Bay Avenue Elementary embraces International Migratory Bird Day 2016

While I was not set to begin my internship until June 1st, I was given the opportunity to participate in the first ever International Migratory Bird Day Celebration at Sailor’s Haven on Fire Island on May 17th. International Migratory Bird Day highlights the importance of international efforts to conserve various bird populations through agreements, laws, treaties, and collaborations. This year not only marks the centennial year of the National Parks Service, but also the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty, which was an agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico to protect our shared migratory birds. In order to celebrate this momentous occasion, Fire Island National Seashore has decided to try something new; allowing a small class of children to participate in a pilot migratory bird program in the Sunken Forest. Bay Avenue Elementary is located fairly close to Fire Island National Seashore Headquarters, so to reach out to a neighboring school that also has a significant latino population was very important to the interpretive staff in further deepening their bond with the nearby communities. It was amazing to witness the excitement and curiosity in the eyes of these precocious 4th graders, as many of them experienced their first ferry ride, as well as their first trip to the beach. The children were guided into the corral at Sailor’s Haven where they learned general safety rules and guidelines for walking through the Sunken Forest and had the chance to meet some of the amazing park rangers and staff. Finally, every child was given a clipboard, binoculars, and a data sheet to record their findings for each bird they encountered on their journey. The students were lucky enough to have been trained in advanced for this exciting mission by their teachers in preparation for their trip. They learned to use the binoculars and how to determine the type of bird by looking at their coat of feathers, as well as listening for their distinct calls. They also had to chance to learn a few basic behaviors of the birds, such as resting, flying, feeding, or calling. By the time they were heading into the Forest, they were practically bird watching pros! Each class was led by a park ranger into the various landscapes of the Sunken Forest, such as the swale, the forest and the marina. At each location, they spent about 20 minutes observing the birds around them, as well as recording any data they could so that it could later be entered into a national database. Once each group had the chance to visit each location, these tired little explorers finally got the chance to enjoy their lunches, talk about their findings and even head down to the beach for some fun! We also had the pleasure of allowing two of our little explorers share a videocall with another nearby school to discuss their findings with a short presentation! These kids really knew their stuff and had definitely earned some free time in the sand; whether it was  playing a game of frisbee with their classmates or searching the shoreline for treasures they could show to the rangers to learn a bit more about the dynamic ecosystem Fire Island has to offer. Programs such as this are what really excites me about getting the opportunity to work with the Fire Island National Seashore staff. Not only are new programs being added to focus on conservation, but I also have the chance to reach out to local, underserved audiences so they can see what the National Parks Service has to offer them.

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