Baby Geese!

Ornithology Returns to the Pond to Feed the Baby Geese

Guest Blog Post by Peyton McGovern ’16

Hello Readers!

Classes are winding down but the birds on campus certainly are not! Between the baby geese (one of these adorable babies can be seen in a photo courtesy of Angela Dolan ’16), baby Phoebe and the other bird nest at Stuart, campus is bustling with bird activity. It has been so exciting to watch my final term at Andover transition from the brisk end of winter to the sunshine and warmth of spring. Along with the changes in weather, so many birds have returned and filled campus with their lovely songs. It’s been so amazing to watch each week as new species return from their winter migration.

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As my class enters it’s final week together, we will most likely take one more field trip and study to prepare for our final exam. As an all senior Ornithology class, it feels especially bizarre to know we have such a short time left at the school. However, it’s great to spend one period per day studying birds, which is such an interesting and fun topic. Ornithology has been a great class for me this term specifically for three reasons: I have learned a lot about identifying local birds, gotten to engage a lot with my classmates on our field adventures and finally tried a unique course that I wouldn’t be able to take at many other high schools. So much bird watching to do with such little time left!

Ornithology Feeds Baby Geese at Andover Pond

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. 

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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.

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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!

Spring is for the birds…

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.

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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:

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A Collection of Nests

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.

Bird Cams

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:

http://cams.allaboutbirds.org/channel/16/Red-tailed_Hawks/

Indiana’s Barred Owls and Owlets can be observed here:

http://cams.allaboutbirds.org/channel/43/Barred_Owls/

And a Great Horned Owl’s nest (currently empty – but maybe they will be back!):

http://cams.allaboutbirds.org/channel/46/Great_Horned_Owls/

Birds of Prey Visit Andover

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.

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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:

Which Came First – the Bird or the Egg?

Ornithology Students Discover Nests in Various Parts of Campus

Guest Post by Peyton McGovern ’16

Hello Ornithology blog Readers,

This week’s ornithology field adventure was by far our most exciting yet! We had our first sighting of the chipping sparrow and got to see many eggs and new nests on campus. Mr. Cone brought his extended mirror tool on the trip, which allowed us to see the nests more closely. We traveled to the bird blinds again where we spotted a downy woodpecker, grackles, and gold finches.

Over the first half of the term, my class has gotten really good at identifying the birds we learn about in class on our field trips. Instead of asking Mr. Cone for help, we are often able to reassure one another, which is really great progress.

On Saturday, I traveled to Deerfield Academy, where my track team spotted a bald eagle flying overhead in the late afternoon. It was quite remarkable to see this bird so close. I was amazed by the eagle’s wing span and beautiful flight pattern.

In the upcoming week, we have another test on bird mating strategies and bird songs and calls. In addition we will do another field day!

Sparrows, Swifts, and Hummingbirds, OH MY!

Spring Brings More Birds to Campus

Guest Blog Post by Peyton McGovern ’16

Hello Ornithology Blog readers,

With the slightly warmer spring temperatures, my class has spotted a few more birds on campus that have begun to migrate back up north after their winter getaway including: Chipping Sparrows, Phoebes and Red Winged blackbirds. Mr. Koolen has heard a mockingbird on campus, which we have yet to see but hope to spot on our next field day, this Thursday. In the following weeks some other birds should also be returning to campus such as, Catbird, Baltimore Oriole, Chimney Swift, Hummingbirds and a bit later the Kingbird as well. In his trip down to North Carolina this past weekend, Mr. Cone spotted some Red eyed Vereos, which will also migrate up to Andover later in the season. According to Mr.Cone, the Vereos have one of the most boring calls of all birds, which makes it quite distinguishable.

As for my own bird observations, I traveled into Boston yesterday to watch the marathon, where I noticed many birds roaming about, especially on the Boston Common. Most popular by far was the pigeon but I also saw Chickadees as well. With the trees beginning to flower and more sunlight, I am sure the city will be overwhelmed with the bird songs soon.

We have 3 day week this week so unfortunately, my bird watching class will only meet two times this week but we will be able go outside for the double period. Our campus route starts on Rafferty field, goes along Hyland Road, passes by Moses Stuart House, goes through Pine Knoll and finally ends at Rabbit Pond. Rabbit pond offers us a great spot to view geese, and birds making nests nearby.

 

The Life of Birds

Inclement Weather causes Ornithology to Watch Birds in a Different Way

Guest Post by Peyton McGovern ’16

Last week in Ornithology we did less field watching than in the previous two weeks. Instead, we took our first assessment, watched an interesting documentary and studied the taxidermic birds in the Gelb halls. The video we watched on Thursday [Life of Birds: Meat Eaters; BBC] focused on birds ability to catch prey and their various strategies to attain food. I was surprised at how skilled and intelligent the birds were. For instance, a vulture in the jungle was able to smell and track down a piece of meat on the jungle ground from over a half mile away. I have always underestimated bird’s but this movie definitely altered my perception of their capabilities.

[Below is a clip of an wild owl hunting in the arctic recommended by Mr. Cone.]

On Friday, we stayed inside due to the inclement conditions outdoors. As a class we went to the hallways and observed the field marks of each bird inside the glass cases. Personally, I enjoyed the starling because from a distance it simply looks like a common black crow; however, up close its feathers contain various shiny colors such as blue and green.  

   Over the course of the upcoming week we are tasked with identifying these two birds in the pictures using our Peterson field guide.

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On our quiz this week we had a similar assignment. The two birds on the quiz were a female belted Kingfisher and an oven bird.  In the next week we will hopefully be back outdoors to explore more birds on campus, especially as more begin to migrate back up North.

A Murder of Crows

Mr. Cone’s Ornithology Class Observes Crows in Lawrence

Guest post by Peyton McGovern ’16

March 31, 2016

This past Tuesday, my 6th period ornithology class took a field trip to Lawrence, where we observed a large flock of crows. Crows flock in hundreds during the winter, which we got to witness firsthand at an industrial building on Merrimack street. Our class was working to answer the question of why these birds gather in such large numbers? After our field trip we were tasked to analyze a few different hypothesis as to why this could be. One hypothesis is that they gather for protection (strength in numbers), while another concludes that they gather because a certain spot is most suitable to their needs, so they all congregate in that one spot.

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In order to watch the crows interact we fed them cat chow, which according to Mr. Cone, is one of their favorites. The birds were hesitant at first because we were close but eventually decided the food would be worth it. We were surprised by how little competition existed amongst the birds even with the food present. There was seemingly no squabbling amongst them despite the large number of birds. We were quite fascinated by one of the crows, which only had one leg. We observed that this bird had less power for take off but it’s flying abilities were not impacted. Overall it was a great opportunity to observe the crows first hand and to work on a question that many, many scientists have dealt with.

We ended the night with a quick McDonald’s stop to fuel our brains after our scientific field work. Today, we will head outdoors for on campus exploration of the wide variety of birds that exist on our campus.