Monday, December 12, 2011

Citizen Science

Pamela and I have enjoyed the Great Backyard Bird Count every February for the past few years. This year we are stepping up our citizen science program by trying out Project Feeder Watch. We joined the program for only $15: they mailed to us a handbook with instructions, a calendar (which Pamela loved), a bird identification poster, and a sample tally sheet. Feeder watch season runs from November through April. The handbook contains detailed information about how to set up a feeding station, which you can view from indoors (it is winter after all). You can also download a free guide designed for homeschoolers. Ours has three different feeders (two different kinds of tubes and suet), seed on the brickwork, and a bird bath. The feeders hand from the camellia "tree" (it is really a shrub that is tall as a tree), which never sheds its leaves. Ivy below the tree provides ground cover for the chipping sparrows. Shrubs and pine straw near the brickwork offer similar protection.

A few weeks ago, I took apart all three feeders, emptied them, and scrubbed them down. I let Pamela practice some problem solving and use tools by helping me put them back together again.

Last Friday and Saturday, we spent time looking out the kitchen door window, watching and counting the birds. The idea is about the same as the Great Backyard Bird Count: record the maximum number of each kind of bird you see at one time. Then, take the maximum number of each kind of bird throughout the two days. The handbook explains the process of setting up the bird station and counting the birds very clearly.

Here are our results:

If you have not developed the habit of bird watching, here are links to earlier posts that might help you get started: scaffolding beginners, inspiration, Great Backyard Bird Count February 15, 2008, February 13, 2009, February 14, 2009, February 18, 2011, painted bunting, head-banger hawk, baltimore oriole.

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