Where have all the birds gone?

This week was one for the birds, literally! This week marks the beginning of our last three weeks of play before we break for the holidays. And our final area of interest is birds. One of the first things we discovered this week, as the children came eagerly to the nature museum to discover binoculars and bird guides, was that there were hardly any left in our meadow! Where had they all gone? Some we discovered had left for warmer climates. Some were simply adapting their behaviour and habits to account for the colder weather and more limited food. So our goal for this week was to find the birds, and if we were very lucky, we might find some feather treasures that the children could keep.

On our first attempt at finding birds, we headed up high onto the hill, to a special play site called Ponderosa Palace. The broad branches of the giant ponderosa that stands sentinel at the crest of the hill provides a perfect place for the children to climb and explore. The ground underneath is thickly carpeted with pine needles and pine cones, just waiting to be dug through and transformed by the children’s imaginations. On this day, the sandy soil in the banks at the bottom of the hill offered their inspiration and before long, most of the children were down on the ground working to excavate. Before long, pine cones and pine needles had been gathered and ice cream was being made and served! By the end of the week, the children had discovered all the joys of sliding and rolling down the slope. A game taken up by one, was then taken up by another and another. First they slid and rolled alone, doing their best the be mindful of the children climbing back to the top and the others waiting to roll, but before long one child suggested they make a train and that’s when things got interesting. The children slid and rolled in a group as us teachers stood by, observing and at times having to actively restrain ourselves from stepping in. It was the kind of dog pile of children that makes adults nervous about stepped on fingers and bonks on the head. But very quickly we could see how gentle and how careful the children we being with themselves and the others. Dog pile after dog pile, the children slid and laughed and rolled.

On our second attempt at finding some birds, we were more successful. Miss Krystal decided that our best course of action was to change our original play site we had scheduled for these weeks. We went somewhere much closer instead. And there were the birds! The bird feeders that hang in the back yards of the houses that back onto the park are an irresistible draw. We saw black-eyed junco’s and finches and sparrows and flickers. We even spied a downy woodpecker in amongst the throng. Or did we? We discovered that the hairy woodpecker and the downy woodpecker are both found in our forests and did you know that their main difference is their size? We even had a special visitor on Thursday morning. When we arrived at our play site, the children quickly stripped off their backpacks and made a line, eager to return to their play from earlier that week. As they approached the hill they had been digging at, a huge brown bird of prey swooped from the trees and glided across the park to one of the tall cottonwood trees that lined the creek bottom. It took a bit of sleuthing and in the end, we weren’t certain what bird he might be. Our best teacher guess is a juvenile dark morph broad winged hawk or a juvenile bald eagle. He was certainly a large bird and drew a lot of attention from fellow park users. The children spent their time exploring the hillside and discovering the “tunnel” that runs from the top of the hill to the bottom. Our stuffed animal friends joined us again and took turns hiding in the bushes and grass and one even made himself a den. The children took up the game quickly and were soon hiding them for each other to find. Other children used scissors to trim the grass and serve it to the animals for their dinner. The animals were a great motivator for communication and inspiration this week!

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