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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Plainfield Christmas Bird Count Results

Pine Grosbeak put in its first appearance since 2012
Snow was the theme for the 55th Plainfield CBC this past Saturday, December 17, 2016. Weather is the biggest predictor of count productivity, and with snow throughout most of the day, it is not surprising that numbers were lower than usual. We ended up with several gaps in coverage due in part to the weather, but despite the challenging conditions, 30 participants managed to locate 37 species of birds, a little shy of our 10-year average of 39.1 species.

One of this year’s highlights was a Northern Flicker found in the Barre territory, only the 5th time recorded and the first since 2006. A lone Snow Bunting was our first since 2010. A Red-winged Blackbird in Plainfield-South territory was the 5th seen in the last 20 years, and the first since 2011. A total of 13 Pine Grosbeaks were seen in 3 territories, our first since 2012. Thanks in part to the owling efforts of Ken Benton, we set a new high count for Barred Owl of 4. Carolina Wren would have been unexpected 5 years ago, but has now become a regular occurrence with 1 individual found this year.

The most notable miss this year was Purple Finch, which had been seen every year since 2007. Purple Finches have become scarcer over the years, but after 252 reported last year, this was a disappointing miss. Other common species that were missed this year include Canada Goose, Hooded Merganser, and Pine Siskin. Only a single Ruffed Grouse was found in Lanesboro territory, a nice save considering we last missed Ruffed Grouse in 1985. Additional birds missed on count day but seen during count week were Northern Shrike, Bald Eagle, and Bohemian Waxwing.

The Plainfield count is blessed to have many passionate and dedicated volunteers, and this year we pay tribute to long-time volunteers Neil and Sharon Osborne. Together, they diligently covered a territory for the Plainfield CBC (most recently Hollister Hill) since 1989. After nearly 50 decades of enjoying birds with his wife Sharon, Neil passed away just this year. Neil had an incredibly keen eye and a passion for owls. Next time you hear or see a Barred Owl, be sure to remember Neil!

Mallard 41
Common Merganser 1
Ruffed Grouse 1
Wild Turkey 129
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Cooper's Hawk 1
Bald Eagle cw
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Rock Pigeon 245
Mourning Dove 118
Barred Owl 4
Downy Woodpecker 26
Hairy Woodpecker 30
Northern Flicker 1
Pileated Woodpecker 2
Northern Shrike cw
Blue Jay 90
American Crow 298
Common Raven 21
Black-capped Chickadee 807
Tufted Titmouse 13
Red-breasted Nuthatch 20
White-breasted Nuthatch 36
Brown Creeper 2
Carolina Wren 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet 7
American Robin 2
European Starling 55
Bohemian Waxwing cw
Cedar Waxwing 6
Snow Bunting 1
American Tree Sparrow 38
Dark-eyed Junco 22
Northern Cardinal 29
Red-winged Blackbird 1
Pine Grosbeak 13
House Finch 12
American Goldfinch 88
Evening Grosbeak 73
House Sparrow 12

Monday, December 19, 2016

Finding Light in the Dark

“Hey, something is following me…” We’re heading out to Deer Camp. The sun is shining, the mown path is unusually green in a meadow that has otherwise turned November brown, and the boy at the back of the line with me tugs on my hand and points behind him. Indeed. We are being followed.

By our shadows.

This was the spark. This playful observation inspired conversations, jokes and games that captivated the entire group. Strung out behind us in the low morning light, we were being stalked by our own shadows. But nothing is more delightful than shadow tag. Have you ever played it? We run, pounce, crouch, hide in the shade (“shadows can’t survive in the shade”) and leap out again. Chasing each other’s shadows became such a popular game this fall that there were even requests for it on overcast days...at which point we had to look sadly at the ground all around us and realize that this game came to us only under particular circumstances.

On rainy days we try to stay on the move. Moving bodies are warm bodies. So instead of heading straight to Deer Camp after Loose Parts, we take the long way through the meadow and visit the rock.  Everybody loves the rock.  It’s just big enough and steep enough that climbing it (and sliding down it) is challenging without being overwhelming. Often at Forest Preschool, the children naturally break into smaller configurations during play: swing or mud kitchen or Bear Hill.  But there is something about the rock that pulls the group together.

On this day, after a few minutes of exploration, the cry goes out. “Flood!” Water rushes in around our feet and everybody scrambles, panting to the top of the rock. Helping hands are extended to each other – “Pull!” “I’ve got you!” – and no sooner has everybody arrived safely at the pinnacle, than a shark is discovered in their midst and the children scatter again – a screaming, laughing panic and flurry of bodies.  We teachers try to mostly stand back and enjoy the commotion (though sometimes we are dragged to safety in the nick of time as well). 

These are the golden moments. When the children create their own play and immerse themselves in it.  Sometimes it’s an energetic game like Flood at the Rock; other times it can be something quieter, more solitary, maybe building a house or mixing mud smoothies. What’s most important is that the children are able to come to these imaginative moments. It is in these playful spaces, in what adults call “flow” that the brain lights up. This is where joy happens – and deep learning.  

As teachers, we make spaces, and sometimes we help connect the dots.  We create stories each week that are inspired by the discoveries and interests of the children, and we use them to make connections, expand ideas, ask more questions. The emergent “curriculum” this fall was also enriched by some planned events that all happened to circle around food and warming our bodies.  Nothing takes the chill off like pressing apple cider, cooking soup or popping popcorn over a fire.  Sumac tea made from sumac seeds harvested at the beaver pond was a new experience for most!

Now December brings us snow and more adventures together.  We’ll be digging shelters, sliding down hills, tracking animals – staying warm, and certainly finding some joy.