Bird Brains and the Great Backyard Bird Count

Some people have bird brains – not that they are small brains like birds but that they have birds on their brains.  These birders carry around with them a life list of birds spotted and note when and where.

I intended to give you some information about bird species and families but it turns out the subject is too complicated for my bird brain.  Birds are part of the kingdom Animalia, the phylum Chordata, and the class Aves.  This is obviously pretty far up the taxonomy, and there are 23 orders in the Aves class. The orders divide into 143 families and the families have 2,057 genera.  Finally, the genera divide into 9,702 species.  Beyond that, there are lots of habitat-specific sub-species.  See what I mean about it being too complicated!

St. Simons Island is a wonderful place for bird brains.  There are many kinds of birds here:  shorebirds, wading birds, ducks, woodpeckers, songbirds.  I am trying to get better at identifying birds but we are so many places and it seems like there are so many birds!  For instance, people ask me what the big white wading birds are we can see from the Fort.  They could be herons, ibises, egrets, cranes, rails, or storks.  All of them can be big white birds and I can’t really tell the difference.

Luke and Caitlyn ran the Bird Olympics
What kind of a beak could eat these?
How fast can you flap?
Your Off or your life!
Making binoculars
Owl supplies
Anatomy of a Bird
What kind of feet?
Another informative display
Good job Nell!

Saturday Fort Frederica participated in the Audubon Society’s Great Backyard Bird Count.  There were lots of activities for adults and children.  Several knowledgeable birders led bird watch walks.  I picked their bird brains a little but I was busy with the children’s activities.  Fortunately I didn’t have to identify any birds in order to help out!

We had a special day of children’s activities designed and set up by volunteer Nell.  She is a retired teacher and did a great job of designing activities to appeal to all ages.  One of the favorites was “What kind of bird are you?”  The kids would stand against the wingspan of an eagle, with other bird wingspans marked on it, and find out what their “wingspan” qualified them to be.  Here is a picture of volunteer Luke doing it.

Me in my craft tent

I was in charge of the craft table, where Nell designed five different crafts.  The most popular, by far, was making an owl using a piece of cedar, some googly eyes, feathers, and markers.  The kids could also make a bird mask, “binoculars,” color a picture of a bird, or make a bird feeder.

We had over 200 children show up during the five hours of the Backyard Bird Count.  Of course, most of them brought their parents or other adults so it was a very busy day.  In addition, the rangers gave tours of Fort Frederica and the Heron Company drilled and fired muskets.  At one point the Heron Company halted in front of my craft tent and demanded my Off insect repellent.  I gave it to them quickly.  You don’t argue with people with guns!

Ranger Caitlyn, Nell, Randy, Ranger Ellen, and me at the end of the day

Our Backyard Bird Count was the perfect day for bird brains and for anyone else who wanted to participate in the fun.  Nell did a fantastic job of putting it together and we all enjoyed helping her with it.  At the end of the day we were tired, but we felt it was a job well done.