life.  

We made it to the bay today and admired the gulls, the cormorants and the plovers... some Sanderlings decided to make an entrance as well and another Tuesday Tweeter noted a small flock of terns resting on a distant sandbar.  Even when the list of species may not be as long as other Tuesday Tweets, the reward of the view, the seabreeze on our faces, the smell of healthy salt air... made it a relaxing and peaceful way to begin a weekday morning. Lo and behold - as we were about to cross the marsh again on our return...there was a female American Goldfinch, seemingly wishing us well on our way.  (double click photos to enlarge)

Our List:
Northern Cardinal
American Crow
European Starling
Blue Jay
Herring Gull
American Goldfinch
Black-capped Chickadee
Great Black-backed Gull
Black-bellied Plover
Double-crested Cormorant
Terns (Common?  Too far away to confirm)
Ring-billed Gull

American Goldfinch - female

American Goldfinch - female.  Oh so FRIENDLY!

If only we could fly...

Double-crested Cormorants

Tuesday Tweeters 

Great Black-backed Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls, Double-crested Cormorant, Herring Gull

Black-bellied Plover

Not much remaining of this creek 

Some kind of chestnut outer layer

Poison Ivy sporting her autumn shades

A monarch that hasn't migrated yet

Happy Birding!