Great Weather for the Ornithology Class Field Trip!
Guest Post by Peyton McGovern ’16
Hello Blog Readers,
This past week was an action packed adventure for those of us in Biology 421. During our double on Thursday, we took an off campus field trip to North Andover, where we searched for Herons. Unfortunately, we saw some nests but we did not see any Herons themselves. The landscape was a vast open swamp filled with many dead trees. The area looked seemingly eerie and desolate; however it was surprisingly filled with many red-winged Black birds and of course the Herons nests. After we spent some time on the dock overlooking the swamp, we drove to a nearby meadow, which was quite beautiful. We spotted some Bobolinks at the meadow, but it was a bit difficult for us because they were easily lost in the thick grass. Luckily, the weather was incredible which made this trip enjoyable for everyone.
Perhaps, my favorite part of the week came on Friday when our class fed the goslings at Rabbit pond. The baby geese were so adorable, tiny and fluffy. Mr. Cone brought us some bread to feed them, which they definitely enjoyed. We were surprised by the fact that the parents did not feed their young and often actually took the bread for themselves.
Although the parent geese do not feed their babies at this stage, they are still extremely protective of their young. Whenever any of us or another adult geese got a bit too close, you could hear the parents hiss or see them change to a more aggressive position. Overall, it was a fantastic week in class and definitely our most interactive so far!
A Visit to the Bird Blinds to Prepare for Grandparent’s Weekend
A couple of times this term, Melanie Poulin and I were fortunate enough to accompany Mr. Tom Cone and Mr. Marc Koolen down to the Bird Blinds. For those of you who don’t know, a bird blind is an area where you can watch birds through slits in fence, so as not to frighten the birds away with your presence. This particular bird blind was made possible through the generous funding of the Abbot Academy Association in 2003.
The bird blinds are located off of Highland Road across the street from the 1929 House.You have to walk a bit down the beaten path, but it is well worth it. You come up to a large fence with benches on one side, but you cannot tell what is behind it until you get up close and look through the slots.
When you look through the slots, you see that there is a pole system that holds lots of different bird feeders. There are lots of tree around and a little stream nearby that creates habitats for lots of different birds.
Every few days, someone will go down to fill the feeders so that the birds will keep coming back and give us something to view! Lots of birds will come to visit, just in time for Grandparent’s Weekend!
Along the way, we also saw a few nests with either baby birds in them or mother birds sitting on their eggs! We saw a little baby Phoebe bird sticking it’s head out of this nest:
A baby House Finch’s tail sticking out of this nest:
And a mother Robin sitting on her eggs in this nest:
Ornithology Begins to Wind Down With Oral Presentations and Bird Nest Viewing
Guest Post by Peyton McGovern ’16
Hi Blog Readers,
Our Bio 421 class is now in our oral presentation phase. This past Tuesday we had two sets of partners present their topics. The first group, Richie Ciufo ’16 and Ben Anthony ’16, showed the class their PowerPoint on Bird Vision. Their slides compared human vision to bird vision. It was quite remarkable to see how much better the birds eyesight was. Not only can birds follow things faster with their eyes, they also have the ability to see ultra violet light. Next came Livy Golini ’16 and Morgan Gramlich ’16, who presented on bird’s magnetism. The extent to which bird use magnetic fields is still widely debated and currently being researched. Tomorrow, my partner Olivia Lamarche ’16 and I will present on bird emotions. Similar to Richie and Ben, we will also compare bird and human emotions to see any similarities or differences.
On Friday, we took a break from oral presentations to observe the best collection that Mr. Cone set up for our class. We looked at over 20 nests and were tasked with identifying which material were used to create each nest. Certain nests were made out of pine needles and mud, whereas others may have contained feathers, leaves and sticks.
It was really unique to see such a variety of nests all in one place. I always assumed all nests were circular, which was not the case at all. Some were square and others did not have an explicit shape.
This week we will have presentations on Monday and Tuesday and most likely an outdoor adventure Thursday! I’m hoping to see the sun more this week than we encountered last week.
Observe live birds with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Keeping with our Bird Posts this week, you can observe some of the birds Peyton spoke about in her posts live on camera!
A Pair of Red-Tailed Hawks live in Ithaca, NY with their three babies:
Indiana’s Barred Owls and Owlets can be observed here:
And a Great Horned Owl’s nest (currently empty – but maybe they will be back!):
The Ornithology Classes Get a Visit from Wingmasters, a Bird Education and Rescue Program
Guest Post by Peyton McGovern ’16
Hello Blog Readers,
This week was super exciting for Bio 421! After 4 weeks of studying local and national birds, we had visitors from Wingmasters, a program that works to rehabilitate injured birds. It was so fascinating to see the birds we have been learning about in class so close.
For me personally, I was most captivated by the owls. Both the barred owl and horned owl were incredible but my favorite was the saw-whet owl. I never knew that owls could be of that miniature size.
Another incredible bird we observed was the Peregrine Falcon, the fastest animal in the world. This bird can fly up to 200 miles per hour and spots its prey from the top of skyscrapers.
