New York State College of Agriculture.

Annual report of the New York State College of Agriculture at Cornell University and the Agricultural Experiment Station online

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closes or soon after.

I have a box of about thirty nests that have been given to me or collected. Each
of our kindex]gartners has Audubon bird charts i and 2, and most of the children can
name the majority of the birds. They watch for the new birds, and are anxious to point
out on the charts the birds seen. Six or eight of the children have induced their fathers
to build birdhouses this spring and have brought them to school for us to see. We
dramatize the nest building of the birds and the transformation of the caterpillars.
We spend a couple of wedcs on the forces of nature — wind, light, and heat. At
Thanksgiving time we make butter in the kindergarten by churning cream, and spread
the butter on crackers for a party. This makes a firm impression on the children.

We also take up gardening and the farmyard animals, in that way teaching the spirit
of nature in the former, and the fostering care in the latter. In all of these, we have
talks, show pictiu-es, and tell stories. I feel that this work opens the children's eyes
to the beauties about them, and certainly makes them more observing. When out in
the country or driving, they seem to be on the lookout for these thuigs and teU about
them. They learn of the value of the toad and the birds in ridding our v^etables
and trees of worms and caterpillars. By being interested themselves, they naturally
interest their parents.

The nature work occupies a very important part in oiu" program. I think the children
manifest the most interest, as a whole, in the stars and constellations and the birds.


It is very true that we have to work at a disadvantage in towns for lack of the material
in natural surroundings. But after studying the leaflet very carefully with the idea
of seeing what work could not be used by us, I find very little. With the movement
now on foot for cultivating waste land and gardens in towns, almost all the work on
plants and soils can be u^. There are very good articles usually given on horses;
much of that I can use, for some of my boys taJce up general delivery work here in town
and I hope that their care of horses is such that tiie horses will have happier lives
because of the facts their drivers learned in school.

The insect section we can use to good advantage. We have cocoons, some already
hatching. The bird part is about the best of all, especially the material on the date
of arrival, birdhouses, and nests in the September issue. You have abundant material
in your leaflets, much more than we have time for. That is our greatest trouble this
year — lack of time. Still I feel that I could not teach without having some nature
study, for I know what it has meant to some of my boys and girls in the past; there-
fore I continue to do as much as possible.


In trjring to enumerate our resources during a discussion this week, we were sur-
prised at their variety and number. Perhaps a list will give you the best idea.

1. Animal study: pet dogs, cats, rabbits, canaries, even hens sometimes; goldfish,
salamanders, frogs* eggs; squirrels in the trees about the school building.

2. Bird study: not what it ought to be. An Audubon society can be formed and bird-
houses built. We have a few stuffed birds and can observe the more common ones in
the living state, English sparrow, robin, woodpeckers.

3. Insect study: cocoons, caterpillars, and any other forms that can be kept for a
time and studied.

4. Plant study: plants in every stage of development may be brought in; experi-
ments can be made to determine essential conditions for sturdy growth; eggshell
gardens, window boxes, sand-table gardens, and in a few places outdoor gardens may
be made; bulbs are especially good because many can be grown in wato* where the
children can see every change that takes place.

5. Tree study: in walks with the children and about the school grotmds, trees can
be found for study. •

6. Earth study: soils, winds, weather, can be studied by excursions, simple experi-
ments, weather records, and the like.

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For special study, the nuthatch and the hen; to be recognized, any
two other winter birds and any five of the following: oriole, goldfinch,
phoebe, grackle, brown thrasher, meadow lark, cliff swallow, black and
white warbler, peacock, eagle.


For special study, the cat and the cow; to be recognized, any four of
the following: goat, fox, skunk, muskrat, frog.


For special study, the potato beetle or the lady beetle, and one biting
and one sucking insect; to be recognized, any four of the following: potato
beetle, tent caterpillar, honeybee, ant, hornet, spider.


