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SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa.- The 2017 Spring Tweetspeak Class went to Jennings Environmental Education Center to learn about some of the conservation efforts at Jennings. After driving for about 40 minutes south in the rain and to say the least our class was not very excited to learn due to the miserable weather.

Once we arrived we were greeted into a homey welcoming center, where we brushed up on what we knew about birding. After various reviews on why we study birds, how to identify birds, and how to find birds, we questioned ourselves why would we come all this way, just to review? Keeping an open mind we began to lean more about conservation and conservation efforts at Jennings. Learning that Jennings is one of many state parks designed to provide environmental education to the public, in hopes of increasing knowledge and awareness to natural resources. Jennings specifically encompasses a prairie and a forest, which is very uncommon in Pennsylvania.   The centers main priority is the prairie, which they constantly are trying to preserve. The purpose of preserving the prairie is to protect the endangered massasauga rattlesnake that lives among the prairie. After learning about the conservation efforts at Jennings, we talked about various citizen science projects. Citizen Science projects are research collaborations between scientist and volunteers to expand opportunities for scientific data collections and provide access to scientific information for community members. After learning this it all clicked!

How do scientist get data to see where bird populations are? There cannot be enough scientists to be able to everywhere to record where birds are, so they look for some help. That’s exactly what citizen science projects are for. We act as the eyes and ears for the scientist, helping them identify where birds are. The scientists take that data and analyze it, to gain valuable information about species to understand where conservation efforts need to go. So back to us reviewing earlier in the day, it all makes sense now. We were perfecting our skills to identify the birds so we could easily identify them out in the field to submit our finding to eBird that allows scientist to collect data.

American Goldfinch

After learning about the conservation efforts we took a look outside and the rain subsided, so we got ready to do some birding. We sat at a few windows inside Jennings and observed some birds, at some local feeders. At the feeders we saw a few of the common birds in the area such as the Blacked-capped chickadee, White-breasted nuthatch, and a few Hairy woodpeckers. After sitting for a while we eventually got two uncommon species come up to the  feeders. The American goldfinch and the Brown Creeper “wowed” us with their presence.

 

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Later we ventured outside and took a look at the prairie and learned more how Jennings takes actions to help the prairie thrive. On out adventure to the prairie we came accost two Golden-crowned kinglets, which were hiding among the brush on the edge of the prairie. The edge of the prairie is an important place in Jennings. The prairie edge meets the woods and often it encroaches on the prairie. Often where forest meets an open area like a prairie, smaller shrubs and brushes slowly overtake the prairie. Workers at Jennings prescribe schedule cuts and burns to creating edge habitats. Edge habitats according to Canadian Wildlife Federation are the colliding habitat that creates a third habitat between them. This new habitat formed is a habitat for the Golden-crowned Kinglet because it thrives during the wintertime in scrubby areas for food. Not only does Jennings just care for separating their prairie from the forest, but also they create a new habitat in the process. That is why it is the prairie edge is the most maintained area at Jennings. It took us a while to correctly identify, as we were not sure of the species. Being able to correctly identify it, meant that we could record it and input it into our data base to help lend a hand in the world of ornithology.

 

Contribution by Brad Kolesar and Danny Mercer

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