Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Great Backyard Bird Count - A Citizen Science Project


This upcoming weekend - Feb. 15-Feb. 18, 2013 marks the 16th annual Great Backyard Bird Count organized by Home and Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Exploring and Conserving Nature

Scientists can't be everywhere and depend on "citizens" of any bird watching ability to count birds in their area and report the data online to give a clear picture of what is happening nationally and world wide to bird populations.  It takes as little as 15 minutes each of the four days, but you are welcome to bird watch longer.  Tally the number of individual birds of each species you see during the count period and then enter them on the GBBC website.  The trick is to count the largest number of the species you see at any one time.  If you see 3 cardinals at your feeder, then 1 cardinal 10 minutes later, you would not tally 4, because you could be counting the same bird again - so your count would be 3 for that 15 minute time period.

Where to participate?

Anywhere!  You could go to a National Wildlife Refuge or National or State Park like we did in 2011 - at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge.  With over 3,400 acres of wetlands, it is a great spot to count migrating waterfowl.  Our checklist tallies have included thousands of snow geese and dozens of bald eagles.


Or your own backyard - fill your feeders - or make your own!  For the 2010 GBBC, we used cookie cutters to cut shapes out of stale bread - covered in peanut butter and bird food and also made fruit and popcorn garland.  Then we watched and tallied as the birds ate our creations!


Why Participate?
  • Your community will be represented
  • Scientists can study:
    •  year-to-year changes in numbers and distribution
    • Patterns of migration
    • Trends reflecting possible effects of urbanization, climate change, and disease
  • It is a FREE, FUN, way to learn and get outside!
Past bird counts have shown how West Nile virus affected the American Crow - dropping its numbers from a top 2 most tallied bird, down to a low of 9th most reported.  A global climate change could affect the distribution of your states bird.  Milder winter climates are moving many species, such as the Purple Finch, Wild Turkey, Ring-Billed Gull, and Red Breasted Merganser are moving an average of 400 miles to the north.  The count has also shown how the non-native Eurasian Collard-Dove, which was introduced in the Bahamas in 1980, moved into Florida a few years later and has continued to spread since.


How do I Participate?

Check out the Great Backyard Bird Count website to register for free and where you will go to submit your count totals.

Start Here - 2013_OpenSlide_250px.jpg  Check out the PPT with detailed descriptions of how to register, where to locate your specific communities checklist (why have a list of birds you will never see in your zip code!), and how to enter your data.

The website also has good references on how to identify birds, check differences between very similar looking birds, bird feeding tips, resources for educators and games and puzzles for kids.

I had my high school students participate for the past 7 years.  It was a great way to get them to take the time to observe nature, understand global bird trends and learn the meaning of citizen science.  Check out the PPT that was created to show them how to study beaks, legs and feet to determine order characteristics and a quiz with the picture and song of popular Kansas birds.

I would love to hear in the comments section if you used the Bird Watching PPT or participated in the GBBC - happy Bird Watching!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Valentine's Classroom Games - Perfect Match

Looking for a game to use at a child's valentine's party next week?  I created these "perfect match" cards for my son's preschool class.  There are only 10 students in his class, so we needed 5 hearts - but there are endless match possibilities!  Feel free to print and use the document below in your own party.

Perfect Match Rules:
  • Give each student half a heart
  • Encourage them to mingle around the classroom to find their match - either by using the picture - or matching puzzle pieces.
  • Once each student has found their match - shuffle the cards and play again as time or interest allows.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

My Bee Adventure - Day 1

“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”
 - Albert Einstein

Although it is unclear if Einstein ever said this quote, there could be some truth to the matter.  A 2000 Cornell University study concluded that the direct value of honey bee pollination to U.S. agriculture is more than $14.6 billionI have had an interest in bees for quite some time.  Now that we have moved into the country, I can pursue this interest.  However, I know very little about what I am doing - so this journey will be a learning adventure to say the least.  Luckily for us, our closest neighbor raises bees and is willing to help us out.

In May, we purchased some supers at an auction, again, remember we have no idea what we are doing.  There is very little on the internet about how to prepare used bee equipment - so maybe my journey can assist someone else.  A new set-up can range anywhere from $200-$1,000 for one hive.

My first task is to clean out the supers.  My goal is to get two hives up and running this spring.  I plan to use 1 deep chamber and 3 shallow chambers.  It is evident that it has been several years since these have been in use.

I am using a paint scrapper, flat-head screw driver and pocket knife to clean out old wax and propolis.  Propolis is a super-sticky, gooey material gathered by the bees from trees and plants.  The bees use this brown goop to fill drafty cracks in the hive, strengthen comb, and to sterilize their home.  I am also scraping paint chips from the outside as my neighbor recommended repainting all the boxes.

Because we do not know the history of the hives and if they were subject to disease or pests, it is important to clean out all we can from the boxes.  I'll keep an update of my progress and hope to be ready by March so we can get everything in place for our new little pollinators!

My sister in law gave me Beekeeping for Dummies for Christmas.  I am using that as a reference to get started.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Creating a toddler/preschooler schedule

Our youngest, who is 3.5, is exhibiting some challenges we are trying to conquer.  He does not like to sit still, can get very frustrated, whines, throws tantrums and is very stubborn.  He can also be very sweet, loving and compassionate.  We took him to a free screening and they referred us to a pediatrician, who diagnosed him with ADD/ADHD.  Many people and websites agree that 3 is too young to label him as ADD, and we do hope we can work through some of these tendencies and help him learn strategies to be successful in school.  We do not want to medicate a 3 year old, especially one that is not in school yet.  I'll write about some strategies we try, and would love to hear from you as well.  Post a comment if you deal with some of the same issues.  I am hoping that before he is enrolled in preschool in August that he can sit still and listen to directions and participate with the class.

Our first strategy, was to create a schedule for our day.  I had him sit down with me and help develop the schedule.  We make time for "school" so he can learn to sit and listen, plenty of time for play, craft projects (he is left handed and is struggling with scissors), reading, weather permitting outdoor play and the all important nap time!  We printed it off and he refers to it several times a day to see what is coming next.  The pediatrician recommended that if we kept a more structured environment and he was informed what was to happen next we could be on the road to the right track. 

Here is the schedule we developed: