Monday, March 20, 2017

3.20.17  Birds Enrichment Class - Wixon Innovation Middle School
South Dennis, MA

It's the first day of Spring!  Yes, it was windy out there, but I was excited to get the bird nerds outside today in the warm sunshine.  Last week, I noticed a tree that had fallen and I wanted to inspect why it happened, its root structure, why we thought the tree had not survived a recent storm... so many questions!  That's what I love about science and nature.  I was curious about it myself, but I was even more interested in checking out this tree with the bird nerds to find out what we could discover.  I also brought my "Nature Shapes" ( recycled pizza box cardboard wrapped in duct tape - they last forever ) along for our walk.  I am often reminding students, and whomever may listen, that "...we are all connected...".  When I mention this, I mean every living thing.  The Nature Shapes can be used as a sort of a frisbee, and we discuss the organisms and specimens we discover within the shape wherever it lands...a tiny measurement of ground... and how what we find, relates to birds and their healthy (sometimes unhealthy) ecosystem.

There was one bird sighting in the crazy winds... a lone Ring-billed Gull. (double click photos to enlarge)

Which birds do you want to learn about?

What's in this Nature Shape?

Examining all that they could see within the Nature Shape

                               Lichens covering the branches of this soon to be flowering tree

How can you resist climbing a tree?

                                          This pine needle bunch and tiny pine cone looked
                                                                " a flower..."

White pine, uprooted by a storm, 
though previously attacked by beetles & covered in lichen

What/who made this hole in the tree bark?

Noticing beetle trails on the underside of the tree bark

Roly poly bug on the edge of the bark... trying to shelter him/herself

Doing her/his best to stay out of sunlight, for safety

                                      Searching the edge of the woods on the school grounds

                                                      A new Nature Shape perspective

Nature Shapes can help us to understand
how we are all connected... even the tiniest space
can define how healthy an ecosystem is.

Nature Shape discoveries

Identifying natural occurrences in the Nature Shape

Happy Birding young Bird Nerds!
3.20.17  Bird Nerd Moment - West Dennis Beach
West Dennis, MA

SPRING!  Happy Spring!  It is HERE....and in the typical Cape Cod Spring fashion, there are very cold winds whipping the coast, but the sun is shining...time for a good morning beach walk.  What kind of a jerk would I be if I lived here and didn't fit in walks on the beach? Being surrounded by the ocean is such a gift, and it's certainly one of the reasons I moved here.  I had to get out to see what I could see and to feel the wind on my face.  I'm also excited for the arrival of Osprey... a little late this year so far in comparison to earlier years.

There were Red-breasted Mergansers diving in the salt marsh, and as I approached the rotary at West Dennis Beach, I could see American Black Ducks diving in the marsh and Common Grackles flitting this way and that over the dunes.  I was glad I bundled up for the elements, and I had the sunshine to warm me, but it was COLD... and it was beautiful. There are so many treasures on the beach, shells, rocks, sea grasses & lichens, exoskeletons of crabs... and of course... the birds.  The solitary Common Loon I spotted was feeling camera shy and I only had my phone camera for pictures, so anything close up (not alive) came out pretty good.  All others, well... maybe you had to be there.  It was an ideal way to begin a new week, a new season, a new spell...

Happy Spring indeed...

My List:
Red-breasted Merganser
American Black Duck
Song Sparrow
Common Grackle
Herring Gull
Common Loon
Canada Goose

Brant & Herring Gull silhouettes

Canada Geese

Canada Geese & Herring Gull 
at the mouth of Bass River

This juvenile Herring Gull seemed to be playing with this
shell and seaweed that were attached...s/he walked into
the waves when I got too close for comfort, but still posed for a photo.

Blue Crab carapace
It was so large I wanted my boot in the photo for size comparison

The abdomen section of a Horseshoe crab's exoskeleton, 
also named: opisothosoma

So peaceful...

Camera shy Common Loon  (so blurry...oh well)

Herring Gull

American Black Ducks 

Gull tracks

I wish you could hear this too...

Matching rocks underfoot on the jetty of Bass River 

What is it about a sandy path that leads to the ocean...?
As you get closer, you can see the ocean blue at the end of the trail.

I love that there was a friend waiting for me once I
got to the end of the trail.
Waiting for osprey... Bass River in the background
Happy Birding!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

3.18.17  Science On The Street - Cape Cod Museum of Natural History - 10am-1pm
Brewster, MA  

Curious about STEM education?  Join me and countless others today at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History.  Today's event is associated with the Cape Cod Regional STEM Network, and Cambridge Science Festival's Science on the Street outreach program, and features an interactive science festival wonderful for the entire family!   I will be on the lower level of the museum in the aquarium making bird feeders with the curious... 
What do bird feeders and STEM have in common?  You'll have to find me at the museum to discover for yourself!  Hope to see you there!  

