Monthly Archives: December 2012

More Than Halfway: Stats and List

As 2012 winds down here on the West Coast of North America, I have spent a little time looking at numbers from my big year effort.  As all traditional ‘big years’ run January through December, birders all over are taking stock tonight of the year that was and getting ready to start fresh tomorrow.  I’m just a little more than halfway done, and getting ready to shift into high gear.

Start Date: June 14, 2012

Number of days elapsed: 200 (55% of the year)

Number of checklists submitted to eBird: 201

Number of those checklists that include Great Blue Heron: 48  (24%)

Total number of species seen: 460

Number of species seen in my home state of Washington: 236

Number of states I’ve birded: 12

Number of counties I’ve birded: 55

Total number of individual birds seen: 28,762 (sum from eBird – some larger numbers were estimates)

Number of blog posts: 50

Projected End Date: June 13, 2013

Number of days to go: 165 (45% – about five and a half months)

Number of new species needed to reach my goal of 650: 190

Probability of reaching my goal: 77.2%

I will try to append a list of the species seen so far in taxonomic order below:

# Species Location State Date
1 Greater White-fronted Goose Four Seasons Ranch Beach (Private) WA 30-Sep-12
2 Snow Goose Juanita Bay Park WA 10-Nov-12
3 Brant Broad Brook Mill Pond CT 29-Nov-12
4 Barnacle Goose Van Cortlandt Park NY 5-Dec-12
5 Cackling Goose Nisqually NWR WA 25-Oct-12
6 Canada Goose Crex Meadows SWA WI 19-Jun-12
7 Mute Swan Cape Island–CMPSP (Cape May Point SP) NJ 11-Sep-12
8 Trumpeter Swan Rice Lake NWR MN 16-Jun-12
9 Tundra Swan Juanita Bay Park WA 29-Oct-12
10 Wood Duck Rice Lake NWR MN 16-Jun-12
11 Gadwall Salton Sea NWR–Unit 2 / Visitor Center CA 25-Jul-12
12 Eurasian Wigeon Neah Bay WA 4-Nov-12
13 American Wigeon Cape Island–CMPSP (Cape May Point SP) NJ 11-Sep-12
14 American Black Duck Edwin B. Forsythe NWR NJ 12-Sep-12
15 Mallard Lima Mtn Rd–The Triangle MN 15-Jun-12
16 Blue-winged Teal Bombay Hook NWR DE 14-Sep-12
17 Cinnamon Teal North Potholes Reserve WA 18-Aug-12
18 Northern Shoveler Salton Sea NWR–Unit 2 / Visitor Center CA 25-Jul-12
19 Northern Pintail Ocean Shores–Oyhut Wildlife Area WA 5-Sep-12
20 Green-winged Teal Ocean Shores–Oyhut Wildlife Area WA 5-Sep-12
21 Canvasback Tracy Owen Station (Log Boom Park) WA 9-Nov-12
22 Redhead Amado WTP AZ 27-Jul-12
23 Ring-necked Duck Rice Lake NWR MN 16-Jun-12
24 Greater Scaup Neah Bay WA 4-Nov-12
25 Lesser Scaup Discovery Park WA 7-Nov-12
26 Common Eider Salisbury Beach State Reservation MA 30-Nov-12
27 Harlequin Duck Four Seasons Ranch Beach (Private) WA 30-Jun-12
28 Surf Scoter Ediz Hook WA 2-Jul-12
29 White-winged Scoter Neah Bay WA 4-Nov-12
30 Black Scoter Parker River NWR MA 30-Nov-12
31 Long-tailed Duck Four Seasons Ranch Beach (Private) WA 2-Nov-12
32 Bufflehead Nisqually NWR WA 25-Oct-12
33 Common Goldeneye Lima Mtn Rd–The Triangle MN 14-Jun-12
34 Barrow’s Goldeneye Edmonds Pier WA 9-Nov-12
35 Hooded Merganser Neah Bay WA 4-Nov-12
36 Common Merganser Tracy Owen Station (Log Boom Park) WA 9-Nov-12
37 Red-breasted Merganser Santa Clara River Estuary CA 22-Jul-12
38 Ruddy Duck Santa Clara River Estuary CA 22-Jul-12
39 California Quail Umtanum Road WA 28-Jun-12
40 Gambel’s Quail Miller Canyon–lower AZ 31-Jul-12
41 Ring-necked Pheasant Bluestem Prairie SNA MN 18-Jun-12
42 Ruffed Grouse Rice Lake NWR MN 16-Jun-12
43 Spruce Grouse Salmon Meadows CG WA 17-Aug-12
44 White-tailed Ptarmigan Mount Rainier NP–Mount Fremont Trail WA 7-Sep-12
45 Dusky Grouse Patterson Lake WA 16-Aug-12
46 Sooty Grouse Olympic NP–Hurricane Ridge WA 15-Jul-12
47 Sharp-tailed Grouse Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12
48 Wild Turkey Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve–Forest trails (Scott Co.) MN 19-Jun-12
49 Red-throated Loon Neah Bay WA 4-Nov-12
50 Pacific Loon Point No Point WA 2-Nov-12
51 Common Loon Tettegouche SP MN 14-Jun-12
52 Pied-billed Grebe Rice Lake NWR MN 16-Jun-12
53 Horned Grebe Ediz Hook WA 29-Sep-12
54 Red-necked Grebe Crex Meadows SWA WI 19-Jun-12
55 Eared Grebe Marlyn Nelson County Park WA 3-Nov-12
56 Western Grebe Santa Clara River Estuary CA 22-Jul-12
57 Clark’s Grebe Lake Isabella–Kissack Cove CA 24-Jul-12
58 Black-footed Albatross Westport–Offshore waters WA 23-Sep-12
59 Northern Fulmar Westport–Offshore waters WA 23-Sep-12
60 Pink-footed Shearwater Santa Barbara Deepwater Pelagic Trip July 21, 2012 CA 21-Jul-12
61 Buller’s Shearwater Westport–Offshore waters WA 23-Sep-12
62 Sooty Shearwater Santa Barbara Deepwater Pelagic Trip July 21, 2012 CA 21-Jul-12
63 Black-vented Shearwater Santa Barbara Deepwater Pelagic Trip July 21, 2012 CA 21-Jul-12
64 Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel Westport–Offshore waters WA 23-Sep-12
65 Leach’s Storm-Petrel Santa Barbara Deepwater Pelagic Trip July 21, 2012 CA 21-Jul-12
66 Ashy Storm-Petrel Santa Barbara Deepwater Pelagic Trip July 21, 2012 CA 21-Jul-12
67 Black Storm-Petrel Santa Barbara Deepwater Pelagic Trip July 21, 2012 CA 21-Jul-12
68 Red-billed Tropicbird Santa Barbara Deepwater Pelagic Trip July 21, 2012 CA 21-Jul-12
69 Northern Gannet Salisbury Beach State Reservation MA 30-Nov-12
70 Brandt’s Cormorant Edmonds Ferry Terminal WA 16-Jul-12
71 Double-crested Cormorant Ediz Hook WA 2-Jul-12
72 Great Cormorant Salisbury Beach State Reservation MA 30-Nov-12
73 Pelagic Cormorant Four Seasons Ranch Beach (Private) WA 30-Jun-12
74 American White Pelican Salton Sea NWR–Unit 2 / Visitor Center CA 25-Jul-12
75 Brown Pelican Ocean Trails CA 20-Jul-12
76 American Bittern Rice Lake NWR MN 16-Jun-12
77 Great Blue Heron Otter Lake, Ramsey Co. MN 13-Jun-12
78 Great Egret Otter Lake, Ramsey Co. MN 13-Jun-12
79 Little Egret Ocean Avenue Beach MA 2-Dec-12