For special study, the potato; to be recognized, one of the clovers, one
of the grains, one of the grasses, and any six of the following: willow,
cherry, daisy, marsh ntiarigold, anemone, trillium, partridge berry, black
medic, squash, ttmiip, pitcher plant; to be studied, any four of the fol-
lowing weeds: bindweed, purslane, thistle, wild carrot, pigweed.


For special study, the locust and one conifer; to be recognized, two
kinds of fruit trees, one conifer, and any four of the following: hemlock,
spruce, cherry, quince, horse-chestnut, alder, elm, poplar, tamarack


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The Editor

T is apparent that the study of bird life is the
most popiilar phase of the nature study work.
This is especially true in the case of those
schools that are just beginning to find the
pleasant and profitable resources of their en-

Bird study is one that lends itself to all

places and to all seasons. Even in the largest

cities there are alwa}^ some species that can

be discovered in addition to the ever-present

English sparrow, and experiences that have

been related serve to show that one never

knows what may be discovered when interest

is once aroused. As to the proper time to

begin, it has no relation to the calendar, but is far more concerned with

the occasion of some first-hand experience with bird life that has proved

interesting and stimulating.

It is not necessary that a teacher be an expert student of bird life in
order to inspire and conduct bird study successfully in the school. It is
necessary, however, that the teacher be familiar with the various ways
by which bird study may be undertaken in such a manner that there
will be first-hand contact with the birds. Among the most familiar and
useful methods of approach to the work are the following :

Making a collection of birds' nests

Feeding birds in winter

Building birdhouses

Keeping a bird calendar

Taking field trips to study the birds

Celebrating Bird Day

Forming Junior Audubon classes

Most inspiring accoimts come from teachers who have been suc-
cessful in developing worth while bird study. Two of these will serve
best to indicate some of the ways in which the various methods of approach
are used.

When I commenced teaching nature study, the pupils knew nothing about it. As a
beginning we collected birds' nests. We soon had a large collection, but we did not
know which birds inhabited the different nests; so we commenced to search for material
that would tell us about birds* nests. This was not satisfactory, and in the spring

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each one looked for birds and watched them building or found where they had built,
but always being careful not to disturb or frighten the birds. As we knew so few birck
in the beginning, we found that we had plenty to do to identihr our birds. This led
to our keeping a bird calendar. The first spring we identified thirty birds; not many,
but thirty more than most of us knew the fall before. Now we can correctly identify
many more.

We began our bird study in January. January? Yes. I'll tell you why. One
of my gins had seen a common English sparrow and did not know wnat it was. On
questioning the pupils I found that about £ul the birds they really knew were the robins
and the blackburds. I was amazed. This section is ahve with birds. I happened
to have on hand a flat wooden box. Two of my boys nailed this to a fence post out-
side the window, and I told the children to place the scraps from their luncheons in
the box and then just wait and see what would happen. In a few days chickadees
came, and then nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, and hairy woodpeckers followed.
We were very busy watching them, as you can imagine. As soon as the pupils could
distinguish between these birds, they b^an to look elsewhere for them and to attract
them to their own homes. As soon as I had them safelv on the track of watching for
the birds, I held back and let the subject teach itself with only a little guidance. From
March first to Appl first the children have recognized twenty-one migratory birds
and are still watching for new arrivals and new nests of the old. I devote ten minutes
at the opening of the morning program to a discussion of the birds seen. Each pupil
who has seen a bird describes it to the class. These are a wonderful ten minutes some

In addition to knowing various devices by which bird study may be
opened to the children, teachers should know the simple standards that
apply to the description of a bird for the purpose of identification, to the
description of a nest for the purpose of identification, to the proper estab-
lishment and maintenance of feeding stations, to the observations that
should be recorded on a bird calendar, and to the construction of bird-
houses. These matters are discussed more fully in the following paragraphs.


