These activities focus on the wonderful bird-life of the seashore. They look at the main features of coastal water birds (waders and wildfowl in particular), their feeding habits and their adaptations to how and where they live.
OBJECTIVE: to introduce bird-watching and identification.
TIME: 1 hour
LOCATION: a seashore, preferably with sand or mud.
WEATHER: The best conditions are a fine clear day with no rain or strong winds, early morning (before 10:30) or late afternoon (after 15:00) and at halfway-tide(nearer to high-tide).
YOU WILL NEED: as many pairs of binoculars and telescopes as possible; activity sheets and reference sheet.
The best months to see wintering waders and wildfowl (geese, ducks and swans) are between September and April. At most times of year oystercatchers, curlew, redshank, eider duck, knot, black-headed gulls and herring gulls may be found.
Before the Activity
Look at pictures of the waders and wildfowl you are most likely to see. Discuss ways of telling them apart. Practise using binoculars and telescopes. Discuss how the group needs to behave for a successful bird-watching expedition.
What will the group record, what will they observe and what conclusions will they draw?
Stage 1 - Bird identity and habits
Observing and identifying: Choose your observation site on the edge of the dunes, with a good view of the shorebirds. Sit still and quietly. Share your binoculars and scan for birds. Wait until they are settled, this might take a few minutes. How many different kinds of bird can you see?
Recording and counting: As a group, see if you have seen any of these birds on the shoreline: oystercatcher, eider duck, shag, curlew, dunlin, redshank and grey plover. Tick each one you can identify on the recording sheet. If you are able to count them, also write down the number or make a guesstimate. Also observe what they are doing, and where they are.
Can you identify any other bird species?
Stage 2 - Fitted for feeding
Observing and recording bills and other adaptations: In pairs, or as a small group, take some time to observe one particular bird, quietly describing to each other its different characteristics.
Complete recording form: Complete a sketch comparing the bill (beak), length of waders and the depth at which invertebrates live in the mud/sand. Complete descriptions of how it is fitted for feeding.
Observing other evidence from the sand: On the way back along the shore look out for signs of activity - bird prints, hollows and holes in the sand, piles of lugworm casts, imprints of small animals moving across the sand - worm trails, prints, peck marks etc. Before leaving the beach form a circle and share what everyone had found most interesting from watching the birds so carefully. What surprised you and what fascinated you?
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