Aside from the fascination of this program, it was also quite educational. The woman who worked for Wingmasters, Julie, talked a lot about the environmental effects of pesticides and other chemicals on the health of birds. Throughout their time, Wingmasters has seen a decline in some species of birds because the birds prey, rodents and insects, often eat food that is sprayed by pesticides. The pesticides kill the insects and rodents and often has deadly effects for the birds as well. However, Julie and her partner, Jim, also mentioned many projects that attempt to revive dwindling bird populations. Overall, this was a super exciting and educational opportunity for our class.
Ms. Andersen put together the video below of some clips from the presentation:
Biology Faculty Tom Cone celebrates one of the natural beauties of the Phillips Academy Campus
One of Andover’s great traditions is when Tom Cone puts out cookies under the Cherry Tree between Sam Phil and Morse Hall to commemorate spring and to call attention to one of the natural treasures of the campus.
This morning was that morning. Mr. Cone’s first period Bio-100 class helped him prepare many trays of cookies to put out throughout the morning. They helped him bring the table and “Welcome Spring” sign out and, of course, helped themselves to the first bites of the goodies!
The entire class then gathered beneath the tree, where Mr. Cone used this as a learning opportunity as all the Bio-100 classes are learning about the anatomy of flowers and other plants. He pulled a couple of buds off the trees to demonstrate the pieces of a flower that they had learned about in class.
The cherry tree also has a rich history on the campus – it has been around for decades and was almost cut down – twice! The first time was in the early 1970’s, when the old Evans Hall Science Building still stood. Some in the school thought that the cherry tree blocked the view of the building from the west side of campus and planned to cut the tree down. Students and faculty heard this and many people literally “hugged” the tree the day the cutters came so they could not cut the tree down. They did not come back.
Later, after the Gelb Science Center was built in 2004, some in the school again thought that the tree blocked the view of the building from the Foxcroft area. Members of the PA community fought to keep the tree and when the architects of Gelb agreed with the community, the result was an agreement to keep the tree.
While this year, because of the recent warm, then cold, weather, the blooms are a bit sparse, it should come to full bloom in the next couple of days. Be sure to stop by some time this morning to marvel this magnificent tree (and get some cookies!) or make sure to notice it at some point in the next few days, before the bloom is over.
Below are photos taken of the Cherry Tree during a great bloom year!
Happy Spring from the Division of Natural Sciences!
Students discover Darwin and his journey ’round-the-world
March 24, 2016
Starting off the spring term here at Andover, the Biology-500 students are learning about Darwin and evolution. To demonstrate and speak about Darwin’s journey around the world, Marc Koolen and Christine Marshall-Walker, Biology Instructors, used models of the HMS Beagle and Darwin’s workshop.
Students learned the conditions in which Darwin was selected to sail aboard the HMS Beagle where his scientific explorations eventually led to the publication of his theories on evolution. At the time, Darwin was trained to enter the clergy and did not have a degree in any type of science. Typically, the ‘naturalist’ aboard a British Naval Vessel was the ship’s doctor and also a naval officer – Darwin was neither. The ship’s captain, FitzRoy, eventually chose Darwin for his social standing, rather than his skills as a naturalist and so that there would be someone of equal stature with which to speak. Being a civilian, Darwin could speak freely with the captain without the worry of discipline.
The model above (crafted by Mr. Marc Koolen himself) shows, in detail, Darwin’s workshop aboard the HMS Beagle. The HMS Beagle had been modified to be a survey vessel whose mission was to map coastlines around the globe for British merchant ships to use. “The ship was basically a jeep with sails…all work, no luxury. Darwin came from an extremely wealthy family and had lived a very pampered life…how he survived 5 years under such primitive conditions is truly amazing.” said Mr. Koolen during his lesson.
The lesson was super interesting! Although our typical lectures are far from boring, it was neat to use different mediums of education to supplement the material. Mr. Koolen’s model was an awesome tool to do this with! It really gave us historical context to support what we already learned about Darwin as well as a visual tool to help us really grasp the lesson. – Janet Conklin ’17
The students then went on to look at some preserved organisms, all of which launched a discussion about evolution and how evolution is evidenced in shared structures between extinct organisms and today’s organisms.
Phillips Academy Biology-100 Courses Plant Seeds on the Gelb Lawn
March 25th, 2016
Today, as part of Andover’s Biology-100 course, a garden was started outside the Gelb Science Center.
Areas of soil were carved out of the grassy area next to Gelb in preparation for this experiment. The faculty brought each period of Biology-100 students out (in the rain!) to spread seed on their section of the plot. Periods One, Two, and Three planted “Meadow Mix” (a mix of different types of grass) in one plot and Periods Four, Five, Six, and Seven planted a Wildflower Mix in another plot.
Biology Instructor, Raj Mundra, explained to the first and second period classes that they were contributing to a bigger experiment going on throughout the Phillips Academy Campus. They are planting a mix of grasses that may not have to be mowed! A tuft of grass next to this plot will not be mowed as a control to this experiment to see how tall the new grass gets in comparison. The results of this experiment could lead to a new frontier of landscaping!
After spreading the seeds over their part of the plot, the classes then walked over the seeds to make sure they were secure in the soil. The faculty explained that his drizzly day was the perfect day to plant these seeds because they will get water right away and begin the growth process.
But wait! There were four plots in the photos at the beginning of this post – what about the other two, you ask? These same Biology-100 students will be planting seeds of their choosing in these two plots. Stay tuned to find out what they plant and to keep updated on the progress of our “Gelb Garden”!