Science classes gather data for Cornell Ornithology Lab program

On a recent chilly February morning, thirty-one cold but excited AP Environmental Science students participated in the first of three bird watching events on the Lauralton campus. Subsequent events will take place in March and May.

Why exactly were students out in the flurries on this early winter morning?  It’s because the AP Environmental Science classes are taking part in Cornell Ornithology Laboratory’s Celebrating Urban Birds citizen science program. In this project, the students join forces with schools, youth groups, and bird watching clubs around the country to gather data on urban bird populations. This data will be analyzed by Cornell Ornithologists to track trends in shifting bird population numbers.

Prior to the outing, students learned about local bird species through activities created by Flo McBride, a local birding enthusiast, so that they would be able to identify any birds they might see. They also divided the campus into “zones” approximately 20 feet x 20 feet in size (following Cornell protocols) and selected the zones they thought might house the most bird species. Determinations were made based on the availability of shelter and food for the birds. Finally it was time to head outside! Armed with identification sheets, data collection forms and binoculars, each team of three students went to their respective campus zones and scanned the area for ten minutes looking for species on the Cornell Urban Bird List. Students were delighted to discover the presence of house sparrows, American crows and (possibly) barn swallows. In addition, students spotted blue jays, Canada geese, herring gulls, and a red-tail hawk.

Students in the AP Environmental Science classes are looking forward to repeating this activity in March and May when it will be quite a bit warmer!


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