80 Snowy Egret Santa Barbara Deepwater Pelagic Trip July 21, 2012 CA 21-Jul-12
81 Cattle Egret Salton Sea NWR–Unit 2 / Visitor Center CA 25-Jul-12
82 Green Heron Rice Lake NWR MN 16-Jun-12
83 Black-crowned Night-Heron Santa Barbara Deepwater Pelagic Trip July 21, 2012 CA 21-Jul-12
84 Glossy Ibis Edwin B. Forsythe NWR NJ 12-Sep-12
85 White-faced Ibis Salton Sea NWR–Unit 2 / Visitor Center CA 25-Jul-12
86 Black Vulture Cape Island–CMPSP (Cape May Point SP) NJ 11-Sep-12
87 Turkey Vulture Grand Marais MN 15-Jun-12
88 Osprey Rice Lake NWR MN 16-Jun-12
89 Northern Harrier Along Hwy75 MN 17-Jun-12
90 Sharp-shinned Hawk Cape Island–Higbees Beach SWA NJ 11-Sep-12
91 Cooper’s Hawk Camarillo Community Park CA 22-Jul-12
92 Northern Goshawk Olympic NP–Hurricane Ridge WA 11-Aug-12
93 Bald Eagle Grand Marais MN 15-Jun-12
94 Red-shouldered Hawk Canebrake Ecological Reserve CA 24-Jul-12
95 Broad-winged Hawk Hawk Mountain Sanctuary–Visitor Center PA 15-Sep-12
96 Gray Hawk Patagonia Roadside Rest Area AZ 29-Jul-12
97 Red-tailed Hawk Umtanum Road WA 28-Jun-12
98 Rough-legged Hawk Samish Flats–West 90 WA 9-Nov-12
99 Yellow Rail McGregor Marsh MN 16-Jun-12
100 Clapper Rail Jakes Landing NJ 13-Sep-12
101 Virginia Rail Juanita Bay Park WA 15-Nov-12
102 American Coot Ocean Trails CA 20-Jul-12
103 Sandhill Crane Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12
104 Northern Lapwing Northern Lapwing Corn Field MA 29-Nov-12
105 Black-bellied Plover Salton Sea NWR–Unit 2 / Visitor Center CA 25-Jul-12
106 Pacific Golden-Plover Ocean Shores–Oyhut Wildlife Area WA 5-Sep-12
107 Snowy Plover Santa Clara River Estuary CA 22-Jul-12
108 Semipalmated Plover North Olympic WA–Lower Dungeness Unit WA 12-Aug-12
109 Piping Plover Stone Harbor Point NJ 13-Sep-12
110 Killdeer Lima Mtn Rd–The Triangle MN 15-Jun-12
111 American Oystercatcher Stone Harbor Point NJ 11-Sep-12
112 Black Oystercatcher Ediz Hook WA 13-Jul-12
113 Black-necked Stilt Salton Sea NWR–Unit 2 / Visitor Center CA 25-Jul-12
114 American Avocet Salton Sea NWR–Unit 2 / Visitor Center CA 25-Jul-12
115 Spotted Sandpiper Cape Island–CMPSP (Cape May Point SP) NJ 11-Sep-12
116 Solitary Sandpiper Rodale Park / Trexlertown Pines PA 14-Sep-12
117 Wandering Tattler Ocean Shores — Pt. Brown Jetty WA 5-Sep-12
118 Greater Yellowlegs North Potholes Reserve WA 18-Aug-12
119 Willet Salton Sea NWR–Unit 2 / Visitor Center CA 25-Jul-12
120 Lesser Yellowlegs Salton Sea NWR–Unit 2 / Visitor Center CA 25-Jul-12
121 Upland Sandpiper Felton Prairie MN 18-Jun-12
122 Whimbrel Santa Clara River Estuary CA 22-Jul-12
123 Bar-tailed Godwit Tokeland — marina WA 22-Sep-12
124 Marbled Godwit Felton Prairie MN 18-Jun-12
125 Ruddy Turnstone North Olympic WA–Lower Dungeness Unit WA 24-Aug-12
126 Black Turnstone Ediz Hook WA 12-Aug-12
127 Surfbird Ocean Shores — Pt. Brown Jetty WA 5-Sep-12
128 Red Knot Bottle Beach WA 22-Sep-12
129 Sanderling Dungeness Landing Park/Oyster House WA 24-Aug-12
130 Semipalmated Sandpiper North Olympic WA–Lower Dungeness Unit WA 12-Aug-12
131 Western Sandpiper Salton Sea NWR–Unit 2 / Visitor Center CA 25-Jul-12
132 Least Sandpiper Three Crabs WA 12-Aug-12
133 White-rumped Sandpiper Bombay Hook NWR DE 14-Sep-12
134 Baird’s Sandpiper North Potholes Reserve WA 18-Aug-12
135 Pectoral Sandpiper North Potholes Reserve WA 18-Aug-12
136 Purple Sandpiper Hammonasset Beach SP CT 5-Dec-12
137 Rock Sandpiper Ediz Hook WA 24-Nov-12
138 Dunlin Bombay Hook NWR DE 14-Sep-12
139 Stilt Sandpiper North Potholes Reserve WA 18-Aug-12
140 Ruff Hoquiam STP WA 5-Sep-12
141 Short-billed Dowitcher Edwin B. Forsythe NWR NJ 12-Sep-12
142 Long-billed Dowitcher Salton Sea NWR–Unit 2 / Visitor Center CA 25-Jul-12
143 Wilson’s Snipe Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12
144 American Woodcock Rice Lake NWR MN 17-Jun-12
145 Red-necked Phalarope Edmonds-Kingston Ferry WA 23-Aug-12
146 Black-legged Kittiwake Herring Cove Beach MA 3-Dec-12
147 Sabine’s Gull Santa Barbara Deepwater Pelagic Trip July 21, 2012 CA 21-Jul-12
148 Bonaparte’s Gull Point No Point WA 24-Sep-12
149 Black-headed Gull Ocean Avenue Beach MA 2-Dec-12
150 Laughing Gull Salton Sea NWR–Unit 2 / Visitor Center CA 25-Jul-12
151 Franklin’s Gull Point No Point WA 24-Sep-12
152 Heermann’s Gull Four Seasons Ranch Beach (Private) WA 30-Jun-12
153 Mew Gull Bottle Beach WA 22-Sep-12
154 Ring-billed Gull Grand Marais MN 14-Jun-12
155 Western Gull Santa Barbara Deepwater Pelagic Trip July 21, 2012 CA 21-Jul-12
156 Yellow-footed Gull Salton Sea NWR–Unit 2 / Visitor Center CA 25-Jul-12
157 California Gull Ocean Trails CA 20-Jul-12
158 Herring Gull Grand Marais MN 14-Jun-12
159 Thayer’s Gull Gog-Le-Hi-Te Mitigated Wetlands WA 16-Oct-12
160 Iceland Gull Plymouth Harbor MA 1-Dec-12
161 Lesser Black-backed Gull Cape Island–CMPSP (Cape May Point SP) NJ 12-Sep-12
162 Slaty-backed Gull Gog-Le-Hi-Te Mitigated Wetlands WA 18-Oct-12
163 Glaucous-winged Gull Ediz Hook WA 2-Jul-12
164 Great Black-backed Gull Cape Island–Higbees Beach SWA NJ 11-Sep-12
165 Caspian Tern Santa Clara River Estuary CA 22-Jul-12
166 Black Tern Rice Lake NWR MN 16-Jun-12
167 Common Tern Cape Island–CMPSP (Cape May Point SP) NJ 11-Sep-12
168 Forster’s Tern Cape Island–CMPSP (Cape May Point SP) NJ 11-Sep-12
169 Royal Tern Cape Island–CMPSP (Cape May Point SP) NJ 11-Sep-12
170 Elegant Tern Santa Barbara Deepwater Pelagic Trip July 21, 2012 CA 21-Jul-12
171 Black Skimmer Salton Sea NWR–Unit 2 / Visitor Center CA 25-Jul-12
172 South Polar Skua Santa Barbara Deepwater Pelagic Trip July 21, 2012 CA 21-Jul-12
173 Pomarine Jaeger Santa Barbara Deepwater Pelagic Trip July 21, 2012 CA 21-Jul-12
174 Parasitic Jaeger Point No Point WA 24-Sep-12
175 Common Murre Santa Barbara Deepwater Pelagic Trip July 21, 2012 CA 21-Jul-12
176 Razorbill Parker River NWR MA 30-Nov-12
177 Black Guillemot Halibut Point MA 1-Dec-12
