Home is Where the Sticks are?

Ornithology takes a look at different birds nests this week!

Guest Post by Sabrina Appleby ’17

Last week in Ornithology class, we spent the double period inspecting the nests of a variety of American birds. When I walked into class, I thought that these nests were all going to look and seem the exact same. I could not have been more wrong. Each nest was so intricately made and contained a multitude of different materials. Amongst the many materials, the most frequently seen ones were grass, sticks, spider webs, feathers, mud, and moss. Here are a few that stuck out to me:

1. Robin’s Nest
Created with mud and sticks, a robin’s nest is perfectly circular. Mr. Cone told us that the materials are gathered by the male robin and the female makes the nest. She uses her body to sculpt the nest in a way that provides the circular shape.

Submission 5

2. House Sparrow Nest
This nest is pretty gross. These lovely birds essentially gather up a bunch of grass, trash, and feathers and blend it all together in a messy heap of stuff. At least it’s an easy nest to identify?

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3. Downy Woodpecker
This one’s pretty straightforward – just some bark and holes.

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4. Speke’s Weaver Bird
Made of almost entirely of grass, the nest situates similarly to a bee’s nest – circular, sometimes hollow inside, and suspending from a tree. Often times, this bird hangs upside down from the nest, clinging on by its feet.

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These are just a few of the 20 nests that we looked at last week. In addition to learning more about the homes of these curious creatures, I also learned that Andover has wonderful resources to research birds and their habitats. Sometimes we take for granted all that PA has to offer. I encourage my readers to check out the casing on the first floor of Gelb that holds a variety of birds. Even if you take just a moment, you will see some pretty cool bird features up close and personal.

As always, thanks for listening. Check back next week for my take on John James Audubon – our next topic of the term.

Holt Hill Adventure!

Mr. Cone’s Ornithology Class Ventures to Holt Hill

Guest Post by Sabrina Appleby ’17

This week in Mr. Cone’s Ornithology class, we took a trip over to Holt Hill! Believe it or not, it was my first time experiencing the beautiful views of the Boston skyline and the blossoming apple trees.

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On our way up the hill, Mr. Cone, already on the look-out, spotted a female and male bluebird. By the time he pointed out the male bluebird, it had taken off! But the female stayed behind for a couple minutes. She was had beautiful light blue back, not quite as vibrant as the males usually are, with an orange tint on her underbelly. She was enjoying the beautiful spring sunshine. My picture doesn’t do her colors justice, but you can see her peaceful perch on the tree branch.

Not far from the bluebird, we spotted two cowbirds, a male and female, perched on another tree. They were calm, but playful, as they interacted with one another up and down the branch. Once the female took off, the male did not hesitate to follow her. I tried to get a picture, but they were too active to get a good shot!

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When we finally made our way toward the open field, my class all stopped in their tracks to admire the views. It was truly amazing, especially given that we were there for a class (thanks Mr. Cone!). Immediately, we could hear birds singing everywhere, and Mr. Cone was quick to call attention to two turkey vultures flying overhead. Over in one of the apples trees, in the midst of white flowers appeared a Baltimore oriole. It’s bright orange colors were hard to miss. If you look closely at the picture I took through my “binocs,” you can see a little speck of orange surrounded by the white flowers.

Considering this spell of gloomy weather, we were lucky to get outside on Thursday and enjoy the sunshine. It truly was beautiful. Each time I go outside, I am more and more keen to the birds around me. The moments when I either see or hear a bird and can identify it are the most rewarding for me. It is nice to know that I can keep this knowledge with me wherever I go! Until next time! 🙂

 

The Herring Are Coming!

Bio100 Visits the Shawsheen River

This year’s Bio100 class had the unique opportunity to visit the Shawsheen River last week and learn a bit about habitat change. Each period piled into a bus and drove down to near Whole Foods in Andover to a bridge overlooking the Shawsheen River.

There, they met Jon Honea, a professor at Emerson College in Boston whose research involves making computer models to see how habitat change effects different communities. In this particular spot, two dams that were built approximately 200 years ago were taken down to allow the migratory fish to return to the area. He is now monitoring the return of the fish that used to be native to this area, namely the River Herring. These fish are silver in color and about a foot long. Mr. Honea and his team are watching the river for about 10 minutes at a time to see how many of these fish are spotted. This data will help to estimate the fish’s spawning population time.

Mr. Honea talked to them a bit about why it is so important for us to repopulate the river with this Herring. They play an important role in the ecosystem as food for many animals. They spawn in fresh water rivers and then move to the ocean to grow up. Mr. Mundra also talked a bit about the two dams that were removed from the area. These dams were preventing the fish from coming back to spawn in the river. These dams were built approximately 200 years ago as a source of energy for the Powder Mills in the area. Mr. Honea also said that the downstream dam was purely ornamental – the owner of the Mills wanted a gurgling sound for his administrative staff to feel comfortable working in the building.

The class then helped Mr. Honea to count the fish in the river. They took some basic data down, the weather and temperature of the air and water, and began to look for the fish. We are looking for the stray fish who are now able to make it upstream, to see how many make it up now that the dams are gone. Unfortunately, in the 10 minutes that we were there, no one saw a fish, but the hope is that within the next three or four years the population will be thriving!