Monday, January 24, 2011

Autodidact Moment: What's That Bird?

After the snowstorm that dumped two feet of snow on us, my husband was helping the plow guy get his truck unstuck from our driveway. A bird flew to a small crab apple tree that self-sowed in my foundation garden from a nearby ornamental variety of crab apple about twenty feet away. It was eating withered fruit that was still on the branch.

The plow guy (who is also a farmer and outdoors a lot) said he'd never seen that bird, never in his life, and asked if my husband knew what it was. (Forgive me while I snicker as my husband cares nothing for the wild birds, often doesn't even see the ones right in front of us, and probably can only identify three varieties: cardinal (if red), chickadee and the pigeon.) My husband came to get me ("Hurry, hurry!"). I ran, (in my robe, having just gotten out of the shower) and I peeked out the front door and said I didn't know what it was, but ran back inside to grab my camera.

I noted the yellow, almost green belly as making it look different than most woodpeckers I've seen, but it looked like a woodpecker to me. The zoom lens wasn't on the camera so I got as close as I could from inside the house and I shot only these two images through the window before it was gone. (Double click on the image to enlarge. Apologies for the fogginess, it was shot through two layers of glass windows while sun streamed in.)

I intended to research the bird using Google (because it's so fast and easy compared to using a book), after I got dressed. However a minute later my son called up that he thought he figured it out. He'd taken the bird Audubon bird field guide off the shelf and said he thought it was the yellow-bellied sapsucker.

To confirm I read a couple of websites about that species, most helpful was this one. I note that typically the yellow belly is facing a tree trunk and hard to captue in a photo. By zooming in on my photo I could clearly see the red barring above and below the eye, indicating this was a male.  Our small sapling allowed a better view of the belly and my photo of the bird flying away gives another, rare view of the bird.

I then left a voice mail for the farmer to let him know the species (as he'd asked us to do).

It was a fun, unplanned thing in our day; something small that brought joy to my morning.

I was thrilled to see that my son knew where the field guides were kept in our family library and that he could actually use one to correctly identify a bird.

I was happy to know that he, who doesn't honestly care too much for birdwatching, was curious enough to know, to go look for the answer, all on his own.

Little moments like that confirm that yes, our kids really are learning and more importantly, they already they have started "learning how to learn".

Homeschooling works!


christinethecurious said...

What a lovely morning - congratulations

Cathy said...

So neat to see the fruit of your labor. We love bird watching too. Around here we have a red breasted sapsucker who is a regular friend.

JunebugJones said...

I love those teachable moments! What a great bird name, too!