SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — In five, short months, a lot can change. The Tweetspeak Team spent the 2017 spring semester outside looking all over the county and western Pennsylvania for as many different birds as possible. The team traveled to places such as Black Swamp, Jennings, the Field Station, Pymatuning, and even the Aviary. At the beginning of the semester, most, if not all, Tweetspeak correspondents had no knowledge about birds besides they fly and exist. Throughout this semester, the team learned a lot of different things that made the semester successful. Here are some of the things the team did not know, but are now virtually experts at:
As the semester started, the team had no idea how to identify a bird. When looking at birds at the beginning of the semester, people would say it looks like a bird and leave it at that. Through a lot of practice, studying, and quizzes, the team quickly improved on how to decipher the difference species of birds. The characteristics we learned to look for: size and shape, color pattern, behavior, and habitat. When working with a partner birder, one would describe what they see to the other and vice versa. After agreeing on these characteristics, the partners would move to the Sibley Field Guide where they would identify what bird they saw.
Looking for Birds
At the beginning of the semester, it was difficult to “find” birds. Granted, it was the middle of the winter, but it was tough to know where to look beyond a bird feeder. After some direction and experience, the team learned to look in places such as the bottom of bushes, high up in the branches of large trees, bird feeders, and soaring through the sky. Another issue faced was making sure to get a good view of the bird before it flew off. At first, I always caught myself just looking at the bird without the binoculars. I quickly learned, to know what the bird is, I must get as close of a view as possible. The best way to do that is to grab the binoculars and get a good look of each bird.
Birding can be fun!
Being honest, I was not excited to go outside and look at birds once a week for three hours. Knowing nothing about birds, I did not see any potential for fun based on a prejudgment that I made. As the labs went by, I was able to find people with common interests and walk along trails with them while looking for birds. I quickly learned that birding can be a rewarding experience for practically anyone given a beneficial environment. Birding with friends and cracking jokes helped make this class an enjoyable experience for me.
Overall, the amount of progress made throughout the semester is very prevalent throughout the entire Tweetspeak crew. The big take away I got from this course is to enjoy the small things in this world that most people take for granted. My world completely changed because of this class. This time last year, I could play baseball, go golfing or hiking and I would not take an extra second to hear the birds around me. Today, I line up for a putt and half to step away because I heard a Red-winged Blackbird screaming at me to miss the putt. Although I two and three putt more often, I have gained a stronger appreciation for birds of all kinds, shapes, and sounds. After this class, I plan to continue to use my birding skills when I go hiking and spend any time around nature.
A Special Appreciation for the mission and work of the Bartramian Audubon Society
The 2017 Tweetspeak Cluster celebrated Earth Day in April with members of the Bartramian Audubon Society. Students hosted members on a birding adventure around the campus, including the three Audubon-certified bird sanctuaries on campus. Students in the previous edition of Tweetspeak secured those sanctuaries as a service learning project in 2016.
The Tweetspeak students and faculty support the Bartramian Audubon Society’s mission is to preserve the native plant and animal communities in our eco-region through monitoring and protecting vulnerable, rare, and endangered life forms.
Education, direct conservation efforts, research and active participation in citizen science support this mission.
The Bartramian Audubon Society is the chapter of the National Audubon Society serving, Butler, Lawrence, Mercer, and Vengango counties in Pennsylvania.
Find out more and get involved! Follow the group on Facebook!
Bartramian Audubon Society
P.O. Box 315
Slippery Rock, PA 16057