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Celebrate Songbirds, especially baby Bluebirds

April 26, 2010

Every year on the last weekend of April, Blue Jay Point County Park, one of the crown jewels of the Wake County Park system, hosts a Songbird Celebration. The event is a family friendly fair with lots of bird related activities aimed at elementary aged kids and whatnot.  And it’s just the sort of thing that we, as the local affiliate of the National Audubon Society, would set up a little tent and hawk some t-shirts and do a little outreach.  So we set up a tent and got to work.

See, we had a gimmick.  A game in which the children would match a “bird in a tube”, one of several bird skins of common North Carolina species, with a box with a plastic bug on top.  The appropriate bird goes with the bug on which it’s most like to dine. And it was a success, once the kids get past the inevitable “Is that a real bird?”s and “Are they dead?”s and the “How did they die?” (for the record the answers are yes, yes, and hit by car mostly) and start thinking about how Purple Martins have long wings so they catch flying bugs and Woodpeckers look for bugs inside trees and what have you.  Those who were successful, and they were all successful, got to take home a pair of “binoculars” made by gluing together two toilet paper rolls, though I was heartened by the number of kids who said they didn’t need them because they had their own real ones.

But the big challenge was the bird walks that we were leading.  Now, I’ve lead my share of bird walks for adults and older kids, but I have to say I was somewhat unprepared and intimidated when I asked how many folks had signed up for my walk to hear that there were 33 people, and most of them were made up of a girl scout troop.  Leading for adults is hard enough when most of the participants are patient and understanding that birds are an unpredictable quarry, but little girls?  I had to come up with something fast.

Fortunately a friend who was a park ranger keyed me in to an active Bluebird nest not far away.  My intention was to leave it in case I needed it, but I soon realized that I needed something quick to keep my folks from wandering away.  So I headed right to the next box, opened it up and pulled out a cup with four little baby bluebirds about four days old.  You could hear the oohing and ahhing half way to Winston-Salem.

Now Nate, you may say, was it a good idea to just pull out a nest willy-nilly?  Well dear reader, it’s not something I would have ever done had I not gotten the go-ahead from the park ranger.  This particular nest, situated as it it was right next to a trail right next to an active soccer field.  And these particular Bluebirds, having already hatched four healthy babies in a high traffic area were old pros at this sort of disturbance.  This was perhaps the most accommodating pair of Bluebirds in the world, as as soon as we left the parents went right back to work such that I was able to set up my scope and let everyone get a look at the adult birds coming to and fro.  I had them in the palm of my hand for the rest of the hour.

The bluebirds were the highlights, and even an Osprey on a nest (which I though was far cooler, but whatever) didn’t stop them from talking about the baby bluebirds all the way back.

So I don’t want to brag or anything, but I’d say those songbirds were seriously celebrated.

  1. April 26, 2010 8:52 am

    Yeah, babies will always do the trick when birding with girls. Boys prefer the predators.
    When there are no baby animals around, search for something pink. When there are no predators, tell them that songbirds are fierce, ferocious predators on insects and worms.

    Stereotype thinking? Maybe. But true nonetheless.

  2. April 26, 2010 6:20 pm

    Interesting. Wake County? Is that Raleigh area?

  3. Nate permalink*
    April 27, 2010 3:38 pm

    @Jochen- Perhaps, but the girls were far more interested in the baby bluebirds than the totally awesome Osprey I showed them. Oh well.

    @Beyond My Garden- Yes, I live in the triangle.

  4. tinag46 permalink
    April 28, 2010 9:59 am

    Nate – I’ve got another suggestion for kids birding or nature related projects. Years ago I worked a local botanical center event several times and came up with the idea for a craft project involving paper plates. Punch two holes on the edge of a heavy white paper plate (about 10 and 2 o’clock)and thread with colored yarn to hang around the kids neck. Then you have a table set up with glossy cuts photos of birds, snakes, mammals, flowers, butterflies, etc…, glue sticks, markers,stickers and so on. Let the kids glue on some photos, decorate it and hang around their neck. The parents will remember your organization better if you write or glue on a card with your group’s name, website, phone # on the back of the plate too. I also used colorful puffy paint markers to write the name of our organization (San Antonio Audubon Society) on the outside edge of the plate (do this a couple of days ahead of time so it can dry properly. The kid becomes a walking advertisement for your group while they’re at the event.

    Tina G
    San Antonio, Texas

  5. Nate permalink*
    April 29, 2010 11:52 am

    @Tina- That’s a really great idea!

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