If you are a sequential thinker like me, the first step is preparation. I gathered my bird books, watercolor pencils, nature notebooks, cameras, etc. I took a quick walk before we started to see what kind of birds I could look up in advance (uh, we have not done much birdwatching in our new old house). I decided to spend 15 minutes with each child so that I could devote my full attention to Pamela. We filmed each walk: one person was the spotter and the other one shot footage. Even when we did not capture a bird digitally, we could hear the running dialog of what we observed. After the walk, we recorded our observations in the nature notebooks.
Things did not go as smoothly as we would have liked. David complained about the sun in his eyes, so next time we will wear ball caps. The camera disc wigged out on me and I cannot transfer the recording to the computer! We did watch the recording on television, which allowed us to pause and get a more accurate count. Maybe tomorrow I can share some footage. Here is David recording his observations and drawing a northern mockingbird.
If you have never identified birds, here are some tips:
- Rule out birds that are out of season.
- Rule out birds that are not in your habitat: no waterfowl or marsh birds in my backyard.
- Enjoy what you see and mark the ones you do not recognize as "unidentified."
- Look for behaviors: some birds forage on the ground, some birds travel in flocks, some fly in a choppy manner.
- Study the silhouette.
- Listen to their calls: the camera was a great tool in recognizing birds by their call.
- If you see something soaring, try to get the flight profile and pay attention to numbers (a group versus lone rangers).
- Try to be declarative in taking turns telling what you see.
- Don't fret if your autistic child stims on the word Mufasa and says, "Let's get outta here" near the end.
If you are new to drawing, here are some tips:
- You are recording a memory: perfection is optional.
- If you mess up, try to add in something to cover it (that branch in my picture was a black blob that escaped from the crow's tail).
- Use 80 lb. watercolor paper if you are doing water colors.
- Outline the item in yellow before painting it.
- Never use the greens provided--make your own greens and layer different shades of it.
- Paint with a very dry brush with the hairs smoothed to a point.
- Keep it as dry as possible.
- Don't worry if you make a mess of things. I always flub something!
David's Walk: 11:41 AM to 11:56 AM
The first thing David and I spied was a northern mockingbird foraging on the ground. We saw the silhouette of an American robin in a tree. We spotted about twenty common grackles also foraging on the ground. We think we heard two common grackles, hidden in two trees across the street from each other, calling back and forth. David and I saw a lone black thing soaring way off in the distance behind the house and thought it might be a turkey vulture because of the solitary nature of that species. Later, we saw seven black vultures soaring high above the house. The elegant swirling flight of these birds fascinated David. We did not identify thirteen birds in flight or sitting high up in trees.
David's Northern Mockingbird
Pamela's Walk 11:58 AM to 12:13 PM
Pamela and I saw about six unidentified birds. We hit the jackpot when we spotted a huge flock of common grackles in a tree in my parents' backyard. Pamela estimated thousands of them in her count, but I think there were fifty maximum. I recognized this very noisy gang by their loud squeaky gate hinge squawks. We walked to the back porch and sat down to draw when two American crows landed in the pecan tree near the carport. Their classic "caw-caw" gave them away. Crows are much larger than grackles, but not as large as the ravens we watched in Alaska and Colorado.