Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Migratory Bird Day

 Adam's school teacher this year has a rare gift for making learning an exciting adventure for the kids.   In particular, her love of nature and her ability to integrate it into every subject has made this year of school an unforgettable year of wonder for Adam. Her enthusiasm for the earth----rocks, plants, animals, and birds has contagiously spread through the children and in Adam's case onto his family as well!   

Through the course of the year, Adam has become quite the birder with a knack for being able to identify different species of birds by sight or by their songs.  It's been absolutely amazing to us to suddenly have our eyes open to the rich variety of life all around us.  Suddenly what we thought were only robins, cardinals, and crows have become gray catbirds, mourning doves, downy woodpeckers, mockingbirds, and common grackles. 

Several weeks ago, Adam's teacher told me of an idea she had for the kids to attend a Migratory Bird Celebration at Rock Creek Nature Center in downtown DC.  I indicated that I thought it would be a great idea for a field trip, but then she mentioned that it was an all day celebration on a Saturday and there would be no buses, I was skeptical that very many people would come.

Once again, her enthusiasm proved to be contagious and when we got there on Saturday morning nearly the entire class (20 out of 26) had skipped whatever other Saturday activities they had for the day and had come with parents and siblings to participate in the celebration. 

The celebration was well-planned with a  number of fun, interactive booths set up around the nature center.   The kids were enraptured with the presentations and games and surprised many of the employees and volunteers with their extensive knowledge of the birds, their habitats, and calls.   At one point during this presentation where they showed an American Kestrel who had been rescued after being injured after crashing into the Capitol building, they asked the kids if they had any questions.  Much to my amusement, Ellie raised her hand 10+ times to ask a variety of questions...."What's its name?" "What does it eat?"  "Can I pet it?"  "What color are its eggs?" etc, etc. 

We wandered around quite a bit and found these two mourning doves looking all cozy up in a tree.  We laughed at how they wouldn't stray far from each other's sides and we took to calling them "Love Doves".  Adam had brought his Beginning Birdwatching book so that he could mark down the different species that he saw.  Ellie was excited to find the two mourning dove feathers. 

Here are some of the birds he was able to mark off:  A Screech Owl, which had been hit by a was much smaller than I expected as you can see its size compared to the gloved hand that it's perched on.


There was also a Great-Horned Owl which was also hit by a car and then a gorgeous Red-Tailed Hawk who had suffered "neurological damage" after getting caught in a fence.
One of the booths demonstrated bird banding.  They had some kind of trap set up nearby and whatever they happened to capture, they would bring to the booth and band them in front of the kids.  Talk about fascinating....the kids (and adults) were completely enraptured.  This was a downy woodpecker they caught.  Again, it was much smaller than I expected it to be, but it was a tough little fighter eager to get back into the wild again.  The banding only took a few minutes of actually attaching the band, measuring the bird, determining its gender (female), and health.  As soon as everything was recorded properly they were set free again into the wild. 

We all went on a hike through the woods with a bird expert.  We did see a few turkey vultures and hear several different calls, but traipsing through the woods with 30+ people did not introduce us to any cool bird sightings. 
Towards the end of the celebration, the kids got out their bird art and performed two songs for the crowds.  The songs were touching and beautiful and I so wish that I'd thought to bring my video camera for the occasion. 
Adam's teacher was completely thrilled with the day, their experiences, and especially their performance and we were thrilled to be a part of it. 

And on Monday to say, "Thank you and Happy Birthday," to his wonderful teacher we (mostly Adam) made these cute owl cupcakes to share with the class. 
Teachers like her don't come around very often, but we are so very grateful for the opportunity Adam has had to be in her class this year and we hope she'll be around to teach Ellie in a couple of years as well.    



mom said...

What an amazing teacher and what a wonderful experience. This is something Adam can be excited about his whole life. Tim had a biology teacher like that in college, and he and I have been noticing birds more. It's great that he is learning this in elementary school.

Clarinda said...

Sounds like a fantastic experience!

Steve-Rosanna said...

Great teachers who really care about both the subject and their students are not only rare, but a great blessing as well.

Adam is lucky to have such a special teacher.

melissa said...

that is really neat! what a great teacher!!

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