Friday, June 28, 2013

Watching Things that Fly (through Binoculars)

Bird-watchers always seem to have a pair of binoculars hanging from their neck. Why not bug-watchers? There's a field guide for watching dragonflies through binoculars - with a pretty easy-to-remember title: Dragonflies through Binoculars, by Sidney Dunkle (2000, Oxford U. Press). It begins with lots of good info about dragonflies, how to identify, effects of temperature on them, and more. Then has detailed descriptions of dragonflies in North America and a checklist. But my favorite part is the sections of wonderful color photos.

It's a wonderful guide, and such a nifty idea that Oxford U Press published Butterflies Through Binoculars (Western North America) by Jeffrey Glassberg the following year.

No field guide to bees through binoculars yet. Nor beetles. But you don't need a field guide. This summer take a few minutes to watch the world of flying things through a pair of binoculars. What do you learn about these summer fliers? How do butterfly wings compare to beetle wings? What sort of flight patterns can you find?
If you spend some time watching dragonflies this summer, consider becoming a  "citizen scientist" to collect information for Dragonfly Pond Watch.Friday!  Check out more STEM Friday books and resources here.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Moonwalking with the Birds

When ornithologist Kimberly Bostwick isn't curating Cornell's Museum of Vertebrates, she's in the forests of South and Central America watching birds. She studies manakins, a group of diverse species including this Red-capped Manaking that incorporates "moonwalking" into his courtship display. Kim gives a demonstration, with the help of her feathery partner.

Take a short "field trip" outside your house and look at the birds in your neighborhood, or at a local park. Watch them and see if they do any dances. If they do, can you figure out the steps? Maybe it's a dance you can teach your friends.

There are some tiny shorebirds called "moonbirds" that fly astronomical distances during their migration. But they don't moonwalk. Check out other STEM Friday posts here.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Look Up! A Kid's Guide to Birdwatching

Look Up!Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard
written & illustrated by Annette LeBlanc Cate
64 pages, ages 8 & up (great for adults too!)
Candlewick Press, 2013

When was the last time you read a birdwatching guide for the humor? 
Yeah, I thought so. This book will challenge your perspective on what a bird book is all about. From the cartoonish-yet-realistic birds between the covers to the lists of essential birdwatching gear covering the endpapers, this is one informative and fun-to-read book. 

In this book the birds talk back and make up songs about their lives. They sport cool hairdos and show off their feet. But most of all, they make sure that author Annette LeBlanc Cate tells it straight. Cate is not an ornithologist; she's an artist and loves to draw birds. As she put is: "Spending time outside observing life and drawing in a sketchbook can help you to see the world in a whole new way."

Sure, you've always known those rocks were there. But when you take the time to draw them, you do more than see them - you start to feel connected to the natural world. Just like rocks, you can watch birds right where you are: in your backyard, outside the office window, at a park. Cate uses a rainbow to help identify birds. She shows how shapes are good clues to identity, and those fancy hairdos. She devotes a section to sounds and bird calls and talks about habitats and range. And she even gives handy pointers on how to draw birds.

Learn more about birds at Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Check out other science posts at STEM Friday. Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Hawks Fledging; Hummers Humming

This has been the week for birds! Every morning I am awakened with a symphony of bird song. The phoebes, nesting beneath my study window, spend their days hunting insects on the wing. And at the beginning of the week I was buzzed by a Ruby-throated hummingbird. It was a male, so bright he shimmered like a jewel. After buzzing my hat he perched on a fence post and eyed me. Determining my lack of nutritional value, he zipped over to the onions in flower (left in garden from fall) - I wonder what onion nectar tastes like?

Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a great collection of sounds. Here's some of the hummingbird sounds you can listen to:

Meanwhile, the baby hawks have quickly grown into that gawky teenage stage where they're ready to go to the mall but not sure they want to sit in the driver's pilot's seat. This week looks like "fledge" week up at Cornell... on Monday one hawklet spent the afternoon standing on the edge of the ledge testing his wings. Like kids everywhere, when mom comes home from her errands, they try to snuggle under her wings! It's a tight fit, as you can see from this video:

By Wednesday two of the young hawks had tried out their wings. Today might be the day hawk chick #3 heads out for a test flight. What's going on in the lives of the birds outside your window?
Check out other STEM Friday posts here