Children are constantly seeing new birds, and very often come to school
with the most impossible descriptfons, making it quite out of the question
to determine what bird it was that they saw. It is sometimes difficult
to distinguish the markings on a bird, especially if it is seen against a
strong light, and it requires patience and practice to enable one to obtain
a description of a bird seen for the first time that will make possible its
identification. Yet this is one of the fundamental considerations in
bird study and should be thoroughly understood and constantly strength-
ened. The points on which the identification of a bird is based in the
order of their importance are as follows:

1. The size as compared with the three standard types: the English

sparrow, the robin, and the crow.

2. The general color above and below.

3. Any specific color markings that are noted, such as the red patch on

the head of the male woodpeckers or the black bib of the chickadee.


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4. When and where the bird was seen. In the case of some of the spar-

rows, for example, it aids greatly in determining the species to
know whether the bird was seen in the open fields or in shrubbery.

5. The kind and the color of the bill and the feet, if it is possible to see

them. A striking example of a characteristic bill has been found
in the description of the grosbeaks, which have been unusually
ntunerous during the past few winters.

6. Any peculiarity of flight or action. Examples of this are the bounding

flight of the goldfinch and the way in which the phoebe bobs its tail.

7. The song. Many bird songs can be imitated more or less closely with

practice, and they are exceedingly characteristic.

8. If the nest and eggs are discovered with the bird, these also are of

service in establishing the identity of the species.

When a bird description is brought to the school there are several ways
by which it may be possible to identify the bird. Every school should
have the folio of bird plates furnished by the State Department of Educa-
tion in 1915. These are very valuable from a pictorial point of view.
A question that has troubled many teachers is that of preserving these
plates in good condition and still permitting their free use. We should
all appreciate having suggestions from any teacher who has successfully
solved this problem.

A good bird book, of course, is the most authoritative method of iden-
. tification, for it gives a complete, detailed description, and it sometimes
happens that two species are very much alike except for slight charac-
teristics. Every year more and more schools are adding bird books to
their libraries, and if the school does not have any book on birds, it would
be desirable to recommend in the next list for purchase some such book
as Chapman's Handbook of Birds of Eastern North America, Reed's Bird
Guide, Dugmore's Bird Homes, or any other work that is standard.
(See list of reference books on page 318.)

There are often persons in the community who have considerable
knowledge of bird life, and they are always glad to be of assistance to
the school. It frequently happens that when other means have failed
such a person has been able to identify the bird that is tmder discussion.
It is always wise in any subject to use the commimity as far as possible,
for it strengthens the bond between the school and the home.

As a last resort the bird description may be sent to the College of Agri-
culture, and, if it is at all complete, an accurate identification can easily
be made.


In the first letter quoted on page 32, there is a very good discussion
of the methods and results involved in the collection and study of birds'


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nests. With very few exceptions birds build new nests each year, and
there is no harm in appropriating the old ones. This work is most often
done in the auttmm when the leaves have fallen from the trees and revealed
the birds* nests. It is often exceedingly difficult, however, to make sure
of the identity of a nest if it is then seen for the first time. Yet many
nests are quite characteristic, and the article given in the September 1916
leaflet on page 44 will be found to be of service in nest identification. In
case local means fail, and the nest description is sent to the College for
identification, reference should be made to page 36 of the September 19 16
leaflet, which gives the standard form of nest description. Of course,
the most satisfactory and worth while nest study restdts when in the
spring and summer the boys and girls locate the nests as the birds build
and occupy them, and
are thus able accu-
rately to identify the
nest from the bird.
Caution should always
be exercised in ap-
proaching and observ-
ing birds at the nest,
because they are
rather easily disturbed
at the nesting period,
and may often be
caused to desert the
nest. It is very val-
uable likewise to know collection of birds' nests at school .