This is from a STEM event at Orleans Elementary in February

See you at the museum!  869 Main Street Route 6A Brewster  508.896.3867 
Happy Birding!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

3.14.17  Cape Cod Museum of Natural History will be closed today and all programs CANCELLED...INCLUDING TUESDAY TWEETS.  

This storm that's on its way is not supposed to leave too much snow on Cape Cod, but the winds that are supposed to increase as the storm approaches are expected to gust over 70 mph.  Inland they are predicted to receive any where from 12-24" of snow and schools and businesses are closed in anticipation of what we have coming our way.   Yesterday I was at the museum to pick up flyers I deliver to the local schools to promote Science On The Street, an annual STEM event that's happening this Saturday March 18th at the museum 10am-1pm.  I will be there with my own activity combining ornithology, with engineering and math.  

While at the museum I wanted to take a look out the Marshview Room windows to see who was out there filling up their bellies, bulking up for the impending storm.  Well out there they were, feeding like crazy & taking advantage of what I call the museum's drive through window.  How do the birds know that a storm is on the way?  How do they know to eat extra food so they can store fat for body warmth & survival?  While I understand there is no way to prove this, I have a theory of my own.  If you've ever seen Disney's 101 Dalmations, when the puppies are in trouble far away from home, Pongo & Perdita initiate "the Twilight Bark", a canine communication of sorts that passes information, dog by dog, town to town... much like the childhood game Operator. I like to imagine that the birds do the same. There's communication there. Storm coming... eat as much as you can, then find shelter to make it through.  It's not easy being wildlife in storms, and as crazy as it sounds, of course I'm concerned about the migrating Osprey... they are on the way.  This is the week they have arrived at the museum for many years in a row.  Wouldn't it be amazing if they arrived while Science On The Street is happening on Saturday...?!  (double click photos to enlarge)

My List:
Song Sparrow
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-winged Blackbird
Blue Jay
Northern Cardinal
House Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow (!!!)
Northern Flicker
American Crow
White-breasted Nuthatch

House Sparrows (on feeder) Northern Cardinal & White-throated Sparrow (on ground)

Red-winged Blackbird - male

House Sparrows, Song Sparrows & Gray Squirrels feasting

Red-winged Blackbirds & Song Sparrow

Next opportunity for Tuesday Tweets: 3.28.17 at 9:30am 
Happy Birding!

Monday, March 13, 2017

3.13.17  Birds Enrichment Class - Wixon Innovation Middle School
South Dennis, MA

STEM.  Have you heard of it?  Are you sick of hearing about it? Don't knock it 'til you try it... Do you know what it means?  The greatest part of STEM in my opinion: HANDS ON LEARNING.  Learning with your senses, at least for me, is more interesting, it lasts longer and is FUN!  When learning is FUN... learning is not work.  
STEM is: Science Technology Engineering Math

We have a storm coming here to the Cape and it was pretty cold today, so I decided to keep the bird nerds in the classroom even though it was sunny outside.  I figured the birds are well aware that some nasty weather is coming their way and that would probably increase the chances we would have little to no sightings.

I get to work with all sorts of materials and hands-on projects with these students and today I brought in what is typically a hit, not so much I discovered for those who don't really love touching dried cranberries...they are kinda sticky.  So, back to STEM...  How do I incorporate an indoor lesson that combines several of these specialties?  Well, Science - Ecology, Engineering - Building something, Math - using patterns and estimating as a tool for math.  When I combine these three things... we make BIRDFEEDERS.   What?  Yes, birdfeeders out of pipecleaners, oats cereal and dried cranberries.

Do you like math?  ICK!  I DO NOT, which seemed to be the general consensus for many in our group, I also asked them if they liked patterns, and did they ever work with patterns in math.  What about estimating? (estimating is a recurring theme in math lessons for this age group: 4th&5th grade)  I showed everyone the simple design of how to begin their birdfeeder with the pipecleaner, and I asked them to choose a recurring pattern to work with, such as 5 cereal pieces and 2 cranberries.  I asked them, before they began, to estimate the amount of both cereal pieces and cranberries that would fit in total on their birdfeeder.  Then they got to work, choosing their own pattern.  There were some who were skeptical about how patterns in math can be so helpful...sometimes it takes a sticky situation to prove the point. When they finished in their own time, I would take their birdfeeder out of their hands, ask them their pattern, the ratio of cereal to cranberries.  

When they broke down the pattern, they could easily do the math, both multiplication and addition, in their head, no counting individual pieces... NO SWEAT!  How close did they come to their estimate by judging the size of their materials?  Some of them were right on the money!  I let them know that if they bring in/send me photos of their birdfeeders being enjoyed in their own yard, I would be SURE to post their photos here, on's the Technology part of STEM for this particular lesson... Plus... they now have an opportunity to contribute to the local ecology once they hang their birdfeeder out in their yard to find out who discovers it and gobbles up their treats...yes... it very well could be squirrels, but they deserve a treat now and then as well.  
Fabulous STEM lesson today bird nerds!

Working diligently on their feeders with patterns

Why do you like seeing birds when you're outside?
(Just a couple of their answers...)
Whenever possible, I use recycled materials when
I have students working on projects
Here I've placed the materials in plastic egg crates, that were made from recycled
plastic bottles, that were holding cage free eggs...
Chickens are birds too.

Happy Birding!