178 Pigeon Guillemot Ediz Hook WA 2-Jul-12
179 Marbled Murrelet Ediz Hook WA 2-Jul-12
180 Scripps’s Murrelet Santa Barbara Deepwater Pelagic Trip July 21, 2012 CA 21-Jul-12
181 Ancient Murrelet Ebey’s Landing NHP–Fort Casey State Park WA 9-Nov-12
182 Cassin’s Auklet Santa Barbara Deepwater Pelagic Trip July 21, 2012 CA 21-Jul-12
183 Rhinoceros Auklet Four Seasons Ranch Beach (Private) WA 30-Jun-12
184 Rock Pigeon Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12
185 Band-tailed Pigeon My neighborhood WA 11-Jul-12
186 Eurasian Collared-Dove Four Seasons Ranch Beach (Private) WA 30-Jun-12
187 Spotted Dove Salt Lake Park CA 20-Jul-12
188 White-winged Dove Salton Sea NWR–Unit 2 / Visitor Center CA 25-Jul-12
189 Mourning Dove Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12
190 Common Ground-Dove Salton Sea NWR–Unit 2 / Visitor Center CA 25-Jul-12
191 Yellow-billed Cuckoo Houghton Lake WRA–Nellsville Rd Boardwalk MI 23-Jun-12
192 Black-billed Cuckoo Houghton Lake WRA–Nellsville Rd Boardwalk MI 23-Jun-12
193 Greater Roadrunner Jawbone Canyon Rd. CA 25-Jul-12
194 Barn Owl Marymoor Park WA 31-Dec-12
195 Eastern Screech-Owl Fresh Pond MA 7-Dec-12
196 Snowy Owl 90th Ave S & 14th St MN 17-Jun-12
197 Northern Pygmy-Owl White Pass — Bethel Ridge Road WA 6-Jul-12
198 Burrowing Owl Salton Sea NWR–Unit 2 / Visitor Center CA 25-Jul-12
199 Spotted Owl Miller Canyon–Beatty’s Guest Ranch AZ 29-Jul-12
200 Barred Owl Boston Public Garden MA 7-Dec-12
201 Short-eared Owl Samish Flats–West 90 WA 9-Nov-12
202 Lesser Nighthawk Continental AZ 27-Jul-12
203 Common Nighthawk Savage MN 18-Jun-12
204 Common Poorwill Madera Canyon–upper canyon AZ 27-Jul-12
205 Eastern Whip-poor-will Stephan Bridge Rd. and N. Down River Rd. MI 22-Jun-12
206 Black Swift Four Seasons Ranch Beach (Private) WA 10-Aug-12
207 Chimney Swift Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12
208 Vaux’s Swift Four Seasons Ranch Beach (Private) WA 10-Aug-12
209 White-throated Swift Ramsey Canyon Preserve AZ 29-Jul-12
210 Magnificent Hummingbird Madera Canyon–upper canyon AZ 28-Jul-12
211 Blue-throated Hummingbird Miller Canyon–Beatty’s Guest Ranch AZ 29-Jul-12
212 Ruby-throated Hummingbird Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve (Scott Co.) MN 18-Jun-12
213 Black-chinned Hummingbird Kern River Preserve CA 24-Jul-12
214 Anna’s Hummingbird Arroyo Verde Park CA 20-Jul-12
215 Costa’s Hummingbird Miller Canyon–Beatty’s Guest Ranch AZ 29-Jul-12
216 Broad-tailed Hummingbird Miller Canyon–Beatty’s Guest Ranch AZ 29-Jul-12
217 Rufous Hummingbird Juanita Bay Park WA 7-Jul-12
218 Allen’s Hummingbird Arroyo Verde Park CA 22-Jul-12
219 Calliope Hummingbird Roger Lake WA 16-Aug-12
220 Broad-billed Hummingbird Agua Caliente Park AZ 26-Jul-12
221 Violet-crowned Hummingbird Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve AZ 28-Jul-12
222 White-eared Hummingbird Miller Canyon–Beatty’s Guest Ranch AZ 29-Jul-12
223 Elegant Trogon Madera Canyon–upper canyon AZ 28-Jul-12
224 Belted Kingfisher Felton Prairie MN 18-Jun-12
225 Lewis’s Woodpecker Umtanum Road WA 28-Jun-12
226 Red-headed Woodpecker Dorothy–Municipal Park NJ 12-Sep-12
227 Acorn Woodpecker Salt Lake Park CA 20-Jul-12
228 Gila Woodpecker Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve AZ 28-Jul-12
229 Red-bellied Woodpecker Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve–Forest trails (Scott Co.) MN 19-Jun-12
230 Williamson’s Sapsucker White Pass — Bethel Ridge Road WA 6-Jul-12
231 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve (Scott Co.) MN 18-Jun-12
232 Red-naped Sapsucker Umtanum Road WA 28-Jun-12
233 Red-breasted Sapsucker Pine Mountain Ridge Rd. CA 23-Jul-12
234 Ladder-backed Woodpecker Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve AZ 28-Jul-12
235 Downy Woodpecker Falls Creek SNA MN 13-Jun-12
236 Hairy Woodpecker Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve (Scott Co.) MN 18-Jun-12
237 Arizona Woodpecker Madera Canyon–upper canyon AZ 27-Jul-12
238 White-headed Woodpecker White Pass — Bethel Ridge Road WA 6-Jul-12
239 American Three-toed Woodpecker Salmon Meadows CG WA 17-Aug-12
240 Black-backed Woodpecker White Pass — Bethel Ridge Road WA 6-Jul-12
241 Northern Flicker Lima Mtn Rd–The Triangle MN 15-Jun-12
242 Pileated Woodpecker Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12
243 American Kestrel Umtanum Road WA 28-Jun-12
244 Merlin Edwin B. Forsythe NWR NJ 12-Sep-12
245 Peregrine Falcon Ediz Hook WA 11-Aug-12
246 Prairie Falcon Mount Rainier NP–Mount Fremont Trail WA 7-Sep-12
247 Monk Parakeet Boothe Memorial Park CT 17-Sep-12
248 Olive-sided Flycatcher Lima Mtn Rd–The Triangle MN 14-Jun-12
249 Western Wood-Pewee Umtanum Road WA 28-Jun-12
250 Eastern Wood-Pewee Tettegouche SP MN 14-Jun-12
251 Yellow-bellied Flycatcher Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12
252 Acadian Flycatcher Falls Creek SNA MN 13-Jun-12
253 Alder Flycatcher Lima Mtn Rd–The Triangle MN 14-Jun-12
254 Willow Flycatcher Capitol Forest WA 11-Jul-12
255 Least Flycatcher Lima Mtn Rd–The Triangle MN 15-Jun-12
256 Hammond’s Flycatcher Whiskey Bend/Geyser Valley, ONP WA 1-Jul-12
257 Pacific-slope Flycatcher Whiskey Bend/Geyser Valley, ONP WA 1-Jul-12
258 Cordilleran Flycatcher Madera Canyon–upper canyon AZ 27-Jul-12
259 Black Phoebe Arnold Rd. CA 22-Jul-12
260 Eastern Phoebe Falls Creek SNA MN 13-Jun-12
261 Say’s Phoebe Umtanum Road WA 28-Jun-12
262 Vermilion Flycatcher Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve AZ 28-Jul-12
263 Dusky-capped Flycatcher Madera Canyon–upper canyon AZ 27-Jul-12
264 Ash-throated Flycatcher Jawbone Canyon Rd. CA 25-Jul-12
265 Great Crested Flycatcher Falls Creek SNA MN 13-Jun-12
266 Brown-crested Flycatcher Agua Caliente Park AZ 26-Jul-12
267 Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher Madera Canyon–Santa Cruz Co. AZ 27-Jul-12
