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!

Monday, October 3, 2016

10.3.16  Birdwatching - Wixon Innovation Middle School
Dennis, MA

Sometimes, when you're outside, a moment happens... actually I need to reword that - Oftentimes, when you're as lucky as I am.  Now the moment we shared at Wixon Innovation Middle School this afternoon oddly enough, did not include a bird.  It included a bug.  A BIG BUG - a praying mantis. As we were headed outdoors, when thankfully the sun had finally decided to make an appearance after a week of clouds and rain on Cape Cod... one of the bird nerds spotted a praying mantis in the flowerbed right next to the building.

I NEVER would have noticed it.  I was too busy working on what I had planned for us for the next 45 minutes outside.  I believe, this is an opportunity, an opportunity to incorporate the sense of touch in order to foster that sense of wonder with nature, and that it is truly every where you turn... you just need to take notice.  I would never force someone to hold or touch something we discover out in nature that they weren't comfortable with.  What is remarkable, is watching people grow... watching them explore, watching them delight in something as simple as an insect who was hanging out innocently on a blade of green, right next to the building... right before your eyes.  So - I told everyone that I was going to pick up this bug and those who wanted to, could also hold her, though now I believe this mantis to have been "he", after researching.  Please do not miss the photos of the smiling faces!  One of the bird nerds asked if it would bite me.  I simply answered, "They've never bitten me."  

Most of these students were curious and excited about the mantis, though one protested saying that we were 'wasting time on a bug'.  Here's how I feel.  Nature sends us surprise gifts. I happen to love surprises!  I know not everyone does.  The value of being able to get these kiddos outdoors, if only for 45 minutes in their day, is a gift for me in that I get to share the birds and whatever natural phenomenons decide to pop up...even interesting insects.  When something, someone shows up - I have to stop and pay attention and share the moment.  Not everyone wanted to hold the praying mantis, but for those who did (including 2 aspiring veterinarians, come to find out!) I like to believe - it's not an experience they'll soon forget.

I'm not a huge bug fan, but I an enamored by the praying mantis.  They LOOK at you, size you up, and this friendly, albeit rightfully startled male, was nothing but a gentleman.  (double click photos to enlarge)
Passing off the praying mantis to an enthusiastic nature lover

She couldn't WAIT to hold him!

Don't miss the joy on her face!!!

She spotted this magic in our afternoon!

Not an easy thing to describe - though hopefully, completely unforgettable.
There's a lot of bravery going on in this photo...
he calmed right down in her hands - like magic.

Here I'm passing the mantis over to a slightly apprehensive 
student - who championed the moment!

I did have a plan for our time together, and after we returned the praying mantis to his safe spot - we did continue to one of the school yards adjacent to the building.  One of the bird nerds spotted a spider and before you know it - thankfully - a BIRD!  An Eastern Bluebird! We only caught brief sight of him before he took off - but a lot of folks get EMOTIONAL upon spotting a bluebird!  I've seen it.  I'm hoping this means we'll get more glimpses of Eastern Bluebirds over the next 4 months... but you never know.  

Spotting the Eastern Bluebird

Showing the Eastern Bluebird in the Sibley Guide

On to data collection with regard to the nature
surrounding their school

We discussed how vital certain plant life is to birds and their survival

Aspiring veterinarian enjoying her time outdoors

Giant mushroom

I realize these next two photos will be a sort of tease for the bird nerds in this Birdwatching enrichment... We didn't see or hear a lot of birds on this particular day.  The birds are there though.  When I was reorganizing my materials after the students had left for the day, Bluejays showed up and I even saw & heard a Northern Flicker.  It's tough being quiet enough with a group our size, especially at the end of a school day... when the sun shows up after a week long hiatus!  The birds are there... we just need to be quiet & patient enough to allow them to show themselves off to us - like a bold praying mantis.
Blue Jay

Blue Jay

Happy Birding young bird nerds!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Before we know it...we'll start seeing Hooded Mergansers...

Next Opportunity: 10.4.16 9:30 $2Members/$4Non-members
Happy Birding!

Monday, September 26, 2016

9.26.16  Birdwatching - Wixon Innovation Middle School
Dennis, MA

A new school year and new flock of bird nerds!  I'm very happy to be returning to Wixon, where I've spent many a sunny afternoon during the enrichment period of the day for these 4th & 5th graders!  I even have a returning student - which makes the birds especially happy! We began by learning about binoculars today and how to treat them and how not to treat them.  They are a wonderful tool when used properly, and I find them invaluable, though it's fun to test myself when they're not available.  The kids jumped right in and enthusiastically slipped them on, ready to find some birds.  They seem to be a simple tool, but there are some tricks to them, and part of my job here is to make sure everyone is familiar with the techniques to use them a little bit better.

I wish I could report that we saw a bunch of birds, but we only heard them today.  It's a challenge being patient and quiet, particularly at the end of a school day, when you're out in the sun... all you want to do is run & play.  The problem with that is... we won't see a whole lot of birds if we're too loud or moving too fast.  That's OK though... this is a learning process.  One of the greatest aspects we have in our bird-loving group is the wealth of bird stories they each seem to have stocked up in their brains, ready to share.  I LOVE THAT! So we will get to sharing them as we move through these afternoons together.  I always want them to be on the lookout for feathery friends wherever it is they are, because even when you can't necessarily see or hear them... the birds are there.  We're going to have a great time together! (double click photos to enlarge)

Excellent binocular technique!

Nest spotted!  Bird nest, squirrel nest... not quite sure...

Excited to spot some birds!

Acorns from the oak tree - BIRD FOOD!

What happened to these oak leaves?

Happy Birding!