While on a schoolyard bird count last fall, my students and I spotted a tiny bird swiftly flying from tree to tree and bouncing from branch to branch. At first, we thought it was a hummingbird. But then we realized that it didn’t have a long beak, and the body shape didn’t look quite like a hummingbird. We tried to get a good look, but the bird was so fast and tiny that we never could get a good long view of it. I had my smart phone with me and took many photos of leaves and branches, never seeming to capture the bird.
Or so it seemed. I took a closer look at the photos and realized that I did capture something.
I cropped the photo a little bit.
Then I cropped it some more.
Even though it turned out blurry, I had a photo to share with my students. We had something to work with.
1. I borrowed bird guides from the public library for my students to use, and they were able to access allaboutbirds.org to do their research. Something else I found was a list from the Nevada Department of Wildlife with common birds in our area. Click here for the list.
2. I required my students to record their notes using a chart. They had to find two birds that could be a possible match. By filling out the chart, I hoped that they could see whether or not the characteristics were matching up.
3. Once students felt confident that they had found a bird that was likely a match, they created double bubble maps to show the similarities and differences between the mystery bird and the possible match.
4. We still don’t know for sure what kind of bird we found at school, but the kids narrowed the possibilities down quite nicely. Hopefully, we’ll get more chances to see this bird in the spring and make a definite identification. Having a real mystery to solve has been a fun adventure this year.