268 Tropical Kingbird Rio Rico Pond AZ 28-Jul-12
269 Cassin’s Kingbird Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve AZ 29-Jul-12
270 Thick-billed Kingbird Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve AZ 29-Jul-12
271 Eastern Kingbird Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12
272 Loggerhead Shrike Jawbone Canyon Rd. CA 25-Jul-12
273 Northern Shrike Gog-Le-Hi-Te Mitigated Wetlands WA 18-Oct-12
274 White-eyed Vireo Cape Island–Higbees Beach SWA NJ 12-Sep-12
275 Bell’s Vireo Montosa Canyon AZ 27-Jul-12
276 Yellow-throated Vireo Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve (Scott Co.) MN 18-Jun-12
277 Plumbeous Vireo Madera Canyon–upper canyon AZ 27-Jul-12
278 Blue-headed Vireo Lima Mtn Rd–The Triangle MN 14-Jun-12
279 Hutton’s Vireo Madera Canyon–upper canyon AZ 28-Jul-12
280 Warbling Vireo Whiskey Bend/Geyser Valley, ONP WA 1-Jul-12
281 Philadelphia Vireo Cape Island–Higbees Beach SWA NJ 12-Sep-12
282 Red-eyed Vireo Tettegouche SP MN 14-Jun-12
283 Gray Jay Lima Mtn Rd–The Triangle MN 15-Jun-12
284 Steller’s Jay Whiskey Bend/Geyser Valley, ONP WA 1-Jul-12
285 Blue Jay Lima Mtn Rd–The Triangle MN 15-Jun-12
286 Western Scrub-Jay Arroyo Verde Park CA 20-Jul-12
287 Mexican Jay Madera Canyon–upper canyon AZ 28-Jul-12
288 Black-billed Magpie Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12
289 Clark’s Nutcracker White Pass — Bethel Ridge Road WA 6-Jul-12
290 American Crow Lima Mtn Rd–The Triangle MN 15-Jun-12
291 Northwestern Crow Four Seasons Ranch Beach (Private) WA 30-Jun-12
292 Fish Crow Cape Island–Higbees Beach SWA NJ 11-Sep-12
293 Common Raven Tettegouche SP MN 14-Jun-12
294 Horned Lark Felton Prairie–170th St N, 3.0 mi N of 90th Ave N (CR 26) MN 17-Jun-12
295 Northern Rough-winged Swallow Interstate SP–Visitor Center MN 19-Jun-12
296 Purple Martin Rice Lake NWR MN 16-Jun-12
297 Tree Swallow Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12
298 Violet-green Swallow Four Seasons Ranch Beach (Private) WA 30-Jun-12
299 Bank Swallow Bluestem Prairie SNA MN 18-Jun-12
300 Barn Swallow Rice Lake NWR MN 16-Jun-12
301 Cliff Swallow Rice Lake NWR MN 16-Jun-12
302 Carolina Chickadee Cape Island–Higbees Beach SWA NJ 11-Sep-12
303 Black-capped Chickadee Falls Creek SNA MN 13-Jun-12
304 Mountain Chickadee White Pass — Bethel Ridge Road WA 6-Jul-12
305 Chestnut-backed Chickadee Whiskey Bend/Geyser Valley, ONP WA 1-Jul-12
306 Boreal Chickadee Lima Mtn Rd–The Triangle MN 15-Jun-12
307 Bridled Titmouse Madera Canyon–Santa Cruz Co. AZ 27-Jul-12
308 Oak Titmouse Canebrake Ecological Reserve CA 24-Jul-12
309 Tufted Titmouse Cape Island–Higbees Beach SWA NJ 12-Sep-12
310 Verdin Redington Rd MP 4.5 AZ 26-Jul-12
311 Bushtit Juanita Bay Park WA 7-Jul-12
312 Red-breasted Nuthatch Tettegouche SP MN 14-Jun-12
313 White-breasted Nuthatch Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve (Scott Co.) MN 18-Jun-12
314 Pygmy Nuthatch Pine Mountain Ridge Rd. CA 23-Jul-12
315 Brown-headed Nuthatch Cape Henlopen SP–Nature Center area DE 13-Sep-12
316 Brown Creeper Rainy Pass (Chelan Co.) WA 16-Aug-12
317 Rock Wren Moses Coulee WA 18-Aug-12
318 Canyon Wren Pine Mountain Ridge Rd. CA 23-Jul-12
319 House Wren Umtanum Road WA 28-Jun-12
320 Pacific Wren Whiskey Bend/Geyser Valley, ONP WA 1-Jul-12
321 Winter Wren Lima Mtn Rd–The Triangle MN 14-Jun-12
322 Sedge Wren Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12
323 Marsh Wren Jakes Landing NJ 13-Sep-12
324 Bewick’s Wren Pine Mountain Ridge Rd. CA 23-Jul-12
325 Carolina Wren Cape Island–Higbees Beach SWA NJ 12-Sep-12
326 Cactus Wren Chimney Peak Byway (KER Co.) CA 24-Jul-12
327 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve–Forest trails (Scott Co.) MN 19-Jun-12
328 California Gnatcatcher Ocean Trails CA 20-Jul-12
329 Black-tailed Gnatcatcher Redington Rd MP 4.5 AZ 26-Jul-12
330 American Dipper Stampede Pass Exit (I-90) WA 28-Jun-12
331 Golden-crowned Kinglet Lima Mtn Rd–The Triangle MN 15-Jun-12
332 Ruby-crowned Kinglet Lima Mtn Rd–The Triangle MN 15-Jun-12
333 Wrentit Arroyo Verde Park CA 20-Jul-12
334 Eastern Bluebird Grand Marais MN 14-Jun-12
335 Western Bluebird Umtanum Road WA 28-Jun-12
336 Mountain Bluebird Umtanum Road WA 28-Jun-12
337 Townsend’s Solitaire White Pass — Bethel Ridge Road WA 6-Jul-12
338 Veery Tettegouche SP MN 14-Jun-12
339 Swainson’s Thrush Lima Mtn Rd–The Triangle MN 15-Jun-12
340 Hermit Thrush Tettegouche SP MN 14-Jun-12
341 Wood Thrush Falls Creek SNA MN 13-Jun-12
342 American Robin Lima Mtn Rd–The Triangle MN 14-Jun-12
343 Varied Thrush Capitol Forest WA 11-Jul-12
344 Gray Catbird Falls Creek SNA MN 13-Jun-12
345 Northern Mockingbird Salt Lake Park CA 20-Jul-12
346 Sage Thrasher Moses Coulee WA 18-Aug-12
347 Brown Thrasher Rice Lake NWR MN 16-Jun-12
348 California Thrasher Camarillo Community Park CA 22-Jul-12
349 European Starling Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12
350 American Pipit Olympic NP–Hurricane Ridge WA 15-Jul-12
351 Cedar Waxwing Falls Creek SNA MN 13-Jun-12
352 Phainopepla Lake Isabella–Tillie Creek Campground CA 24-Jul-12
353 Chestnut-collared Longspur Felton Prairie–170th St N, 3.0 mi N of 90th Ave N (CR 26) MN 17-Jun-12
354 Snow Bunting Neah Bay WA 4-Nov-12
355 Ovenbird Falls Creek SNA MN 13-Jun-12
356 Worm-eating Warbler Cape Island–Higbees Beach SWA NJ 12-Sep-12
357 Louisiana Waterthrush Falls Creek SNA MN 19-Jun-12
358 Northern Waterthrush Hartwick Pines SP–Au Sable River Trail MI 22-Jun-12
359 Blue-winged Warbler Falls Creek SNA MN 13-Jun-12
360 Golden-winged Warbler Rice Lake NWR MN 16-Jun-12
361 Black-and-white Warbler Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12
362 Orange-crowned Warbler Pine Mountain Ridge Rd. CA 23-Jul-12
363 Nashville Warbler Tettegouche SP MN 14-Jun-12
364 Connecticut Warbler Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12
