Birds of the Prairie (REGPCEC)

Summary:

Participants will be introduced to proper birding techniques.

Grade Level:

K - 12

Recommended Setting:

Indoor or outdoor classroom

Outdoor Activity:

No

Location:

Rick Evans Grandview Prairie Conservation Education Center, Columbus

Contact:

Education Program Coordinator, 800-983-4219

 

Duration:

45 minutes to 1 hour

Suggested Number of Participants:

10 - 30

Objectives:

  • Learn how to properly use binoculars
  • Practice using field guides to identify birds of the prairie.
  • Determine what type of bird they see.
  • Participate in a birding expedition on the blackland prairie. 

Key Terms*:

Dioptre

Eye cup

Field marks

*See glossary for definations

Materials:

Binoculars

Bird field guides

Photographs of birds on the blackland prairie

Wings Over Arkansas packet

Background:

Anyone who has watched activity at a birdfeeder or birds of prey soar has participated in birding. Those who notice birds at an early age often develop a lifelong interest. Birds are diverse and beautiful, and while watching them can be challenging, many species are easy to view. Learning a few viewing and identification skills can enrich the experience.

Procedure:

  1. To begin the lesson, participants must learn to use binoculars.
    • Place the binocular strap around the neck to ensure it won’t be dropped.
    • Begin by setting the eyecup. If the participants wear glasses, the eyecup needs to be folded back. Turn the eyecup clockwise to fully retract the eye position.
    • If the participants do not wear glasses, the eyecup needs to be flipped up and turned counter clockwise. This is the fully extended position.
    • Look at a distant object, and then move the binocular tubes down or up. Stop when both circles seen through the lenses become one circle.
    • Next close the right eye and look only through the left eyepiece. Turn the central focusing ring until a distant object is seen clearly through the left eye.
    • Close the left eye and look through the right eyepiece and rotate the dioptre adjustment ring just below the right eyepiece. Rotate until the same distant object is clear.
    • At this point, the focus should be obtainable on other objects using only the central focusing ring.
  2. Practice using binoculars with the participants to ensure they are ready.
  3. Show a bird field guide and how they identify birds. If there is a class set of books, let the participants thumb through them for a few minutes to become familiar with their layout.
    • Display a picture of a bird found in the prairie or describe the bird. Make sure the descriptions include size, shape, habits, beak characteristics, etc.
    • Let the class practice finding the bird in the guide. Repeat a few times and allow the participants to describe a bird for the rest of the class to find.
    • When describing the bird, direct their focus on more than just coloration. Encourage them to notice size and shape first and then field markings, beak size, etc. This will help them practice birding skills.
  4. Show them the Wings Over Arkansas bird checklist and share the following:
    • Wings Over Arkansas is part of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Watchable Wildlife program, which encourages citizens to observe wildlife in their area.
    • Wings Over Arkansas will help participants create a life list of birds they have identified in the wild.
    • Each participant receives a field checklist, an Arkansas bird checklist and a Wings Over Arkansas birding guide. This guide outlines the program, its rules and regulations.
    • As the participant identifies birds, he or she records what was seen, where and when.
    • When participants have seen a pre-established number of birds, he or she submits an application to the AGFC and will receive a certificate and pin that indicate the birding level they have reached. For example, if a person identifies 25 - 49 birds, he or she would have reached the Carolina chickadee level and would get a pin with the bird on it. There are six levels in the program.
  5. If time permits, go through additional birding suggestions in the Wings Over Arkansas guide. Then take the participants outside so they may practice new birding skills.

Review:

  • Demonstrate how to use binoculars.
  • Besides coloration, what other characteristics can help when identifying birds?
  • What are the rewards for participating in the Wings Over Arkansas program?

Glossary:

Dioptre – center focus dial on a set of binoculars

 

Eye cup – rubber cup at the eyepiece of an optical instrument (as binoculars) for keeping out extraneous light

 

Field marks – distinguishing marks or coloration on a bird