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On bellies with binoculars . . . Members of the Kenmare first grade class crawl
across the snow, binoculars in hand, to get a closer view of birds at the
Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge during the Christmas Bird Count 4 Kids
program held January 9th. Fifteen students spent two hours observing
birds and learning about habitat conditions for birds at the refuge.
By Caroline Downs
The birds wintering at the Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge will have it a little easier during the cold January days, thanks to bird treats prepared by Kenmare students who participated in the Christmas Bird Count 4 Kids event on January 9th.
The Kenmare Elementary School first grade class, with teacher Ruth Wallstrum, and the third grade Bear Scouts, with leader Lisa Bartlett, joined CBC 4 Kids organizers Jennifer Jewett and Caroline Downs for an afternoon of observations, discussions, stories and projects all related to the birds wintering in the local area.
“It’s so good to know what we have out at the refuge,” Wallstrum said about taking her students to the event. “The refuge activities are right there. We don’t take advantage of all our refuge has to offer.”
The students learned how to use binoculars and took a birding hike around the headquarters area. The first grade students recorded between 6 and 10 black-capped chickadees and an estimated 25 to 30 common redpolls.
The three Bear Scouts saw more birds, including the redpolls and chickadees again as well as six goldfinches, about 15 house sparrows and one magpie.
A total of six species and between 60 and 70 birds were seen during the event. All the students were thrilled with close views of the birds, many of which landed only a few feet from their human observers.
Most of the birds were observed near sunflower seed and suet feeders set up on the refuge for winter feeding. The students talked about the birds’ needs for food, shelter, space and water in their habitat, and then proceeded to make treats to feed the birds at the refuge using peanut butter and bird seed.
The CBC 4 Kids event at the Des Lacs NWR was the second time the program has been held in Kenmare. The event started in California five years ago when a birding club in Sonoma Valley, which worked with the traditional Audubon Society Christmas Bird Counts, decided to create a similar birding activity for children.
The goal of the program is to have fun spending some time outdoors and to encourage kids and families to enjoy and respect nature together. The CBC 4 Kids also potentially creates a “hometown” team of birders and conservationists for the future of the region.
The Bear Scouts took the extra bird treats home to hang up in their yards, while the first graders were given different bird feeders and a starter bag of sunflower seeds to set up at the elementary school. All participants received more information about identifying birds in the area and simple strategies for providing good habitat throughout the year.
Several of the students talked about returning to the refuge to see the birds again. “Hopefully, this activity will get them to go out there with their parents and families,” Wallstrum said.
The refuge headquarters building and visitors center is open weekdays from 8 am to 4:30 pm. The students who participated in the CBC 4 Kids know exactly where to find their new bird buddies any time during the week.
For more information about the Des Lacs NWR, contact refuge manager Chad Zorn at 701-385-4046 ext. 225.
“Now, we’re excited to put the bird feeders up at the elementary school,” said Wallstrum, “and see what we get!”
When peanut butter is for the birds . . . Kenmare first graders
cover pinecones with peanut butter to prepare treats for
winter bird feeding during the Christmas Bird Count 4 Kids event
held at the Des Lacs Refuge. The boys rolled the coated
pinecones in sunflower seeds and millet to satisfy hungry birds.