365 MacGillivray’s Warbler Whiskey Bend/Geyser Valley, ONP WA 1-Jul-12
366 Mourning Warbler Tettegouche SP MN 14-Jun-12
367 Common Yellowthroat Falls Creek SNA MN 13-Jun-12
368 Hooded Warbler Cape Island–Higbees Beach SWA NJ 11-Sep-12
369 American Redstart Tettegouche SP MN 14-Jun-12
370 Kirtland’s Warbler 4 Mile Rd. and Stephan Bridge Rd. MI 21-Jun-12
371 Cape May Warbler Tettegouche SP MN 14-Jun-12
372 Cerulean Warbler Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve–Forest trails (Scott Co.) MN 19-Jun-12
373 Northern Parula Tettegouche SP MN 14-Jun-12
374 Magnolia Warbler Tettegouche SP MN 14-Jun-12
375 Blackburnian Warbler Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12
376 Yellow Warbler Falls Creek SNA MN 13-Jun-12
377 Chestnut-sided Warbler Tettegouche SP MN 14-Jun-12
378 Blackpoll Warbler Cape Island–Higbees Beach SWA NJ 11-Sep-12
379 Black-throated Blue Warbler Tettegouche SP MN 14-Jun-12
380 Palm Warbler Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12
381 Pine Warbler Hartwick Pines SP–Au Sable River Trail MI 22-Jun-12
382 Yellow-rumped Warbler Lima Mtn Rd–The Triangle MN 14-Jun-12
383 Prairie Warbler Cape Island–Higbees Beach SWA NJ 13-Sep-12
384 Grace’s Warbler Madera Canyon–upper canyon AZ 28-Jul-12
385 Black-throated Gray Warbler Capitol Forest WA 11-Jul-12
386 Townsend’s Warbler Whiskey Bend/Geyser Valley, ONP WA 1-Jul-12
387 Hermit Warbler Capitol Forest WA 11-Jul-12
388 Black-throated Green Warbler Tettegouche SP MN 14-Jun-12
389 Canada Warbler Tettegouche SP MN 14-Jun-12
390 Wilson’s Warbler Capitol Forest WA 11-Jul-12
391 Painted Redstart Madera Canyon–Santa Cruz Co. AZ 27-Jul-12
392 Yellow-breasted Chat Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve AZ 28-Jul-12
393 Spotted Towhee Umtanum Road WA 28-Jun-12
394 Eastern Towhee Crex Meadows SWA WI 20-Jun-12
395 Rufous-crowned Sparrow Patagonia Roadside Rest Area AZ 28-Jul-12
396 California Towhee Arroyo Verde Park CA 20-Jul-12
397 Rufous-winged Sparrow Madera Canyon–grasslands below Proctor Rd AZ 28-Jul-12
398 Botteri’s Sparrow Madera Canyon–Santa Cruz Co. AZ 27-Jul-12
399 Cassin’s Sparrow San Pedro RNCA–San Pedro House AZ 30-Jul-12
400 American Tree Sparrow Salisbury Beach State Reservation MA 30-Nov-12
401 Chipping Sparrow Falls Creek SNA MN 13-Jun-12
402 Clay-colored Sparrow Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12
403 Brewer’s Sparrow Umtanum Road WA 28-Jun-12
404 Field Sparrow Falls Creek SNA MN 13-Jun-12
405 Vesper Sparrow Felton Prairie MN 18-Jun-12
406 Lark Sparrow Canebrake Ecological Reserve CA 24-Jul-12
407 Black-throated Sparrow Redington Rd MP 4.5 AZ 26-Jul-12
408 Sage Sparrow Moses Coulee WA 18-Aug-12
409 Savannah Sparrow Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12
410 Grasshopper Sparrow Felton Prairie–170th St N, 3.0 mi N of 90th Ave N (CR 26) MN 17-Jun-12
411 Henslow’s Sparrow Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve (Scott Co.) MN 18-Jun-12
412 Le Conte’s Sparrow Rice Lake NWR MN 16-Jun-12
413 Saltmarsh Sparrow Edwin B. Forsythe NWR NJ 12-Sep-12
414 Seaside Sparrow Jakes Landing NJ 13-Sep-12
415 Fox Sparrow Nisqually NWR WA 25-Oct-12
416 Song Sparrow Falls Creek SNA MN 13-Jun-12
417 Lincoln’s Sparrow Chase Bridge Rd MI 22-Jun-12
418 Swamp Sparrow Tettegouche SP MN 14-Jun-12
419 White-throated Sparrow Tettegouche SP MN 14-Jun-12
420 White-crowned Sparrow Whiskey Bend/Geyser Valley, ONP WA 1-Jul-12
421 Golden-crowned Sparrow Mount Rainier NP–Mount Fremont Trail WA 7-Sep-12
422 Dark-eyed Junco 4 Mile Rd. and Stephan Bridge Rd. MI 21-Jun-12
423 Hepatic Tanager Madera Canyon–upper canyon AZ 28-Jul-12
424 Summer Tanager Patagonia Roadside Rest Area AZ 28-Jul-12
425 Scarlet Tanager Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve (Scott Co.) MN 18-Jun-12
426 Western Tanager Umtanum Road WA 28-Jun-12
427 Northern Cardinal Falls Creek SNA MN 13-Jun-12
428 Rose-breasted Grosbeak Falls Creek SNA MN 13-Jun-12
429 Black-headed Grosbeak Umtanum Road WA 28-Jun-12
430 Blue Grosbeak Montosa Canyon AZ 27-Jul-12
431 Lazuli Bunting Umtanum Road WA 28-Jun-12
432 Indigo Bunting Cape Island–Higbees Beach SWA NJ 12-Sep-12
433 Varied Bunting Montosa Canyon AZ 27-Jul-12
434 Dickcissel Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12
435 Bobolink Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12
436 Red-winged Blackbird Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12
437 Tricolored Blackbird Kern River Preserve CA 24-Jul-12
438 Western Meadowlark Felton Prairie–170th St N, 3.0 mi N of 90th Ave N (CR 26) MN 17-Jun-12
439 Yellow-headed Blackbird Rice Lake NWR MN 16-Jun-12
440 Brewer’s Blackbird Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12
441 Common Grackle Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12
442 Boat-tailed Grackle Prime Hook NWR DE 14-Sep-12
443 Great-tailed Grackle Santa Clara River Estuary CA 22-Jul-12
444 Brown-headed Cowbird Rice Lake NWR MN 17-Jun-12
445 Hooded Oriole Arroyo Verde Park CA 20-Jul-12
446 Bullock’s Oriole Umtanum Road WA 28-Jun-12
447 Baltimore Oriole Cape Island–Higbees Beach SWA NJ 11-Sep-12
448 Pine Grosbeak Salmon Meadows CG WA 17-Aug-12
449 Purple Finch Lima Mtn Rd–The Triangle MN 14-Jun-12
450 Cassin’s Finch Umtanum Road WA 28-Jun-12
451 House Finch Railroad Bridge Park WA 15-Jul-12
452 Red Crossbill Salisbury Beach State Reservation MA 30-Nov-12
453 White-winged Crossbill Salisbury Beach State Reservation MA 30-Nov-12
454 Common Redpoll Parker River NWR MA 30-Nov-12
455 Pine Siskin Railroad Bridge Park WA 15-Jul-12
456 Lesser Goldfinch Arroyo Verde Park CA 20-Jul-12
457 Lawrence’s Goldfinch Kern River Preserve CA 24-Jul-12
458 American Goldfinch Falls Creek SNA MN 13-Jun-12
459 Evening Grosbeak Hartwick Pines SP–Au Sable River Trail MI 22-Jun-12
460 House Sparrow Sax-Zim Bog MN 16-Jun-12

