We, the residents of the Avimor Community, near Boise, Idaho, hosted our Celebrate Urban Birds event on Saturday, May 16th at Foothills Heritage Park. About 40 children, plus parents, participated in a great variety of activities and projects set up at stations around the park. Our activities included:
Coloring pages of the 15 species of special interest were available to younger children. These coloring pages were designed to help the children recognize the key indentifying characteristics of the birds. They were able to color using crayons, colored pencils, or markers.
Sculpting clay was used by older children and some adults to study the size and shape attributes of the birds.
Bird mosaics made from construction paper pieces was another art medium enjoyed by a few.
Paint and small canvases were used by older children to make their own creations focusing on the 15 birds. We found some very talented kids who learned to recognize the birds around them because they painted them.
Three resident ladies volunteered and did a great job assisting the kids in creating bird art. I had created large posters showing each of the 15 birds emphasizing their main identifying traits to help guide the kids as they created their art projects.
Wildlife Sustaining Plants
One of the Avimor landscapers, Michael Wiegand, who specializes in native plants assisted groups of kids in planting a few different varieties in a section of Foothills Heritage Park that has not yet been planted. He educated the kids on the importance of these plants to birds and insects and how the ecosystem is dependent upon every part. There is nothing like planting to connect a child with the earth and feel some responsibility and stewardship toward nature.
Wild Flower Walk
Avimor has a Conservation Director who oversees our conservation and restoration efforts. Charlie led a group of folks to check out the blooming wild flowers in the foothills.
I led several small groups of children and parents on the trails around Foothills Heritage Park. We were able to identify nine of the 15 birds during the short walks during the event including:
- American Robin
- Barn Swallow
- Brown-headed Cowbird
- Bullock’s Oriole
- European Starling
- House Finch
- Mourning Dove
I had set up several bird feeders in various locations around the park so that young children would be able to observe the birds without the aid of binoculars. I’m glad that I did as it sparked huge amounts of amazement by children and parents alike. We also observed 22 other species including a pair of Lewis’s Woodpeckers which hung out all afternoon near the art stations. Not to mention our Great Horned Owl chick.
A fantastic band called Bellamy Rose performed to cap off our event. The lead singer is an Avimor resident and a regular attendee at the Avimor bird walks. Their original music impressed the 75 people still hanging out that evening at Avimor.
We had forty children rather than the 100 we had planned for. It turns out that we were competing against three other kid-related birding events held in this area on the very same day at the MK Nature Center, Snake River Birds of Prey, and Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge. Though I was disappointed with our attendance, I am overjoyed at the bird friendly atmosphere in Idaho’s Treasure Valley region. I was starting to feel bad that the good folks at Cornell Lab of Ornithology had sent me 100 CUB kits, but my disappointment quickly dissipated as a local public school teacher was so impressed with what we did our Celebrate Urban Birds event that I was invited to visit her science classes at Sawtooth Middle School in Meridian, ID. That visit was realized on Friday, May 22nd. I repeated some of the activities we did on the day of our event at Avimor with the addition of a CUB 15 Bird ID Game on PowerPoint. Those middle school kids were fully engaged in the presentation and discussion. It was absolutely wonderful.
Mrs. Richter also left me an uplifting note telling me about one of her students, a young man from a very troubled family. This boy who “rarely cares enough to do anything” and never completes a task for the first time was deeply interested in something – birds. His thank you letter was written legibly and he expressed excitement about watching the Peregrine Falcon nest webcam in Boise on the internet at home. She says that the birds made a big impression on him.
So our Celebrate Urban Birds event expanded to capture the hearts and minds of 60 more kids who each received CUB kits and walked away with commitments to do three bird counts and submit them to Cornell on the form provided. We have arranged for a special bird walk at Avimor for these classes and their families in June.
At Avimor we will continue our monthly bird walks held on the second Saturday of each month. At the conclusion of these walks, I have the participants assist me in entering our observations on eBird so that they will go home and start their own eBird accounts.
We plan to make Celebrate Urban Birds an annual event here at Avimor.