Waiting on the birds

Maryland’s birds are on the move. While some have already headed south to Florida, Central and South America, others are moving in and establishing their winter residency at Jemicy. M Group welcomes both these new arrivals and those that are here year-round with several projects. Kids have researched birds and made paintings that will be transformed into magic binoculars -“Guaranteed to see a blue jay (chickadee, mourning dove, downy woodpecker, etc.) every time!”

They have also drawn and distributed window-collision deterrents around the school,


and launched the annual seed preference experiment. It seemed like the birds anticipated the grand opening. Within minutes of installing our sunflower/popcorn seed feeders, kids were shouting, “A goldfinch! A chickadee! A -a-a…mohawk-bird?” We keep a visual checklist posted on the science room door to mark off the birds we have spotted. Nine species so far this fall, not including the “imposter birds” with the bushy tails.

Kids note how bold the chickadees are, how they chatter and scold from a high perch before darting into the feeders, seeming to almost ignore us as they gather seeds. “Would they eat from my hand?” wonders one student. “I suppose it could happen,” I reply. “If you are still enough.”

In the last few minutes of the last class of the day on a Friday afternoon, the group is restless. They have collected and replaced seeds from their bird feeders, done some math to collate their data, and discussed the results so far.

“Can we go out and watch for birds?” they ask. Yes, good idea. I clean up the stray seeds off the floor and then follow them out the door, half-expecting to find kids “watching” birds from the playground.

Instead, I find this:


For two minutes – I timed it – the class stood perfectly still, bird seed cupped in their hands. The chickadees, tufted titmice, and house finches flitted around them, tantalizingly close. The bell rang signaling the end of class, the beginning of their weekend, and still they didn’t move. Finally, reluctantly, they scattered the seed on the ground and headed off to pack up their things. The last one to go announced that he was trying it at home and tucked his seeds into his pocket.

I love experiments where all outcomes are positive.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s