The “Fledglings” took out a map of the United States showing the relative positions of Phoenix and Plymouth Massachusetts. For each bird they identified as they walked around Gilbert Riparian Preserve they had to use their Field Guides to decide the following questions.
Was this a bird the Pilgrims would have seen as they sat down to their first Thanksgiving, probably sometime in October 1621?
Would they have seen that bird at any time during the year?
If you lived in Plymouth nowadays would you see the bird?
To answer this you had to use your range maps to decide where and when the bird is seen nowadays but you also had to read the description (and maybe do some research) to decide which birds have been introduced to the USA or maybe which birds have changed their range over nearly 400 years.
This is the homework – do the same for this list of birds we see at sometime during the year in Phoenix:- Cactus Wren, Mourning Dove, Abert’s Towhee, Curved Billed Thrasher, Eurasian Starling, Gila Woodpecker, Verdin, House Sparrow and Turkey Vulture.
The “Hatchlings” concentrated on the feasting side of Thanksgiving. We went out and observed what type of food birds liked and how that matched the type of beaks they had. Here is our list –
Long thin beaks for probing into the mud – Long Billed Dowitchers and Least Sandpipers.
Spear Beaks – Great Blue and Green Herons and Great and Snowy Egrets.
Cracker or Conical Beaks – Lesser Goldfinch and House Finch
Long thin beaks for probing into flowers – Anna’s Hummingbird
Tearing Beaks – Osprey
Tweezer Beaks – Verdin and Yellow Rumped Warbler
Filter or Straining Beaks – Mallards
Snap and bristle beaks – Say’s Phoebe
Chisel Beak – Gila Woodpecker
You can look these birds up online or in a field guide to learn what they like to eat and see how their beaks have adapted to help them get it.
Homework – It is Thanksgiving, so go around your dining room and kitchen and see what kitchen tools or flatware you have that do the same job as a bird beak. For example, you may have a carving fork that “spears” the turkey ready to carve and eat it.
Ameya and Ty were the winners of our notebook competition which was judged for us by Emily Morris of Audubon Arizona. Ty and Ameya won because they used their notebooks a lot, not just once a month at our meetings. They remembered to put in dates and there was a lot of detail in what they added. Ameya wrote a lot and Ty loved to draw what she was seeing. Congratulations to both of them.
Remember, if you keep a birding or nature notebook, ALWAYS PUT THE DATE AND THE LOCATION of what you are observing.
Next month we are going to do our own little Christmas Bird Count at Gilbert Riparian Preserve – only we count the species of birds and the children get sponsored to raise money for Liberty Wildlife. If you would like more details or would like to support the children contact Joy Dingley.
Are you a budding bird watcher? Do you notice the birds in your back yard and wish you could name them? Do you hear birds singing and wonder who is making that sound? Do you enjoy being outside and finding things that other people don't even notice? Then the Early Birds Club is definitely for you.
The club meets once a month from October to April at the Gilbert Riparian Preserve (next to the library on Guadalupe and Greenfield) usually on the third Saturday of the month. As our name implies we start before the bird walks begin, as soon as the sun comes up and we can see the birds.
Each month we try to concentrate on a different aspect of birding skills that children can use in the future. Each member is given a notebook and we explore ways of using them. All levels of expertise are welcome, we hope to help each other. We didn't originally mean to include parents but a lot of them are getting just as interested as the children and enjoying the time as well so parents are welcome.
Each month a small home project can be undertaken to keep the focus going at home.
There is no cost for this and if you need to borrow binoculars for the walks we can arrange this.
If you need more information or would like your child to take part contact Joy Dingley at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 480 419 9804.
The bird on our badge is an expert fisherman. He wades through the water on his long, long legs spearing fish and other small animals with his long sharp beak. He's a big bird as well, if he stretches out his neck he can be nearly four foot long and when he spreads his wings he's about six foot from wing tip to wing tip. You can't miss him as he flies above you beating those wings in a slow steady beat.
He's called the Great Blue Heron but most people would call him a grey bird. You have to look carefully to see the bluish tinge to his wonderful feathers.
So why is a water bird the logo for a bird group in the Valley of the Sun? Well our rivers and creeks have always been important, they have always made life possible in a very dry hot place. Wherever there are rivers and creeks you will find the herons making a very good living. The herons are very adaptable birds though; they've learnt a few new tricks. I often see herons on roof tops near golf courses, waiting to investigate the ponds there. You will find them at water treatment areas and near those shopping centers with the artificial landscaped lakes. So they teach us a lesson, water is very precious wherever it comes from, don't waste a drop.