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Gathering to the Bird Club

2012 July 23
by Seth Inman

Last week’s Bird Club sessions saw eight, nine, and one participant(s) in the Wednesday 2th-4th grade group, Thursday 5-6th grade group, and Friday 7th-12th grade group, respectively. My goal had been to start a papier-mâché project, but after forty-five minutes the youngest group was eager to walk through town, so we left the balloons to dry and reviewed the usual crowd at the Fisherman’s Wharf with the addition of a Great Blue Heron and an Elliot’s Storm Petrel. Since some of the eight kids hadn’t come to the first week, it was still a pretty good day, except that most of the students didn’t take their balloons home with them. This week, only three students arrived on Wednesday (it is final examination week), so we made papier-mâché again and this time everyone took their birds home to dry for next week’s wing and beak addition, and perhaps even painting.

Given the younger students’ response to the papier-mâché, I came to the Thursday group last week prepared to put the issue to a vote. Quite a few kids came half an hour late, so we ended up walking to Tortuga Bay, a 45-minute trip through the Park on a path surrounded by cacti and trees that always yields Galápagos Flycatchers, Galápagos Mockingbirds, and a couple species of finch. When we reached the shore a small group of Ruddy Turnstones flew away, and after a couple minutes we had to turn back towards Puerto Ayora. This Thursday, almost the same group of nine students made their balloons and drew their wing-plans on cereal boxes.

Last Friday, a girl in 11th grade who hadn’t been to the Club before was the only person to show up, so we replicated the first week’s walk to the Fisherman’s Wharf and the Tortuga Bay entrance. Luckily, the girl was interested in learning and was able to ask lots of questions that kept me thinking back to what I’d learned in ornithology class this spring (e.g. the amount of time a bird takes to incubate eggs, how parents divide labor, how many eggs per species, diet, etc.). This Friday, once again only one person came—this time a 10th-grader who had been in my Intermediate English class, who is the first male of the older group to attend the Club, for which I am glad. We waited half an hour at the meeting point in case anyone else appeared, then grabbed our bikes and went to the Fisherman’s Wharf to review frigatebird distinctions before heading to the Charles Darwin Research Station, where we observed several Yellow Warblers and a Galápagos Flycatcher bathing in one of the cement tortoise water-pools and a pair of Cactus Finches hopping around what must have been a 14-foot tall Opuntia.

Next week is Tomás de Berlanga’s semester break, so I have low hopes of seeing many students at the Bird Club meetings since many families travel to el Continente to visit relatives, or take trips to other islands of the archipelago. Nevertheless, I will be down at Parque San Francisco with some wire, protective spray, and acrylic paints to complete the papier-mâché bird project!

My own creation. I had intended to make a Blue-footed Booby during its mating display, but the beak is a bit big. I'll either turn it into a hummingbird, or downsize the beak and continue my original plan.

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