PRESS PHOTOS BY DENNIS GLEWThe success of the fifth-grade bird walks in 2017 and 2018 inspired the staff of Donegan to seek funding for an outdoor classroom. Set in a quiet spot near the school, the classroom is designed as an amphitheater with seats for 50 students and also a covered podium for a speaker. In photo, Chad Schwartz of the Audubon Society and the Lehigh Gap Nature Center gives a Copyright -
“Binocular bootcamp” is a crash course in the use of the key tool the kids will need on their walk, to bring distant birds into close focus. The last step of the process, getting focus, is especially challenging. Here Marilyn Guidry moves among the beginning birders, helping them with their binoculars. Copyright -
Before breaking up into teams that would compete to identify the most birds, the students practice spotting birds in the sky above the classroom. The volunteers were impressed by how well prepared some of the kids were for this exercise. It may not be difficult to recognize a Cardinal or a Blue Jay, but a Turkey Vulture -- which is what they are looking at here -- isn’t so obvious. Copyright -
In the field every bird that a team identified was recorded by a student picked to be the team’s secretary. Here Skyla Ortiz, secretary of the “Mockingbirds,” takes a report from one of her classmates, Dezmond Parker. Over the course of the day the 100 new birders identified 196 birds from 26 species. In addition to common species such as the Cardinal and the House Sparrow the teams found a Great Copyright -
“What is that bird?” The kids scramble to help teammates “get on” (that is, see) a bird hidden in the leaves high in a tree. “There it is!” “Hey, it moved again!” In the excitement Marilyn Guidry consults a “field guide” to clinch the identification. The bird was a beautiful Cedar Waxwing. Copyright -
Kids count birds for fun and science
Fifth-grade classes at Donegan ES headed for the school’s new outdoor classroom May 29 to enjoy what they’d spent weeks preparing for: Urban Bird Count for Kids. Sponsored by Donegan each spring, it’s the only event of its kind in the Lehigh Valley.
Supported by volunteers from the Lehigh Gap Nature Center and the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society, the kids and teachers take walks through the neighborhood, noting every bird they see. Later they compile their observations, which are submitted to eBird, a database maintained by Cornell University that is used by scientists to study climate change and other subjects. The Donegan fifth-graders aren’t just bird watchers when they participate in the annual school event, fun as that may be; they are also citizen-scientists.