Mid April (2015) BRDC Program Notes

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.

Starting on April 2nd, Grayson County High School’s ‘’Team Birds’’ made another visit to Matthews State Forest with the one and only requirement to search out by sight and sound any and all birds and record their findings. We had Chassney Hodge, our intern from Galax, Sarah Osborne and her intern-in-training son, Jack, and Carol Broderson as guides…along with me, Scott. The day was productive with a belted kingfisher, blue-gray gnatcatcher, yellow-rumped warbler (often referred to as ‘butter-butt’), and a wild turkey rounding off new discoveries. Keeping this team on track is challenging, but clearly they all enjoy time outdoors and many are becoming birders in spite of themselves.

William Roberts and I were invited to give a presentation on all things birdy for the Baywood Cub Scouts on the 9th. Meeting in the gym with 14 kids, along with their parents and siblings, was a noisy affair, but we managed to share with them bird feathers, skulls, feet and lore. We began with comparing screech and great-horned owl parts, and then the wild turkey. Most of these kids knew the turkey, of course, but when we brought out the great blue heron parts, confusion and competition…along with great questions and guesses…challenged the acoustical limits.

Then we moved out to a quieter hallway for a reading from William, based on a Pacific Northwest Indian creation myth, about how light, warmth and the all-important sun were given to people. The raven, a classical trickster figure in Native American stories, played a major role. Given that we had a little more time, I pulled out some bird flash cards to see exactly how much these youngsters knew about birds, and both William and I were amazed by their collective response.

One of my favorite kid groups comes from our local home educators, whose moms show at least as much interest as their children. Brenda Bonk (president of BRDC) joined me as a guide on a cool rainy day at the Matthews State Forest for a morning of birding and an afternoon of insect identification. In spite of the iffy weather, and having our study area situated on Judge Matthews’ old farmhouse porch, we were able to dodge intermittent rains with great productive success. These kids are patient and overwhelmingly excited about natural history. Many of them are already anglers and hunters, with a keen sense of outdoor experience. Sometimes I am happy to learn from them, as it should be.

At this time of year, early spring, and given that the Judge was crazy about apple trees in all of their varied glory, we had a blooming event that brought out a plethora of pollinators, mostly native along with the imported European honey bee. I have begun an insect collection/preservation bio survey component that requires the ‘killing jar’. So far, no one seems to object, but I need to say that we are careful with all insects, most are catch and release episodes, and those that do die are dispatched humanely. BRDC believes that this collection will serve not only as an important educational tool, but also as an archive of here and now, an important historical record. It appears that bees and ants are the first insects ready to go to work during the first hints of warmth.

Finally, on the 16th, Sarah Osborne, Chassney Hodge and I regrouped indoors (because birds and people are not as outdoor active on cold rainy days), we continued with the follow-through next step of Cornell’s Bird Sleuth program based on data analysis. This is a required component of our effort, and though the students would prefer to both escape the paper work and the classroom, giving them a sense of the importance of translating their outdoor experience to another level of value, completes both the school’s prerogative as well as BRDC’s commitment to a rounded out educational experience.

Scott Jackson-Ricketts, Program Director, BRDC