Bird Conservation Through Education TM

June 1, 2015 

In This Issue
Teaching Bird Sounds
Chimney Swift Sculptures
Bird Education in Action
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The Bird Education Network (BEN) was created following the February 2007 National Gathering, hosted by the Council for Environmental Education (CEE). BEN is a CEE initiative that seeks to connect and support a community of bird education professionals.


Over 4,000 individuals representing 300 organizations receive communications and engage in professional dialogue through the BEN-run Bird Education Listserv. 


A BEN Committee has been established to provide advice and guidance for this important initiative, to advance "bird conservation through education."

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Three Notes on Teaching Bird Sounds 

by Paul J. Baicich


A lot can be written about identifying birds through their sounds, especially when describing mnemonics - gimmicks that help us remember - or similes - likenesses to other sounds with which we may be familiar. But let's just look at one major issue often ignored in many instructional settings. It's what one might call "subjective hearing."


Just because a close and detailed recording/listening to a vocal Acadian Flycatcher will indicate that it has three parts, doesn't mean that everyone will hear three parts. And just because you as an instructor can easily pick up the end of a song of a Blackburnian Warbler, doesn't mean that your older students will be able to do likewise.


So, don't try to force your classroom and field students to hear exactly what you hear when it comes to bird sounds. With that in mind, here are three short suggestions:


1    Let the student interpret the sounds. You can describe what it sounds like to you and give them some fine hints, but ask them to describe what it sounds like to them. Encourage them to be attentive and feel confident in describing what it does, actually, sound like to them. You can help them become more attuned, but you can't force them to hear sounds that they do not hear.


2    These days, boomers are almost invariably experiencing some level of hearing loss. Teaching this age-group about bird sounds may be more difficult, simply because they can't hear as much as you might for a number of very good reasons. ("It wasn't the acid at Woodstock, man, it was that I just sat too close to the speakers on the stage!") Indeed, these folks may not hear the "whole" bird song, just parts. Work with that reality; work on what they can hear. To them, parts of bird sounds can be learned and appreciated, and bird can be identified from these segments alone.


3    Don't fear "auditory amnesia." Almost everyone forgets some sounds; almost everyone needs reminders and a process of re-acquaintance. (I have to re-learn many warbler songs each spring, if only because it's been a year since I've heard them and because my hearing simply isn't what it was when I was 16.)


Of course, bird identification by sound involves exposure, repetition, and practice. And these three hints all hinge on a subjective approach, with different people listening to bird sound, or any sounds for that matter. The message to deliver is:  trust yourself and be flexible with your own hearing and learning processes.


In these cases, and with subjective hearing in mind, it is important to remember the words of Duke Ellington, the great American composer, pianist, and big band leader:  "If it sounds good, it is good!"


Chimney Swifts Receive Artsy Assistance


Wisconsin artist Ben Zoltak has a vision to create a permanent sanctuary for birds and other animals in art that enhances and connects communities to nature. 


To support this effort, he has launched a Kickstarter project entitled Concrete Nests. Through this project, the artist is raising funds to create permanent Chimney Swift habitat sculptures.


Ben aims to build at least three to five sculptures within one year in any state they nest in from Wisconsin to Florida as well as parts of Canada and Mexico. 


Pledging runs through Tuesday, June 23 on the Kickstarter website.


Bird Education in Action


Every summer, California Waterfowl Association (CWA) hosts its Summer Youth Waterfowl Banding Days, a CWA member program, where youth ages 8 and up assist biologists in trapping ducks, placing ID leg bands on them and releasing them back into the wild.  This helps with tracking bird populations and setting hunting limits for the next year.  Youth explore waterfowl biology, population research and outdoor careers!


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