Monday, February 20, 2012

Backyard Bird Count on the Liberty Hyde Bailey Interpretive Garden Path

Quietly watching for birds with binoculars in hand

Today, my students took part in the 15th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count, through Cornell University.  We have been learning about the winter birds in our backyard with the help of Russ Schipper, from the Kalamazoo Audubon Society and two friends from the Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum, Anne Long and George Miller.  Russ came to our classroom a week ago with lots of cool information and real stuffed birds!  His presentation sparked a great deal of questions and enthusiasm for the birds in our backyard.  Today he was back, along with Anne and George to count birds in our backyard.  He led my students out in small groups with binoculars to quietly watch birds.  Among the birds we saw and/or heard were cardinals, chickadees, geese, crows, downy woodpeckers, an American goldfinch, a white-breasted nuthatch, a red-winged black bird and a seagull!  It was an amazing experience.  We submitted our findings online and were one of thousands of groups all across North American, watching and recording birds this weekend (  We also read Liberty Hyde Bailey's first published essay entitled Birds.  He wrote and presented the essay at the age of 15 to the Michigan State Pomological Society at South Haven, September 4, 1863.  His goal was to educate the farmers on the importance of birds to the well-being of fruit farms.

"Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, -- When the rigors of winter are over, and the pleasant days of spring return, what is more charming and delightful than the presence of birds?  What is more useful in destroying the myriads of insects which infest our vegetation?  Each one, from the different kind of insects it destroys, is almost indispensable to every farmer and fruit grower." 

He went on to describe in great detail different species of birds and the specific insects and noxious plants that they devour.  He finished his presentation with a poem he wrote in six verses.  The first two verses are as follows:

The robin sings sweetly from her native bowers,
The humming-bird sips the dewy flowers,
And the blue-jay's voice is often heard
From the forest, by fragrant breezes stirred.

The thrush, perched upon some lofty tree
That overshades the way,
Pours forth her song with joy and glee.
As if to welcome the coming day.

We have had a wonderful morning of bird watching, reading and enjoying the beauty of our South Haven home.  A heartfelt thank you to all who joined us for this adventure in learning . . . from those who loaned us binoculars to Anne and George and a special thank you to Russ Schipper!