Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wednesday walk 4

Today's walk was a two mile, two hour stroll with nine kids and three other adults.  Some of my field biology class went on a bird walk led by Ron Clark of the local Audubon Society.  We had the perfect day for it.  A little cool at the start but warming with the sun, clear, and still.

We saw great blue herons, golden-crowned kinglets, a hermit thrush, mallards, white-throated sparrows, yellow-rumped warblers, red-wing blackbirds, an Eastern phoebe, chickadees, titmice, blue jays, crows, grackles, a brown thrasher, cardinals, downy and red-headed woodpeckers, bluebirds, two pairs and one juvenile red-shouldered hawk, a Cooper's hawk, turkey vultures, Carolina wrens, song sparrows, a rufuos sided towhee, and a raccoon up in a tree. (I know that's not a bird, but it was interesting to see it so high up in the tree in the broad daylight!)

Probably the best part of the walk was watching the hawks.  At one point, we watched a male red-shouldered hawk breaking branches off of a tree and then flying away to his nest area.  Shortly after that, we spotted a juvenile red-shoulder perched on a snag about 12 feet up and only about 15 feet away from the path.  He just sat there and let us ooh and ahh over him.  Beautiful bird and good to see a young one and note the difference in coloring with the older birds.  A little later we saw another red-shoulder flying with something in his talons.  We assumed it was nesting material until Ron spotted where the hawk had landed in a tree across the marsh.  With binoculars we could see that the hawk was eating a frog!  Finally, we spotted another red-shoulder on his nest.  It was a morning of red-shoulders!

Our guide, Ron, was an expert at identifying birds by sound.  We stopped frequently to listen and he would say, "Hear that?" (and then give us a description of what to listen for) "It's a ........"  We usually saw the bird we'd heard, but the one that eluded our view was the brown headed nuthatch.  We heard him several times but never caught a glimpse.

I was so proud of my students today.  A couple of them are real birders and know waaaaay more than me.  They carried on a lively conversation with Ron, spotting birds and discussing field marks, habits, and habitat.  For those that are less experienced or knowledgeable, it was a morning of discovery.

Once again, I am pleased that when my kids sit down to write their exams in a week, they'll have experienced and observed some of what they've learned in class.  When they get ready to write about territorial and breeding behavior, they'll remember those hawks.  When they think about habitat, they'll see in their mind's eye the marsh and stream, the open woodlands, and brushy undergrowth and remember which birds we saw in each place.

And I have two new birds to add to my growing list.  The Golden-crowned kinglet (below) and hermit thrush were new sitings for me! 


Bonnie said...

GREAT walk seeing those birds.
My favorite bird was the hawks!


Kristi said...

Thanks again for taking the students!!

Laura A said...

Chiming in late here to say--I'm so glad you saw a GC Kinglet! Now you'll probably notice them everywhere, as they winter in the South. They're really one of my all-time favorite birds and they're such a treat to watch.