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Northeastern Wrap Up

I’ve been back from the Northeast for over a week now, but I haven’t posted my customary wrap up.  So here it is!

This was my fourth major out-of-state trip for the year, and it was a good one.  I was a little worried that this trip might be less productive than the others, but that certainly was not the case.  I dodged major snow and ice storms (not to mention Hurricane Sandy), and had some good luck tracking down unusual birds like this young Iceland Gull found at Plymouth, MA:

Iceland Gull

While Iceland Gull was definitely a good find, it has nothing on three super rarities I saw: Northern Lapwing, Little Egret, and Barnacle Goose.  The American Birding Association (yes, there is such an organization) lists each of these species as Code 4 – literally rarer than Rare (which is Code 3).  You can check out the coding system here, and see the complete ABA checklist (at least last year’s version) here.

Here are some stats from my trip:

Miles by car: 2156

Miles by foot: 30 (approx)

Total species seen: 88

New Year Birds added: 20

Total number of individual birds seen (according to my eBird summary): 4200+ (approx)

Times honked at by NYC drivers: 6

Times honked at by Canada Geese: 589

Cool new ideas I got from my school visits: 18

Crazy signs: 4 (but I only got a picture of one of them)

Thickly settled sign

Ok, maybe if you’re from the Northeast this sign seems perfectly reasonable.  But I busted out laughing the first time I saw one.  Thickly settled?  Jello or chocolate pudding might be thickly settled, or maybe pioneers in a popular valley out on the frontier.  But can a suburban neighborhood be thickly settled?  I’m skeptical.

While I was gone, I did receive some wonderful photos of the Rock Sandpiper I saw on Ediz Hook (WA) from Dow Lambert.  I met Dow at Ediz Hook, and he managed to snap some great pics of the sandpiper like this one:

Rock Sandpiper (c) Dow Lambert

Thanks for emailing me these pictures, Dow!  If you like amazing photos of interesting Washington state birds, you should really check out his website at http://www.mastdog.com/DowMar/Birding/

That’s all for now!  I’m home through the end of the year, and then I’m off for another combined trip to California and Arizona in January, and then to Texas in February.

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Two Excellent Schools, Worlds Apart – Part II

A couple days after my visit to Groton, I found myself weaving through the crazy NYC commute on my way to the Bronx High School of Science.

Bronx Science

Bronx Science is a science and math magnet school that is part of the New York City public school system.  Eighth graders in NYC can take a specialized entrance exam for one of the city’s eight elite magnet schools.  Gaining admission to Bronx Science is tough – only 5% of the students taking the test earn a spot.  Despite taking only a sliver of the total applicant pool, Bronx Science is crowded.  At over 3000 students, it is almost ten times the size of Groton, and is housed in a single building in the north Bronx.

I was met at the entrance by a beautiful Venetian glass mosaic, a peaceful 9/11 Memorial Garden, and two armed police officers staffing the main security substation who checked my ID and verified that I was expected.

The mosaic shows famous figures from science, from Archimedes to Galileo to Marie Curie.  Above them loom what looked to me like the gods of physics, chemistry, and biology.

Mosaic

The quotation below it reads, “Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.”

The 9/11 Garden remembers Bronx Science graduates who died in the September 11th attacks.

9/11 Garden

Also in the lobby area I saw a poster celebrating a Bronx Science grad who recently won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.  Eight alumni from this school have won a Nobel Prize in science (the other seven in Physics).  Not bad when your high school has more Nobel’s than Australia….

Nobel Prize Poster

After I was finally cleared to go upstairs, I was escorted to the Chemistry Department.  Yes, Chemistry has its very own department here (along with its own assistant principal) – and with 13 full-time chemistry teachers, a full-fledged Chemistry Department does not seem excessive.  It was here in one of the chemistry offices that I met Lauren, a young teaching dynamo with whom I spent the rest of the day trying to keep up.

Despite being obviously very busy, Lauren took a generous amount of time to tell me about the school and the science program.  Chemistry is a required course at Bronx Science (along with Biology and Physics).  And every chemistry student is required to pass the New York State Regents Exam at the end of the course, a standardized test measuring his or her understanding of topics covered in the class.  Students who don’t pass the test don’t pass the class and must repeat it.

Of course Regents Chemistry (or Honors Regents Chemistry) is just the beginning for most students at Bronx Science.  They typically take the introductory course as 9th or 10th graders.  In their later years, students can move on to Advanced Placement (AP) Chem and then optionally Organic Chemistry and/or Analytical Chemistry.  These upper level classes cover much of the material found in a normal college freshman and college sophomore chemistry program.  I was fortunate enough to be able to sit in on a number of these classes to see what they are like.  The classes I watched tended to be fairly traditional in style, with teachers lecturing from the blackboard and students sitting in rows. But there was quite a bit of back-and-forth Q&A, and the students were engaged in every class.  There was also time for students to consult with each other in pairs and discuss the concept, a nice way to add student interactivity in classes that usually had student enrollments in the mid-30s.  The classes were well organized, quickly paced, and finely structured, with no wasted time.

I was impressed with how robust the laboratory program was, despite the space and budget limitations that were in place.  Many chemistry classes at Bronx Science do lab once a week or more, thanks in part to the generous contact time allocated to science classes.  While a standard period is only 40 minutes, most Chemistry classes meet between 7 and 10 times a week!  So the AP Chem class, for example, meets every day Monday through Friday for 80 minutes.  And while the lab spaces are crowded, most students seem to work very well in this environment.

Gen Chem Lab

Larger classes mean that students work with less individual oversight from the teacher.  While this could be viewed as a negative, in fact it seems to have taught these students to be independent and self-reliant.  They worked with confidence and efficiency, and when they got stuck they first tried to get themselves unstuck rather than run to the teacher at the first sign of trouble.  Occasionally, they would seek help from a classmate when they were uncertain or confused about something.  Rather than merely provide the answer, most of their peers gave the same kind of response that their teacher might:

“What do YOU think you should do about it?”

“Well, think about it – will your endpoint be acidic or basic?”

“Read your handout, dumb-butt.”

Well, almost the same kind of response.

The bell eventually rang, and I eased my way out into the crushing mass of teens all struggling to squeeze their way past the throngs to their next class.  I snapped a few photos along the way which give clues to some of the extensive independent research that students here engage in:

Student Research

Construction of Crystalline Metal Organic Frameworks as a Potential Hydrogen Fuel Cell Storage Matrix?  As a high schooler?  Wow.

