Friday, April 17, 2015

Piping Plovers

We headed out to the shoreline in Rhode Island for a class on piping plovers. We were so excited to learn more about these adorable shoreline birds.    

Reading Book:
Before leaving we had just enough time to sit together and read the book Piping Plover Summer; a story all about the migratory and mating patterns of the piping plover.  The pictures are beautiful chalk pastel illustrations and it's so well written.  The boys all enjoyed it and we learned a lot about the plovers.

We piled into the car for a nice long ride and enjoyed listening to our book The Red Pyramid (we managed to learn a lot about the story since we were in the car for well over 2 and a half hours by the end of the day).  The boys are now hooked on the story and we're all anxious to see what will happen next.  Evan has been going around casting Egyptian spells and the boys are talking about hieroglyphics.  I'm thinking we may need to re-visit Ancient Egypt and that I need to find some fun activities for them.  But for now we're content to listen and imagine.

Nature Class:
 We arrived at the nature center in time to look around a bit.  We enjoyed looking through all the art work of the local artists (of all ages) who had drawn and painted various duck species for display.

We settled in to listen to the rangers talk about piping plovers, their populations, their habitats, and habits. We sat through a slide show and learned what plovers look like; the various plover species in Rhode Island, their predators, and their nesting sites. 

Field Trip:
After 30 minutes or so we all piled into our cars and drove down to a local beach to look for some plovers.

Since piping plovers are on the threatened list their nesting sites are guarded and monitored very closely.  All the areas where plovers are known to nest are roped off and signs are posted to keep intruders out-- this included us.

The rangers had binoculars and passed them out to various children.  They also set up scopes on the beach looking into the area where the plovers should have been so that everyone could take turns using them; unfortunately the plovers weren't cooperating and we didn't see any.

We did see cormorants, ospreys, swans, and seagulls though.  After looking through the binoculars for a bit the boys wandered down the water to throw rocks and started collecting stones.  The beach is called Moonstone Beach and the boys loved looking at all the large, round, smooth stones.
Lots of information about piping plovers right on the beach 

Looking for plovers 

Alec tried out the scopes 

Still not seeing anything but rocks and sand 

Most of the group; we had a large turnout! 

Throwing rocks into the waves 

And finding rocks he wanted to take home 

Making towers and piles 
Following Up the Lesson:   
 They were all having so much fun and no one wanted to leave so my sister and I decided to just spend the day and have a picnic.

We went to get our blankets and food from the cars and by the time we returned we found our boys making their own piping plover replica nests.  

They showed the rangers as they were leaving and were complimented on their work.  Before long we had the entire beach to ourselves and we stayed all day long.

The boys worked very hard on their nests.  The younger ones took turns acting as the mama and papa plover or even the babies.  Occasionally they flopped around in the sand pretending to have a hurt wing; just like the adults will do to lure predators away from the nests!  

They lined the sides of the nests with rocks and shells and even added pebbles/ rock to the inside too. Evan and I did a little impromptu math when he calculated that it would take 13 shells to make the pattern around his nest.  As we collected shells, I encouraged him to figure out how many more we needed and reminded him of math facts that he knew that would help.  We probably only talked for a few moments but he must have figured out the answers to at least 4 or 5 math problems.  The younger boys wrote their names on some scraps they found on the beach to mark their nests.

Evan and Alec made mini plover nests 

Ian made a "human sized" nest and started lining the whole thing with rocks 

Evan added shells and mini pebbles to his nest.
The black piece of roofing material has his name
scratched into it too.  He wanted to leave it
behind for others to see and know who made it. 

All our plovers in the nest that Ian made with the help of
us all scrounging around for rocks 

Including Other Subjects in Our Day:
  We had fun watching the various boats on the water.  Ian was taken with the large container ships.  We thought they might be heading for Block Island, at first, since the boat seemed to be heading straight for it but then we noticed it crossing in front of the island.  We then talked about possible places it could be heading.  

We kept our eyes and ears open for all sorts of nature and wildlife discoveries.

We saw different seeds and plants near the dunes.

We watched what we believe was a sand flea jumping all around and burring itself in the sand.

Alec was excited to see a jumping spider.

A few of the boys were crazy enough to try playing near enough to the water that they got their feet wet.  They pretended the waves were acid and they had to run from them before they were burned.

We listened to the lull of the waves and felt the sand in our toes and fingers.

It was a glorious day.

We could not have asked for more perfect weather or company and I love watching our young scientists explore, question and discover.
Can you see the cormorant? 

Swans flying overhead 

Running from the waves 
One of the ships we saw; we thought it was an island at first! 

See the sand flea?

A seed pod that Alec found on the beach 

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