Sunday, 22 March 2009

nuthatch and terrotorial robin

Yesterday (Saturday 21st) I ran a course on Urban Birds in Crawley for the West Sussex Gifted and Talented Programme. After learning about a selection of birds and their adaptations to an urban environment we split into two groups and undertook our first of two guided bird watch in the grounds. The group I led was lucky enough to see some nuthatch.

Three nuthatch were chasing each other around the shrubs and tree. We stood still and the birds almost flew into us as they chased each other around. It is an attractive bird, blue-grey above and whitish below, with chestnut on its sides of its body. It has a black stripe on its head, a long black pointed bill, and short legs which make it look rather like a small woodpecker. Nuthatch eat insects, seeds and nuts.

Also as part of the course we did an experiment into bird song and territories. I played some blackbird song, but got no response.
I played robin song and a robin appeared in a tree outside the classroom. It came nearer and nearer singing very loudly, attempting to drive us (robin rival) out of its territory.
After about 3 minutes I turned the tape off and the bird went to the top of the tree and sang a more leisurely song.
This was a great experiment and very dramatically illustrated the use of bird song and territories to the children. This kind of experiment is fine to do as a one off and for a short period of time. It is quite natural for other robins to intrude into its territory from time to time, so our recording was okay for a short time. Its important not to play the tape for too long. 2 -3 minutes was fine. We did not want to keep playing the tape and be seen as a robin that was going to stay and challenge the robin for its territory.
The children were also encouraged to think about other ways that birds communicate, including this activity where the children had to predict the meaning of 5 different herring gull postures.
The aim of the 2 guided bird watches (in two groups) was to record the various birds seen in the grounds onto a habitat map. This and the information recorded about each observation was used by the children to summaries how birds use the grounds.
The children undertook a food chain activity

While looking in the leaf litter for potential food for birds, we discovered this unusually marked common frog.

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