And this:

Reactions Journal

Yes, they have a student-written and edited Physical Sciences Journal.  Double wow.

I found Analytical Chemistry – like all rooms and all offices, the lab was locked until Lauren arrived with the key.  Watching her Analytical Chemistry lab was a treat.  Seventeen teams of two students crammed into the advanced chem laboratory, and were immediately at work.

Advanced Chem Lab

Those little glass enclosures are how you can provide hood space (to vent toxic or smelly gases) for 34 kids simultaneously.  Lauren’s students are engaged in a week-long project to see which commercial antacid neutralizes the most stomach acid for the least amount of money.

Antacids

These students were all upperclassmen, and took this lab very seriously.  They aimed for extreme precision and accuracy, using primary standards and volumetric equipment to carefully calibrate their acid and base titrants.  Lauren has built an impressive curriculum for this class from scratch, based partly on her own lab experience as an undergrad.  I am planning on stealing several of her awesome-sounding labs (she generously offered to send me handouts of anything).  My favorites included: Concentration of Dye in Gatorade, Determination of Calcium by Titration with a Chelating Ligand, Amount of Phosphoric Acid in Cola, and Investigation of Buffers in Lemonade.  I love the demanding, sophisticated nature of these labs coupled with their investigation of common, everyday items like antacids, Gatorade, calcium supplements, lemonade, and Coke.

When their investigation is complete, each student will write an elaborate and professional lab report.  Lauren pulled one out for me to look at from last week’s lab.  It was nearly 10 pages, and from scanning through it I believe it would have earned a favorable grade from my college lab TA at Yale.

I handed the report back to Lauren and asked how she handled the workload.  With classes of 30-40 students, courses that meet 7-10 times a week, lab reports that approach the length of feature articles in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, and a daily NYC commute from hell, this seemed a lot to put on the shoulders of someone still her 20s.  Oh, and I forgot to mention that she is one of the lead teachers for the intro chem classes, and is helping to mentor the seven new chemistry teachers (most of whom are new to teaching).  She just smiled.  “It can be hard sometimes.”  This is obviously someone who loves her job.

I should mention at this point that despite some very different challenges, the teachers at Groton are no less busy or less dedicated.  While they enjoy small classes, a small department (i.e. two total teachers) means that the Groton chemistry teachers often each teach three different courses: intro, AP, and a STEM course that meets for double periods.  And when the Bronx Science teachers are shoveling their lab reports into their briefcases for the drive or ride home, Groton teachers are off to sports practice (coaching is part of the expectation there).  Then they might supervise a club, attend an evening school event, and then spend the next several hours on dorm duty.  They live on campus, eat every meal with the students, and are available literally 24-7.

So my hat is off to all of the very talented and dedicated teachers I met last week.  I again came away from my visits impressed and inspired.

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Two Excellent Schools, Worlds Apart – Part I

As part of my recent trip to the Northeast, I visited two secondary schools: the Groton School and the Bronx High School of Science.  At first glance it’s hard to imagine two schools that are more different.  Groton is a small, private, Episcopal boarding school nestled among 385 acres in rural Massachusetts.  Tuition, room & board run nearly $52,000.  Classes are small, usually 12 to 16 students, with an entire grade consisting of only 80 students.  Bronx Science in contrast has almost 800 students per grade crammed into a single building on West 205th St in the Bronx.  It is a public, secular, day school offering free tuition.  The classes I observed ranged from about 32 to 40 students.

Despite their eye-popping surface differences, both of these schools are filled with inspiring teachers whose tireless and imaginative classes offer students world-class educational opportunities.   I am grateful to both schools for allowing me to visit, and for sharing ideas and inspirations that I will take back to my own teaching next year.

My visit to Groton began with an hour’s drive northwest of Boston into the rolling Massachusetts countryside.  The campus is beautiful, even on a gray and dreary early December morning.

Groton

Most school days start with a short Episcopal Chapel service.  I was impressed with the students’ behavior in the Chapel.  By 7:59, every student was seated and settled.  Not a single person entered late, and there were no signs of cell phones or other distractions.  I have never been surrounded by hundreds of teenagers in such deep and absolute silence.  They listened attentively to the adults and fellow students who spoke.  One of their classmates gave a thoughtful reflection on privilege and perspective, showing a keen awareness that life in the Groton bubble is not necessarily representative of the “real world.”

Chapel

After Chapel, students filed out to their first class.  I watched a number of classes, including some chemistry classes taught by Sandra.  I was impressed by her really intentional use of technology.  She showed YouTube clips of Young’s classic double slit experiment demonstrating quantum interference, and PhET simulations showing the interaction of light and matter.  Sandra had selected videos and simulations that showed complex interactions that are hard to explain verbally “at the blackboard.”  She paused the simulations, probed students’ understanding, and asked them to predict what would happen when she changed the parameters.  At the end of class, she mentioned that all of the links for the videos and simulations were on the course website so that students could review them on their own at a later time.  I was struck by how effective and interactive this use of technology was.  Instead of reducing or replacing in-person interaction, Sandra’s use of technology actually augmented her in-person interaction with the students.

An interesting aspect of Groton’s science program is the introduction of an alternative STEM track for 9th and 10th graders.  The STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math) classes are combined science and math classes, each meeting for double the time of a normal class and with two teachers (one science, one math).  The STEM courses provide an interdisciplinary approach, combining science and math education often through the lens of technology and engineering.  The classes make significant use of manipulatives, from store-bought pre-assembled models to student-built commercial geometric forms to homemade structures comprised of cardboard, tape, construction paper, gumdrops, toothpicks, straws, and Styrofoam.

Manipulatives

Manipulatives

During one class I observed, the students were exploring energy efficiency in the design and construction of different sized and shaped houses.  They had to use their knowledge of geometry, algebra, and science to design and build a model house.

Energy Efficiency Assignment

Then they would test the houses to see which one could be heated most efficiently by using a light bulb and thermometer.

Lighted house

Then they had to draw some conclusions about what parameters of the house mattered most in an energy-efficient design – surface area? volume? some ratio of different measurements?

Two sections of this STEM class were running simultaneously in adjacent rooms (separated by large glass windows), and for a while they combined the classes into one larger class while the students were working.  This allowed an amazing ratio of students to instructors: 22 students in a room with one physics teacher, one bio teacher, and two math teachers.

STEM classrooms

Another STEM class I watched had students designing towers out of straws, paper, and tape.  This was an exercise in optimization.  Each material had a certain cost.  The tower had to be a certain height and support a given weight of marbles.  And the students only had a limited amount of time to build their tower.  Again, engineering provided a framework for applying the science and mathematical lessons they had learned.

Tower

Tower supports

Even more “traditional” classes featured visuals and manipulatives.  A chemistry lesson on naming ionic compounds and writing formulas was enhanced through the introduction of magnetic cut-outs of different ions.  Positively charged cations had a notch cut into them to show they were missing an electron, while negatively charged anions had a corresponding wedge showing an extra electron.  They fix together neatly showing a balanced ionic compound.  Cations and anions with charges bigger than one had multiple notches or wedges, showing visually how and why ions must combine with each other in certain ratios.

Ions

The students at Groton are clearly getting a really strong science education.  I wondered how their experience would compared to the students at Bronx Science, who I would be visiting just two days later.

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Owling in Boston Common

On my way back to Logan airport in Boston I made a few final stops on my trip.  I had read that a couple of owls were seen in day roosts, and I decided to check it out.

Finding owls often involves prowling around in the middle of the night, listening for hooting and shining your dim flashlight up in the trees.  The owls are active, and often hard to spot.  Some people use tapes or recordings of the owl’s call to draw it in closer, which can potentially disturb the owl – especially if it happens frequently or during a sensitive time such as nesting season.

