Monday, February 4, 2013

Winter Bird Counts Connect Kids to Birding

By Debbie Beer

This past winter, PA Young Birders (PAYB) was thrilled to engage more than 100 adults and children in several WINTER BIRD COUNTS FOR KIDS.  Inspired by long-running, international Christmas Bird Counts, PAYB, along with partners and volunteers, guided these exciting, citizen science programs at two Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Pennsylvania, highlighting a diversity of avian species thriving in preserved habitats.

 Willistown Conservation Trust headquarters, in Chester County, hosted the first-of-season Winter Bird Count for Kids on December 15, 2012.  A dozen kids were delighted to discover and observe wintering birds at backyard feeders and in farm fields managed for wildlife.  The group found 21 species, and finished the morning with hot chocolate and pizza!

A week later, on December 21, 2012, nearly 40 5th graders from Pepper Middle School walked over to John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge for their first-ever Winter Bird Count.  After a colorful program presentation, two groups of enthusiastic students went outside with binoculars and checklists to search for birds in woods and wetlands.  The kids were engaged and interested, completing a solid citizen science effort to find 19 species and 187 birds on a windy, chilly morning.  This event served as one of over a dozen science classes taking place at Heinz Refuge for the Pepper School fifth graders, through the 2012-13 academic year.  For most of these city students, visits to Heinz Refuge mark their first experiences walking in the woods, and observing wildlife up-close.

On January 5, 2013, more than 55 people came out to participate in the 3rd annual Winter Bird Count for Kids at Heinz Refuge. PAYB leaders guided two groups around the refuge, exploring woods, fields and creek habitats.  The 200-acre water impoundment was almost completely frozen, so ducks were scarce, but we found a total of 37 species, 387 individual birds. During the tally rally, data was submitted to E-bird, and hot pizza was enjoyed by all.  Highlights: Bald Eagles, Cooper's Hawk, numerous 130 gulls on ice, Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglets, sparrows, woodpeckers, Great Blue Herons, and one adorable Saw-whet Owl!
Thanks to everyone who contributed to connecting kids to birds and nature through these inspiring Winter Bird Counts - PA Young Birders, Friends of Heinz Refuge, Heinz Refuge, International Institute for Advanced Instruction, Pepper Middle School, Willistown ConservationTrust, and volunteers.

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