District 4, Town of Phelps, Ontario County

how many birds are

nesting in a given locality, and how successful they are in rearing their
yoimg. Such a study is likely to reveal the enemies that birds have to
struggle with and may teach many valuable lessons in this connection.
A good way to preserve nests is to mount each one on a neat sheet of
cardboard, and to include with it a drawing or a picture of the bird and
a short composition or story of its characteristics and habits (page 310).


In a letter from a teacher the following paragraphs occurred:

Never before until the pupils read the leaflets this year, did they think of feeding
the birds. It was siuprising to see how much pleasure they derived from gathering
all the cnmibs from the noon luncheon and putting them out on the feeding station
which the girls constructed from a board and a barrel hoop broken in two, over which
there was a branch from the Christmas tree.

Better still, the chickadees would light right on the pupils' hands and eat crumbs.

Next came the nuthatch, a bird for which I had been looking for the past two years.

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From the feeding station they next came right in on the window sill while the window
was open, and picked up the crumbs there.

There are several reasons why feeding the birds in winter is one of the
most satisfactory methods of bird study. In the first place there are

fewer species present in the winter, and it is
easier to identify all those that come to the
feeding station. In the second place, feeding
the birds offers an excellent opportimity for
first-hand contact and study, and it is no ex-
aggeration to say that the child who has been
so f ortimate as to have a wild bird eat from
his hand has had his whole attitude and out-
look to life changed. Last, but by no means
least, it is a praiseworthy and profitable prac-
tice to care for the birds during the season
when it is difficult for them to find food, and
it brings about a greater reaUzation of their
importance and value.
Those teachers having access to the Sep-

'"^V*Sr Ja ™?rKA^ tember 19x5 leaflet wiU find a complete dis-
WOODPECKERS cussion of winter feeding in Dr. Allen's article

*'^^ SatuSi sfjBe "* °"*" * How to AttToct Wild Birds y which begins on

page 76. The points to remember are also given on page 37 of the

September 19 16 leaflet.


Reference should be made
again to the article on page 51
of the September 19 16 leaflet,
which gives a full discussion
of birdhouses. Teachers who
have come into the work this
year may obtain a copy of the
1916 leaflet by addressing the

Editor, Cornell Rural School photoo«a.h .r *. a *ll.-

Leaflet, College of Agricul- Junco at a window feeding tray

X. tj.i_ XT Tr 1 * About one-fourth natural size

ture, Ithaca, New York.

Any person who has had the experience of watching a pair of birds
nest in a house that he has built, will understand the advisability of bring-
ing a similar experience into the lives of boys and girls. The lessons that
result in increasing the knowledge and building the character, are immeas-
urable. One teacher wrote as follows:


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Early last spring my pupils made birdhouses which they brought to schcx)!. One
boy had an extra fine one, and so all decided to place his in one of the apple trees in
our yard. The house had not been placed but a few days when one morning soon
after school called, a little first-grade boy whispered to his neighbor, " There's a bird
in our house.** Soon the glad news had gone the rounds of the room. I told the chil-
dren that thev might pass quietly to the window where all could watch the proceedings.
Two bluebirds were busily engaged in carrying material within the house for their
nest. How the work did ny in our room for the rest of the day! It seemed as though
" our bluebirds " put vim into all our work. At noons and recesses for several days
the children would not play in that part of the yard, and one day one little girl nearly
came to tears when she heard an older boy whist-
ling, as she thought, too loudly near the birdhouse.


Many teachers have found the keeping
of a bird calendar one of the most inter-
esting and profitable ways of stimulating
bird study and observation, beginning early
in the spring with those species that have
been winter residents, and adding each new
species as it returns from the South. There
are schools that have, in the course of the
season, been able to recognize more than
one hundred different kinds of birds. Even
though teachers and pupils are familiar
with only a very few species at the begin-
ning of the season, there is no reason why

a calendar may not be kept with the result ^^^ birdhouse, farmers'^ek.
that in any given year a great many 1917. one-sixth natural size

new birds will be seen. Of course as the I'rom District 5. Town of Norwich. Che-

. nango County

list grows larger and larger, it is more

diflScult to find new species to add, but the zest and the enthusiasm be-
come all the greater, and there are some schools that have reached the
point where they are able to go into the more intensive and difficult study
of the sparrows, warblers, and some other families.

