Monday, May 24, 2010

Spring SKIP Week 4 - Birding!

This week at SKIP was literally for the birds!

On another sunny gorgeous day at Murphys Point, our participants met at the Lally Homestead to learn something about birding. The program was led by Park NHE Senior Interpreter Alida Lemieux, assisted by Friends NHE staffer Morgan Brown. Following a general overview of what makes birds special - with the help of the modelling abilities of one of our SKIP kids - Alida and Morgan talked about Brilliant Bird Adaptations. This featured four interesting birds common to the area: the great blue heron, pilleated woodpecker, ruby-throated hummingbird and turkey vulture.

First Alida and Morgan talked about how the great blue heron is specially equipped for hunting fish and frogs in the water thanks to its silent stalking, long legs and special beak. We played a freeze tag game in which the kids pretended to be fish and frogs in a pond that were being hunted by two herons (Alida and Morgan).

Next the special adaptations of the pilleated woodpecker were demonstrated, including its "internal helmet" that helps protect its brain against concussion from all the hammering it does on trees. Then, another model tried on the special beak of this woodpecker, which features a long, sticky, barbed tongue that's perfect for retrieving ants from the holes in the tree.

Next up was the ruby-throated hummingbird, which burns an enormous amount of energy with its extraordinarily rapid wing movement - which we all tried to duplicate. Three of the kids then tried their "beaks" at retrieving "nectar" from a jar. It was soon seen that the specially adapted beak and tongue of the hummingbird is unique for the job.

Finally we learned about the rather yucky adaptations of the turkey vulture, which make is specially equipped to find and eat dead animals (carrion) for food. This includes an enhanced sense of smell for finding the meal, and then some interesting methods of discouraging other predators from taking it away. We also learned why the turkey vulture has a bald red head. With one participant wearing a turkey vulture-type skull cap and another wearing a feathery sort of wig (like a "regular" bird), we quickly learned that carrion (or cotton balls) doesn't stick to a bald head.

Next we set off for a hike along the Lally Trail to do some birdwatching. We stopped and listened and observed and in less than half an hour we counted about a dozen species, including a red-eyed vireo, ovenbird, great crested flycatcher, phoebe, great blue herons, red-winged blackbirds, eastern bluebird, scarlet tanager, turkey vultures, yellow warbler and rose-breasted grosbeak.

We returned to the clubhouse where Judy helped us to make nifty little hummingbird feeders using glass jars with red lids and bright decorations. They should be dry and ready to go home for testing, along with the sugar-water recipe, next week.

We ended with a fantastic snack provided by Skipper Jane, who not only brought delicious mini muffins made from a variety of great fruits and vegetables, but also provided sticks of rhubarb and some sugar for us to try.

A big thanks to our program leaders Alida, Morgan and Judy, along with our many volunteers: Jane, Heather, Beth, Pat and Steph. Next week, Alida and Morgan will be back with "Thieves, Sneaks and Trickery" - a biodiversity program that talks about some of the sneaky things plants and animals do.

No comments:

Post a Comment