Text and photos by Brigid Berger, Texas Master Naturalist, Mid-Coast Chapter
As the kids got back on the bus to head home, I asked them to name a bird they had seen today. While not all of them were completely accurate in their identification skills, they were certainly all exceptionally enthusiastic. The 16 students, ranging from 1st to 8th grade, spent the day at Corpus Christi HawkWatch site in the Hazel Bazemore County Park experiencing their first Hawk Watch. Our birding program at Austwell-Tivoli ISD helps the school provide a challenging learning experience for these students who’s tests scores have deemed them to be gifted and talented. Since for many of them this was their first birding experience it required them to use skills they have never used before.
After outfitting them with binoculars, Dane Ferrell, site leader for the Corpus Christi HawkWatch talked with the kids about raptors and migration. The students were engrossed and hung on his every word being interrupted only when raptors were spotted. The kids jumped to their feet with eagerness and honed their binocular skills. Soaring high in the sky and not always easy to find, the students not only learned to spot birds but also how to look closely at detail and the language of birding. Hearing the description of the birds features and behaviors as well as the details of where to find the bird in the sky are lessons learned through novice-expert interaction in the field.
The native plants and drip basin attracted other birds and a horde of butterflies for the students to take in from the lower platform blind and hummingbirds allowed close observation while feeding at the strategically placed feeders. Before heading back to Tivoli, the students birded the ponds in the park’s low lands and observed several more species.
They were so pleased with the day that they made a special trip back to the platform to thank Mr. Ferrell, Mr. Matt Mills, Mr. Kevin George and Mr. Glenn Gomez for showing the them such a fun and informative day at the HawkWatch. Even if they don’t get all the names of the birds correct, they now know to look high in the sky each fall for the migrating raptors, to scan ponds for waterfowl & shorebirds and to provide feeders and native plants to support birds and butterflies. We hope that by bringing them outside to experience the natural world that we are planting the seed of love for the environment in them which will grow as they do because as Jacques Cousteau taught us, "People protect what they love."
Brigid Berger, Texas Master Naturalist, Mid-Coast Chapter
Allan Berger, Chair, San Antonio Bay Partnership