Spring Street Students: Birding: We made an app for that

Prepare for the BioBlitz at San Juan Island National Historical Park and enjoy birding with a local flavor by consulting Spring Street International School's field guide to birds, assembled by Sharon Massey's Seventh Grade middle school science class.

The guide can be downloaded for offline access on smartphone devices, or on home computers through the free iNaturalist app that the park will use during BioBlitz, scheduled May 3-4 at American Camp.

Visit iNaturalist to view the app.

The BioBlitz is scheduled over a 24-hour period, Saturday and Sunday, May 3-4 starting and finishing at noon at American Camp. Conducted in parks throughout the nation, a BioBlitz is a unique combination of taxonomic inventory, public outreach and science education. Teams of volunteers, each lead by an expert scientist, find, identify, and photograph as many species as possible within a 24-hour period.

Begun in January, the Spring Street bird guide features student drawings and descriptions, coupled with photographs of 78 birds that have been sighted in the San Juan Islands.

"We started by looking at field guides, deciding what we liked, and coming up with a list of criteria for a field guide of our own," Massey said. "We chose to do a bird guide simply because one of our students was good at drawing birds and the project took off from there."

At first only a few of the students drew, while others researched and/or wrote descriptions, Massey said. But eventually all 11students involved in the project began to draw, and each student's knowledge and skill evolved with every bird depicted. After only a few weeks the students had compiled more than 20 drawings, eventually topping out at 78, she said.

On science class days, the students focused on birding utilizing, in part, pre-established bird boxes. The students spotted, sketched, recorded the species of bird based upon the nests they found, and eventually cleaned the vacated boxes, Massey said.

"We were inspired by the work of Roger Tory Peterson and David Sibley, and while we are fully responsible for the inaccuracies in our bird illustrations, we learned a lot about our local birds through this project and decided to call our book a Book of Birds, rather than a field guide, "Massey wrote on the web site. "While you might not be able to ID every bird in our book from our illustrations, we hope the book helps you fall in love with birds the way we did!"

"That is just fantastic--I love this!" said Lee Taylor, park superintendent "The students did an amazing job accurately representing the birds and infusing them with artistic expression; thanks to all who contributed."


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