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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
ASH MEADOWS NWR: Refuge Staff, Partners and Children enjoy "Lets Explore Wild Birds" Event 
Region 8, October 9, 2010
Participants, both young and old, flip through their field guides to identify a songbird.  (USFWS Photo by Cyndi Souza)
Participants, both young and old, flip through their field guides to identify a songbird.  (USFWS Photo by Cyndi Souza) - Photo Credit: n/a
Len Warren shows the kids a verdin with its large nest of twigs. (USFWS Photo by Cyndi Souza)
Len Warren shows the kids a verdin with its large nest of twigs. (USFWS Photo by Cyndi Souza) - Photo Credit: n/a
Friends enjoying some free exploration time by Kings Pool.  (USFWS Photo by Cyndi Souza)
Friends enjoying some free exploration time by Kings Pool.  (USFWS Photo by Cyndi Souza) - Photo Credit: n/a
Paul van Els helps a student from Amargosa Valley Elementary release a yellow-rumped warbler back into the wild. (USFWS Photo by Cyndi Souza)
Paul van Els helps a student from Amargosa Valley Elementary release a yellow-rumped warbler back into the wild. (USFWS Photo by Cyndi Souza) - Photo Credit: n/a
Exploring the touch table with grandma. (USFWS Photo by Cyndi Souza)
Exploring the touch table with grandma. (USFWS Photo by Cyndi Souza) - Photo Credit: n/a
Kids eagerly await the release of the white-crowned sparrow. (USFWS Photo by Cyndi Souza)
Kids eagerly await the release of the white-crowned sparrow. (USFWS Photo by Cyndi Souza) - Photo Credit: n/a

  

By Alyson Mack, Ash Meadows NWR

Local children made some feathery friends on Saturday, October 9th, during Ash Meadows’ Let’s Explore Wild Birds event at the Point of Rocks boardwalk. Twenty five children and sixteen adults from Pahrump, Tecopa, Shoshone, and Amargosa Valley participated in the day’s activities, including a mist-netting demonstration, touch table, bird watching, and the grand finale: The Avian Challenge.

The event started with a yellow-rumped warbler that volunteer Paul van Els, a PhD student at UNLV, caught in a mist net – a very fine mesh net used to catch birds. As the kids huddled around to get a closer look at the tiny songbird, Paul explained that they migrate all the way from Canada each fall. Paul then led everybody into the mesquite grove to look at the mist net and discuss the many reasons why ornithologists catch and band birds. While Nevada currently has no permanent banding stations, it is possible to find a dead or injured bird that was banded elsewhere. If so, anyone can report the number online to the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center at www.reportband.gov, a database maintained jointly by the United States and Canada. Throughout the day, Paul carefully monitored the mist nets, and another yellow-rumped warbler was caught, as well as a white-crowned sparrow. The participants were all given bird field guides to use, and embraced the challenge of identifying the wild birds on their own. At the end, three lucky participants had the opportunity to hold the birds and release them back into the wild – a special moment for everyone involved!

Later in the day, volunteer Len Warren, a naturalist for Shoshone Village, gave an interactive presentation with his large collection of real eggs, nests, and other bird “biofacts”. He also showed 12 native bird specimens that were on loan from John Klicka, Curator of Ornithology at the UNLV Marjorie Barrick Museum of Natural History. The younger participants were especially thrilled and eager about this hands-on presentation and quickly crowded around Len’s touch table. The first item Len showed was a large, enclosed nest of twigs built on a mesquite branch. He then showed everybody a specimen of the bird species that makes these nests: a verdin. The kids were impressed that such a tiny bird could build such a large nest! Len invited the kids to feel inside the entrance hole to the nest and they discovered that, despite its unkempt outward appearance, the inside of the nest was carefully and neatly lined with downy feathers.

During lunch, 15-year old volunteer Ryan Wallen entertained the kids as Puddles the Blue Goose, our National Wildlife Refuge System mascot. He received many hugs from some of the younger participants! As they finished eating, everybody was given some time for “free choice learning”. Participants that wanted to go bird watching and exploring along the boardwalk were given binoculars or monoculars to use. Volunteers from the

Red Rock Audubon Society also had a booth with fun, hands-on activities for the kids, and Len’s touch table was available for closer inspection. Everybody enjoyed this free time to explore their personal interests with friends or parents, and just relax and enjoy the beauty of nature at Point of Rocks.

The day ended with the exciting “Avian Challenge”. This was an opportunity for the kids to put all that they had learned that day – observation skills, bird ID skills, using field guides – to the test! Realistic, life-size photos of twelve native birds were placed on the ground and in the trees along the boardwalk. Armed with field guides, the teams had to find the birds then identify them. Their enthusiasm was evident – there was running, shouting, jumping, and cheers of excitement! The winning teams took home their very own copies of Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of Western North America, donated by Shoshone Village, and a pair of binoculars, donated by the Death Valley Natural History Association. The top winners deserve special recognition for their determination and birding passion: together, Madison and Jesus, correctly identified all 12 birds! A future in ornithology certainly looks bright for these two!

As always, this event could not have been possible without the help of our volunteers, partners, and staff. A special thanks to Len Warren, Paul van Els, Ryan Wallen, Christina Nalen, Christiana Manville, Jennifer Mercadante, Emily Montoya, Craig Hill, and Cyndi Souza for all their help! Also thanks to Shoshone Village and the Death Valley Natural History Association for donating the great prizes! It is people like this who are making a difference in their local communities around Ash Meadows.

                                                                                          -- FWS --

Alyson Mack is an environmental education and outreach specialist at Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, in Amargosa Valley, Nevada. 


 

Contact Info: Derek Carr, 916-414-6681, derek_carr@fws.gov