We are fortunate this year in having a discussion of migration and bird
calendars by Dr. A. A. Allen on page 41. The following paragraph
from a teacher's letter tells of her experience in keeping a bird calendar,
and it may be added that this particular one, consisting of drawings and
records together with a book of stories, was awarded second prize at
the Farmers* Week exhibition last year.

Last spring as we began our usual bird calendar, I suggested that the child seeing
the bird ^ould trace its outline (some teachers prefer the drawings to be made free-
hand) from the portfolio of birds sent to us by the State and color then true to nature
with crayolas. I had never seen this done; but the results were far beyond my expecta-
tions. Afterward we made a notebook of the eighty birds seen, telling of their songs,
their nests, their habits, their food, their range, and the like. It would have been much


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better to do this at the time the bird was first seen. Since then the children have made
other charts of otir winter birds, and this spring are drawing only those not seen last
year. Their notebooks gave them much work in English and valuable practice in
learning to use books of many kinds to find facts they could not otherwise give, as
well as m arranging these in working order. I think that this work is excellent, as many
grown-ups do not know to what authorities togo for information that they may need.
Together we are enjoying Mabd Osgood Wright's Gray Lady and the Birds, and
our copy of Reed's Bird Guide is torn to tatters.


Many communities have reached the place where they recognize the
value of taldng the school on field trips. There should always be some
definite object in mind, even though the senses are alive to all the experi-
ences revealed on a trip. One of the most interesting kinds of field trips
relates to bird study. Of course one who is familiar with bird life realizes
that the most satisfactory times for studying birds in the field are the
early morning and the early evening. There are many teachers who have
reached the point with the children where it has been possible to go on
trips at one or the other of these times. The lessons that come to the
children from such an experience are numberless, in addition to the
unfamiliar birds that they wiU discover and to the new observations
which they will make upon those they already know. The essentials
of bird study are quietness, patience, and control. Ideally, of course,
a person should study birds alone; but there is no reason why several
may not go together with good results, and very often, if the attitude
is right, a larger party may discover many kinds of birds in the course
of a field trip. The teacher will find that such an experience will serve
as few other things can to create a bond of sympathy with the children,
and, rightly used, it may prove an incentive and stimulus to better work
in all directions.

The study of birds in the field may well be connected with their eco-
nomic value. It is sometimes necessary in order to obtain the coopera-
tion and sympathy of the community, particularly of the men, to show
that the activities of the school have a practical value; and while bird study
is desirable from its aesthetic side, it nevertheless has very practical value
because of the service that birds render in the control of insect and weed
pests. Whenever possible, it would be well to emphasize the importance
of this service and to study the food habits of individual species.


For some years past the State Department of Education has desig-
nated some Friday in April of each year as Bird Day, and many schools
have held interesting and profitable celebrations. It should serve as an
opportimity to demonstrate to the community the work of the school,
and the worth while character of bird study. It should in all senses of the

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word be an occasion when the work is siunmarized, when the school takes
account of what it has accomplished in bird study through the year,
and makes plans for the futiu-e.


The recognized association for the promotion of bird study and the pro-
tection of bird life is the National Association of Audubon Societies, with
headquarters at 1974 Broadway, New York City, in charge of T.
Gilbert Pearson, Secretary. This association stimtdates, as a part of its
activities, the formation of Junior Audubon Classes in schools and among
groups of interested young folk. Himdreds of schools in the State have

Online LibraryNew York State College of AgricultureAnnual report of the New York State College of Agriculture at Cornell University and the Agricultural Experiment Station → online text (page 4 of 78)