Monday, June 19, 2017

6.19.17  Birds Enrichment - Wixon Innovation Middle School
South Dennis, MA

Only two more classes together with this bunch of kiddos, so I thought it was definitely time to bring out one of my favorite lessons: Nest Building.  I brought along a few bird nests for them to inspect, ask questions about and get ideas from.  Then I set them to work, choosing their own team of nest builders.  I allow them to use duct tape to set up the cardboard base for the twig that the nest will be supported by.  They then have to choose from the items I've brought along: cut up old socks, yarn, strips of paper, fruit packaging, pipe cleaners, rope... I also let them innovate - which they always do.  

One student in particular had a perfect idea of using the mud from the puddle next to the parking lot.  I was so proud of her to think of that.  American Robins, among several other bird species, utilize mud to stabilize the interior of their nest.  There was another external force we were working against, besides time; the WIND!  It was a breezy day, which made it PERFECT for nest building.  Maybe you'd think otherwise, but it also is a demonstration of just how much of a challenge it is to build the nest in less than friendly conditions.  If your nest cannot support itself from elements like wind, your eggs will not be well protected.

When you really take a peek at a nest & its intricacies, I like to believe it brings another level of admiration for the engineering work that the birds instinctively possess.  Yes, we have hands and big brains and we do amazing things... but just imagine trying to construct a nest with your feet and your face.  Our hands cannot complete these tasks with the precision that the birds can, but it sure is fun to try!  Check out their hard work in the photos below. (double click photos to enlarge)

Our List:
American Robin
Chipping Sparrow
American Robin

Chipping Sparrow

Inspecting a Black-capped Chickadee nest

Checking out an American Robin's nest

Choosing the perfect branch for support

Building the base

We took over the side parking lot

Platform taking shape


Found feather for show & share (Wild Turkey feather)

More show & share, a small well-preserved half of an egg shell
that fell from a tree while waiting at the bus stop.

Happy Birding young bird nerds... and keep your eyes peeled for nests of all shape and size!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


What is WITH this weather pattern we are stuck in on Cape Cod?!  This is the rainiest spring I can remember!  I never like cancelling a bird walk, but drizzle and sprinkles and wind are not optimal for what we'd be doing this morning.  

Next opportunity for Tuesday Tweets: 7.11.17 9am-10:30 *note time change*
$4 Members/$6Non-members
Happy Birding!

Monday, June 5, 2017

6.5.17  Birds Enrichment - Wixon Innovation Middle School
South Dennis, MA

Cape Cod is an ideal habitat for so many species of bird.  We humans need to upkeep local habitats because we need healthy surroundings as well.  On our way to the field this afternoon, we saw & heard species after species, which left less time for the game I had in mind.  These young bird nerds are getting great at learning the bird calls that we hear and being able to identify which species is making which sound.  I LOVE it when someone blurts out: "Song Sparrow!"  or "Pine Warbler!"

Taking in nature becomes even more of a gift when you can experience it all by using more than one sense.  This is why I do my best to keep the games we play and the lessons we share, as hands-on as possible.  Hearing bird song is a lovely way to tie bird identification into my lessons.  I also enjoy incorporating active games to keep all interested...

What are the four essentials for every living thing?  Food - Water - Shelter - Space
A healthy habitat supports these necessities.  What happens when one of the four needed aspects becomes less, unhealthy or non-existent?  An incomplete habitat cannot successfully support life. When we discuss these concepts I like to include the fact that birds are survivors, but they are quite sensitive to even slight changes in the ecology of an area. If you are noticing a lot of birds, and several species, that tends to mean there is a well developed ecosystem supporting nearby natural life.  Birds are an excellent barometer of sorts relaying how healthy the world surrounding us is.  The healthier the habitat, the better for all life forms...humans included.  Sometimes it is necessary to point out the connection with humans so that those who are perhaps less in tune with the outdoors will begin to understand how vital it is to protect ecosystems, for ALL forms of life.  (double click photos to enlarge)

Our List:
Pine Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Ring-billed Gull
American Robin
European Starling
American Crow
Mourning Dove
Brown-headed Cowbird

Can you pick out the bird silhouette among the pine cone silhouettes?

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow


Forming the habitat space in the Habitat Game

Not all "birds" survived in our habitat
Happy Birding young bird nerds!

Friday, June 2, 2017

6.2.17 Bird Nerd Moment - Bird walk - Fort Hill
Eastham, MA

When there's an opportunity to visit Fort Hill in Eastham...I JUMP at it!  We were able to spend about two hours there this morning and we were very excited to revisit the Maple Swamp boardwalk trail loop.  It has finally reopened after several years.  There were MANY people there to check out this remarkable bird watching location and I cannot recommend visiting this spot quite enough.  It is minutes from the Eastham/Orleans rotary on, Route 6. Parking is limited, but free.  The hike here is so peaceful and on a scale of 1-10 as far as being a hiking challenge.  I'll rate it a 3.  I feel most everyone can enjoy Fort Hill, no matter what their hiking skill level is.

I hadn't been to visit for a couple of years and fortunately for us, we had sunny hot weather, my personal favorite.  The amount of bird species you can encounter on such a day seems limitless... I was fortunate to be able to get some decent photos of a few, as well as a couple of photos of a snake.  I'm telling you this here because yes, I primarily share bird & nature photos here.  Today I HAD to take photos of the snake I noticed while we were hiking.  I understand some are less enthused about these reptiles. You don't have to look at the photos of the snake!   Please don't take it the wrong way either, I was SHOCKED that I even heard it in the underbrush.  I've never seen a snake there before... please don't let it deter you from visiting Fort Hill!  

Back to the birds...who seemed to be surrounding us at every turn.  I'm so happy with our list and was so pleased with the sightings and there was a bird call that was making me CRAZY.  We could not, could not, COULD NOT SEE this bird.  We heard it over and over and it was a call that I was not familiar with.  This bird was hidden up in the canopy and all we could do was listen, learn the call and then listen to a bunch of calls later ( I NEVER use bird calls or songs when out in nature - certainly not in breeding season - this can be VERY stressful to the birds who are so territorial and protective of their space ).  
After listening to several different species, I pinpointed the call to what I believe to be a Northern Parula.  Sadly - I have no photographic proof, but the call we heard was so very distinct.  I'm going to include the species in our list.  It's ALWAYS exciting when you can add a new species to your life list! (double click photos to enlarge)

Our List:
Barn Swallow
Northern Bobwhite
Red-winged Black Bird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Red-tailed Hawk
Yellow Warbler
Gray Catbird
Fish Crow
Northern Cardinal
Downy Woodpecker
Red-eyed Vireo
Northern Parula
Pine Warbler
Black-capped Chickadee
Mourning Dove
Common Grackle
Song Sparrow
American Goldfinch
Blue Jay
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret

SUCH a lovely view

If you're familiar with a Red-winged Blackbird's call,
you can almost hear it when you look at this photo.

Can you spot the two Yellow Warblers in this photo?

Yellow Warbler - male

Yellow Warbler - male

Bird Nerd

The new maple leaves look like blossoms when they
start to pop

Turkey Tail fungus on a tree trunk

Gray Catbird

Red-winged Blackbird - male

Pretty sure this is a Garter Snake

Great Blue Heron

Red-winged Blackbird (male)

Song Sparrow, looks like a juvenile to me

Couldn't get enough of the Yellow Warblers today!

Our list with a view, and a pretty flower picked
for me by my husband.  : )
Happy Birding!