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Teaching Bird Research Virtually

March 15, 2021

By Joe Walewski

What an amazing opportunity!!

This morning, students from Breck School explored what it means to do research from both bird researchers and Wolf Ridge naturalists during their virtual field trip.

Man in blue mask at bird feeder

Peter Harris and Joe Lutz banded birds and shared their stories about how they’ve used a special bird feeder with a magnetic recorder to collect moment-by-moment data about how Chickadees access food at a feeder. Can you see the white, blue, and black data collectors on the feeder? In the next picture, Joe is banding a Common Redpoll.

Pete and Joe have lots of questions: Does the same bird return to the feeder at the same time each day? How often do they pick up food? Do the Chickadees visit the feeders in flocks or as individuals? It’s a new kind of bird research for Wolf Ridge–what will they discover?

Clipboard with data

Meanwhile, Danielle Hefferan was outside observing a Downy Woodpecker during the 30 minutes we were all together. We checked in with her occasionally for updates on the woodpecker and the data she was recording about its behaviors.

We had a special guest scientist from Idaho! Dani Kaschube shared her stories about wild birds and teaching people how to bird band. She’s a professional bird bander with a nationwide research project called Monitoring Avian Productivity Study (MAPS). The statistical stories they uncover drive further scientific questions, research, and wildlife management practices.

After lunch, our team of Danielle, David S., and David B. joined another school, this time from Prior Lake-Savage, for a virtual field trip to explore forest ecology. We were joined by Ryan Pennesi who is both a freelance wildlife photographer and a forestry technician with the USFS on the Superior National Forest.

Wolf Ridge naturalist teaching virtually

Ryan shared stories about what he does on a regular basis (including climbing trees to collect White Pine cones, seriously!!), how that affects the overall health of the Superior National Forest, and what tools he uses to do that. Joe W zoomed the camera in close so we could observe the lichens growing on a nearby tree. Here’s a perspective from behind the camera in the woods.

It’s amazing to share what’s going on outside on the Wolf Ridge trails with students and to hear the excitement in their voices. Kids are such keen observers and we’re always inspired by the questions as we explore together. In this last photo, Danielle, Dani, Peter, and Joe close the class and say goodbye to the students.

We plan to meet with them again in a few weeks. We can’t wait!