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.

Mercury Transit – TODAY!

View Today’s Rare Celestial Sight from Outside Commons!

Students are gathered with Carolyn Odden, Physics Instructor, outside commons today to view the Mercury Transit today through a telescope with a special solar filter. Come view the rare event where Mercury crosses the sun from the Earth’s perspective. You can see Mercury as a tiny dot on the sun’s surface as it orbits. To view, you need special equipment with solar filters – please do not look directly into the sun.

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According to CBSNews.com:

“The transit of Mercury got underway just after 7 a.m. on the east coast with the smallest planet appearing as a tiny black dot on the face of the sun. The transit will last for a total of about 7.5 hours. The last time solar-planetary ballet happened was 2006. It will happen again three years from now, but then not until 2032.

Mercury transits occur just 13 times per century, on average. They’re so rare because the innermost planet’s orbit is inclined by about 7 degrees compared to that of Earth, so Mercury, the sun and our home planet just don’t line up all that often.”

Read the full CBSNews.com article HERE.

You can also watch live video with Astronomer commentary at SPACE.COM.

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!

RWDC Club Travels to Maryland for National Competition

Andover Earns 2nd Place in Real World Design Challenge National Competition

This past weekend, Andover’s Real World Design Challenge Club travelled to Chevy Chase, Maryland to participate in a National Competition. This AMAZING accomplishment was the result of a year-long endeavor that culminating in winning the state championships in February – beating out Marlboro High and Weymouth Public for first place. Winners of the State Championships are then invited to the National Competition.

Roshan Benefo ’16, Kunal Vaishnavi ’18, Vishvesh Dhar ’19, and Alex El Adl ’19 traveled to the 4-H center in Chevy Chase MD with Clyfe Beckwith, Physics Instructor, this Friday-Sunday.  Jocelyn Shen ’18 and Darcy Meyer’18 could not attend because of conflicts with Robotics Competition travel; Jocelyn and Darcy were acknowledged in the presentations this weekend for having done a major portion of the work leading up to the team’s success.

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The challenge for the national competition was to design (not build) an UAV (Unmanned Aircraft System) using industry leading-edge computer software (CREO), to plan a task of scanning a field for the moisture content (advising a farmer on too little or too much water for crops) by selecting appropriate cameras or detection devices mounted on the UAV, and to come up with a competitive 5-year business plan.

On Saturday April 23rd, after the first round morning presentations, team MA (Big Blue) was selected as one of the three finalists along with teams CT (Xavier Engineers) and AZ (Red Mountain Engineering) edging out the state champs from: Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, Illinois, North Carolina, Texas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Arkansas, Nevada, Pennsylvania, California, and Virginia.

In the evening presentations, the three finalists were judged by approximately a dozen industry leading engineers/academicians (ex. Bell Helicopter Labs, Aeronautics colleges).  Team Big Blue earned a second place in this national competition, team CT taking first place.  Winners were awarded a trophy as well as a $50,000 scholarship to Embry-Riddle (each). [Four teams from China competed in their own national competition and presented separately on Saturday alongside the US competition in MD.]

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Congratulations to team Big Blue on such an AMAZING accomplishment!

To learn more about the challenge check out http://realworlddesignchallenge.org/.

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.

 

Jane Goodall Visits Andover

Dr. Jane Goodall, beloved researcher and conservationist, visited Andover on Friday, April 8th to give an inspiring talk about protecting our natural world.

My Bio 100 students attended the lecture and wrote reflective responses. They were inspired, even transfixed and calling the presentation “magical,” commenting on Jane Goodall as a person and a mind. They remarked on her determination to follow her childhood dreams in spite of lack of resources, her empathy with animals and connection to nature, her rejection of authority and stodgy scientific biases and conventions, her passionate and tireless work, her humanity, and her invocation of a global community made up of responsible beings concerned with common good. As the students’ teacher I felt pretty inspired by not just Goodall but by these students. I also feel determined to spend more time outside in Bio 100! ~ Anna Milkowski, Biology Instructor

This talk meant a lot to Tom Cone, Biology Instructor and part of the Campus Beautification Committee, who has fought to protect so many things in “our” natural world – including the Cherry Tree between Morse and Sam Phil.

Below is a recording of her full presentation.