‘Birds Galore’ was an appropriate title for the workshop I ran at the Canning River during today’s fabulous activity coordinated by the Swan River Trust, with 31 species recorded in total. The weather was fine and warm when we met at the CREEC (Canning River Eco-education Centre) at 9:30am to start the day, which kicked off with an enthusiastic introduction by Linley Brown. Thanks for giving us such an inspiring start to the day Linley!
Six primary schools participated in five different activities - Nyoongar Perspectives, Tree Planting, Feral Fish, The Wonderful World of Water, and the birdwatching activity. I had the pleasure of taking 5 groups of primary school students on a short walk to learn about local birds. We ventured from a highly modified ‘man-made’ environment towards a relatively natural lagoon at the edge of the Canning River. The focus was meant to be on wetland birds, but we also recorded many ‘bush birds’, and discussed several key points on the walk:
-key features to observe when identifying birds, including the size and shape of the beak, length of legs, colour of feathers, and the birds’ behaviour.
-looking out for indirect evidence of birds, including remains of food (e.g. chewed nuts), feathers on the ground, and calls.
-the difference in vegetation between man-made areas and remnant bushland.
-the presence of invasive species in the man-made environment.
-the overall diversity of birds in the area.
Although we sighted many of the same species throughout the day, each group was also lucky enough to see different birds too. One exciting moment was when a student saw a Little Eagle soaring above us. Another time, 9 Red-tailed Black Cockatoos flew right overhead just as we happened to be talking about how to recognise honkey nuts eaten by this species. They must have heard us!
Students had fun climbing up into the bird hide located at the edge of the lagoon, which gave a good view over the water. One group had very close looks at a Great Egret wading in the shallows next to a Yellow-billed Spoonbill searching for food. We also spied Pink-eared Ducks, an uncommon waterbird, and many Australian Shelducks from the hide’s elevated position. A common theme for each group was the assumption that all birds on the water must be ducks - something we learned was not necessarily true by again focusing in the size and shape of birds’ beaks. After close inspection with our binoculars we noticed that many of the ‘ducks’ were actually coots!
At the end of the day all presenters were exhausted but thrilled to have had the involvement of so many enthusiastic young people. Hopefully, as Linley said at the end, all will take home the knowledge they learned and share it with their friends and family. That’s just what environmental education is all about!
A big thanks to Linley for coordinating the event, and to Jos Fissioli and Miranda Holker for their help and for providing photos they took during the day. I’ve written a list of all the birds we recorded below. If you are one of the students who took part, I hope you can find this useful for remembering the birds we saw.