"I saw a red-bellied woodpecker at my suet feeder."
"I saw a red-tailed hawk in a tree."
This is how I am greeted at school each morning. Melissa and I are teaching the Explorers about birds and, wow, are they learning. In late October, we put a bird feeder in a classroom window. Tufted titmice, nuthatches, and chickadees began to visit. The children loved seeing the birds and would announce their arrival. "Look, a chickadee." "Two tufted titmice are at the feeder."
In December we added another tube feeder and a suet feeder. More birds arrived and the explorers learned their names. The suet feeder attracted hairy woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers, and flickers. When the ground was snow covered, we started seeing juncos. New exclamations could be heard, "I see a junco." There are juncos on the ground under the feeder."
We started featuring a Bird of the Week. At circle time, we would gather the Explorers together. Melissa would grab her computer while I showed the budding birders an informations sheet that showed a picture of the bird of the week and some key facts about that bird. Then came the Explorers' favorite part: Melissa would go to the Cornell School of Ornithology's website and play the bird song of the featured bird, and all the previously-learned birds. We would try to trick the children by playing the same bird song more than once, but it never worked. The Explorers know their bird songs and cannot be fooled.
Now that Spring has arrived, I'm hoping to share two more birding experiences with my enthusiastic learners: nesting bluebirds and color-changing goldfinch. I set up a bluebird house next to the playground, in hopes of attracting a pair of bluebirds. In the fall I spotted bluebirds in the area, so I am hopeful.
Last week a few of the Explorers helped me put up a new bird feeder—a thistle feeder. Goldfinch love thistle. In the spring, goldfinch change from a brown to a vibrant yellow. I am always amazed when I see them. They look exotic and tropical, but they are right here with us. I can't wait for the Explorers to see them. Oh the exclamations I will hear!
For a real treat, click on this link and see artwork by the Explorers and hear their bird song: The Birds We See