Avian Adventures seeks to increase awareness of the rich, diverse avifauna of the Blue Ridge region and help people to appreciate when and where they might enjoy these resources. In this program, we meet people where they are and share both creatures and perspectives that were previously unknown. We hope that our introductions to bird life of the Blue Ridge will inspire personal efforts to become more familiar with the creatures in their own backyards and beyond.
On a chilly January day, local birder Cathy Spencer stopped by our office with news of an injured red-tailed hawk just up the highway. We frequently get calls for help from concerned citizens about injured animals. For many years we were able to connect them to local wildlife rehabilitators William and Joyce Roberts. With William's death this past summer, dedicated rehabilitator Darin Handy stepped forward to carry the torch. After consulting Darin, we grabbed a blanket and BRDC storage tub and headed out to find the bird.
On September 23, thirty seventh graders from Grayson County Public Schools attended the Mahogany Rock Hawk Watch to experience the niche dedication of Hawk Counters and the mass migration of Broad-winged Hawks. Jim Keighton from the Blue Ridge Birders has been recording the migration of birds of prey for nearly twenty years! Each fall Jim sets up his swivel chair and interpretive displays along the parkway and begins scanning the sky. Not only does he diligently track the migration but he also takes the time to educate the passerby about the migration occurring overhead.
Our local 4-H has established a tradition of bringing owl pellet dissection to 4th grade science classes for a number of years. Covering the geographic extent of Grayson County ‘s elementary schools required two days, the first beginning in Fries and ending in Fairview, on the 4th of November. In between we hit Baywood. On our second day, November 11th, we started at Independence Elementary and finished up at Grayson Highlands School. For the two days our student total reached 119.
On Monday afternoon William Roberts (board member of Blue Ridge Discovery Center and Scott Jackson-Ricketts (program director of BRDC) introduced the art of birding to Mark Robinson’s biology enrichment class. After sharing names and a getting-to-know-one-another session, we began by holding up bird flash cards to determine what birds, if any, the students recognized.
We had two working classes: Becky Absher’s ecology and Deb Greif’s/Kathy Davis' math analysis. Working with both classes from March through April, Blue Ridge Discovery Center focused on acquainting the students with local birds, their habitats and behavior. Starting in early March, we divided up our instruction time between in-class studies and outdoor walks behind the school. Through Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology curriculum, called Bird Sleuth, we watched a series of videos dedicated to the skills of bird id and natural history. Outside, along Stinky Creek, we set up a few bird feeders to draw in common feeder birds, giving us the opportunity to put our new-found skills to test.
In spite of our fickle weather, which is certainly typical, we have managed to increase outdoor activities married to our principles and mission. As well, we continue through Bird Sleuth, to provide teachers with curricula (and moral) support.
In consideration of spending more time outdoors, and that we are studying birds, the BRDC guides decided to initiate this year’s Bird Sleuth in March, not January, as we did last year
On the 22nd and 23rd of May, busloads of grade-school kids flowed through a variety of activities at the Matthews Living History Farm Museum. They were treated to live music, story-telling, farm animals, historical farm equipment, a real vegetable garden and insect explorations. Blue Ridge Discovery Center provided kids with bug nets, capture boxes and magnifying lenses for closer viewing.
After weeks of often interrupted effort, snow, sleet and hail held off for Bird Sleuth's grand finale on Friday, March 21st. Bird Sleuth, an educational tool box designed by Cornell's Lab of Ornithology is a project managed under Avain Adventures, a BRDC program.
Bird Sleuth is a program designed by Cornell's Lab of Ornithology (http://www.birds.cornell.edu/Page.aspx?pid=1478). Blue Ridge Discovery Center decided to offer a first run of this investigative and hands-on citizen science project to two classes at Grayson County High School.