Every day last week was filled with a shorebird field trip for fourth and fifth graders. The trips have been a great success with kids indulging in nature and showing off what they have learned so far from previous lessons.
On Tuesday the USFW crew and I went all the way down to Bandon, two hours and half South of Newport on the Coast, for our students in the Bandon and Coos Bay schools. The drive down was spectacular with beautiful ocean views and picturesque towns along the whole way. Once in Bandon, the field trips were held in the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge which was hot with shorebirds! by the third day we were there, guest biologists estimated 12,000-15,000 shorebirds! This was the most I have ever seen with Western and Least Sandpipers running around the whole mudflats like a colony of ants. Of course the students were mind -blowned as well. During the bird watching station, the kids in my group got to be only five feet away from the Western Sandpipers which was an amazing experience for them. Students also got to experience a lot of predador-prey action while birdwatching, during the the three days different groups saw a Peregrine falcon take a Whimbrel and a Northern Harrier eat a Western Sandpiper.
Unlike the first week of shorebird field trips where I got to go through every station with the Spanish -speaking students, this week I facilitated one station per field trip but switched off stations every day. In Bandon, instead of the activities station, the students had guest speakers from Free Flight who brought some of their resident birds of prey to talk about. Among the guests were a Turkey Vulture, a Great-horned Owl , and a Peregrine Falcon. The students were most excited about the PEFA since they have learned about this species a lot in class as one the main shorebird predators.
At the end of the field trip in Bandom, students commented “My favorite things was sitting quietly with nature”, “I can’t wait to come back!”, and “It’s amazing how Mother Nature makes all of this! From the raptors who eat the shorebirds, to the shorebirds who eat the invertebrates, and the invertebrates that eat bacteria! All happening all at once!”. All the positive feedback was great to hear and especially knowing that these kids are making a a closer connection with nature which is all any environmental educator wants.