Finding owls at their day time roosts can be quite challenging, but if you do get a good lead it is the easiest way to see owls.  The light makes the owl much easier to observe, and it is usually sleeping so you aren’t as likely to be bothering it as long as you stay quiet and don’t get too close.

At Fresh Ponds in Cambridge, I located this mostly-asleep Eastern Screech-owl:

Eastern Screech-owl

It was roosting in a hollow tree near the lake.  Eastern Screech-owls come in different color morphs – this one appears to be a red morph.

Then it was on to Boston Public Garden, immediately adjacent to Boston Common near downtown.  This Barred Owl was doing its best to ignore the scolding chickadees that were quite upset that this interloper had invaded their usual willow tree.

Barred Owl

Barred Owls aren’t usually seen inside Boston, but there is an irruption this winter – probably hungry owls moving south in search of food.

Time now to pack up my scope and head to the airport!  It was a good trip.

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Wild Goose Chase in New York City

When I sat down to make my list of “must see” places to go nature-watching during my Big Year, a few spots sprang quickly to the top of my list: Florida’s Everglades National Park, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, the Capitol State Forest south of Olympia, the Bronx, and Coronado National Forest in Arizona.  Ok, I’m just kidding about the Bronx.  If you would have told me last month that I would be making a special trip to the Bronx to go birding, I would have laughed hysterically and then told you that it wasn’t bloody likely.  The funny thing about really unlikely things is that occasionally they happen anyway despite their long odds.

Thus I found myself in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx (not far from Yonkers) a few days ago with my spotting scope and binoculars.  I always giggle whenever I say “Yonkers,” but I don’t quite know why.  Ironically I was already planning on spending a day in the Bronx, at the famous Bronx High School of Science (less than a mile from Van Cortlandt Park!), but my school visit would last all day and leave me no time for a wild goose chase.

The goose in question is a Barnacle Goose.  Like Lapwings and Little Egrets, Barnacle Geese normally occur in Eurasia.  Perhaps, like the Lapwing, this goose was blown in by Superstorm Sandy.  Or maybe she was trying to take the A train down to 49th St to visit her Aunt Maude, and missed the entrance to the subway.  In any event, the chase was on for this wild goose.  At least I hoped it was wild.  Barnacle Geese are occasionally kept in captivity: at zoos, animal parks, duck farms, etc.  In fact, the second largest duck farm in North America is on Long Island (you can find out if one-legged ducks swim in circles at their website – but I could not find any information about whether they also raise Barnacle Geese).  As I have mentioned previously, you can only tick the bird if it’s wild – domesticates, avian inmates, and escapees don’t count.

Walking through the park, I spied a couple hundred Canada Geese, Mallards, and Hooded Mergansers cruising the north end of the lake.  After sorting through them for a few minutes, I found my bird (who I refer to fondly as Barney).

Barnacle Goose

Barney is one spiffy looking goose, I have to say.  I checked for signs that Barney might have escaped from captivity: no leg bands were visible, and Barney’s wings were not clipped.  Barney also seemed fairly wary, and did not come waddling up to me to see if I had any cracked corn.  None of this proves that Barney flew in from Iceland and not from a Long Island duck farm, but the available evidence seems to favor a wild origin.

Barney swimming

There were a few other wild (and semi-wild) critters knocking around the park, several of whom did come up to see about that cracked corn.  Sorry, fella.

NYC Black Squirrel

On my way out of town and back to Boston, I stopped at Hammonasset Beach State Park in CT for a couple of hours.  There I picked up some fun birds, like this Brant:

Brant

Like almost all of the New England beaches, there were a healthy number of Great Black-backed Gulls, like this one:

Great Black-backed Gull

I also stopped at the jetty, and was able to pick out one Purple Sandpiper.

Hammonasset Jetty

Purple Sandpipers are the eastern cousin to the Rock Sandpipers, like the one I saw a few weeks ago at Ediz Hook.

Purple Sandpiper

Purple Sandpiper

Like the goose, this Purple Sandpiper is pretty spiffy for being primarily gray, white, and black.

I did visit several schools on this trip including Groton and Bronx Science, both of which were very interesting and gave me lots of food for thought.  I really appreciate the teachers and staff hosting me there, and I will post some reflections of my visits when I’ve had a little more time to process my experiences.

 

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Balmy Cape Cod

Balmy – “pleasantly warm” and also “foolish and eccentric”

Yes and yes.  Well, foolish and eccentric is a little harsh, but I found Cape Cod to be a bit quirky and eclectic, but in a mostly friendly and cheerful way.  Also, a warm front had pushed out the frigid arctic air that had been blasting me on Cape Ann, leaving sunshine and unseasonably warm temperatures.  Because Cape Cod is surrounded by water, it is blessed with a more moderate climate than rest of Massachusetts.  Still, highs in the mid-60s in the first week of December were really unusual, even for the Cape.  I made the most of the weather and the delightfully odd offerings of Cape Cod.

One of the first unusual things I found on the Cape was this little fella.

Little Egret

It looks like a Snowy Egret, which would be unusual on Cape Cod in December. But it is, in fact, a lot more unusual that that.  This bird is a Little Egret, the Snowy’s Eurasian cousin.  Little Egrets are extremely rare visitors to North America.  Someone located it in Hyannis Port, just a mile or two from the famous Kennedy compound, a few days before my arrival.

Many North American birds have “sister species” in the Old World – closely related genetic relatives that descended from a common ancestor in the relatively recent past.  Little Egrets look very similar to Snowy’s with a couple of subtle differences.  Little Egrets have slightly larger, thicker bills and their lores (the area between the eyes and bill) are gray instead of yellow.

I spent the day traveling up the Cape, by which I guess I mean “down” the Cape.  In the local parlance, the “upper cape” is the southern end (the “biceps” of the arm) while the “lower cape” is the northern end (the “fist”).  I have to admit that this seems totally backwards to me (c.f. Michigan’s southern Lower Peninsula and its northern Upper Peninsula!).  Those balmy Cape Codders.  Coddians?  Coddites?

Eventually I reached Provincetown, the small town on the northern (lower??) tip of Cape Cod.  This is a fishing village and tourist spot, and in the off season it felt quiet and peaceful.

Provincetown

Provincetown is actually the very first place that the Pilgrims landed in the New World.  They stayed in the area for several weeks, signing the Mayflower Compact there before traveling on to Plymouth.  The tall tower in the picture below is the Pilgrim Monument, commemorating their landing in Provincetown nearly 400 years ago.  At over 250 feet tall, it is the “tallest all-granite structure in the United States.”  Hmmmm.

Provincetown

I also located the tallest Christmas tree made entirely of lobster pots in New England:

Lobster Pot Christmas Tree

The lower Cape is a great place to go birding.  Razorbills, a relative of the auks and murres, are common here.  I saw several in the area, although they often stayed just a bit too far out for good pictures.

Razorbill in distance
Young Razorbill

I also saw some dolphins and a whale:

Dolphins

Cape Cod Whale

I made two visits to Race Point at the very tip of the Cape.  One in the afternoon when the skies were dark and threatening.  Hundreds of scoters and mergansers were racing the wind above calm seas that stretched nearly 270 degrees around me at the point.

Race Point

I returned the next morning at dawn to see Kittiwakes and Razorbills diving for their breakfast in the waves.

Dawn at Race Point

Dawn at Race Point

After several balmy days on Cape Cod, I felt like this Common Loon – ready for a nap!

Snoozing Loon

But there was no time to lounge around.  I had scheduled visits to several well-known schools, and was eager to spend some time with their teachers and students.

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