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Joyce Endee

Students learn about birds, science with Hawk Watch



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Fourth graders and teachers set their sights to the sky during the 41st annual Hawk Watch at Inter-Lakes Elementary School. (Photo by Erin Plummer) (click for larger version)
September 23, 2021
MEREDITH Fourth graders at Inter-Lakes Elementary School were back on the hill looking for hawks and other flying fauna during the 41st year of the Hawk Watch.

Over the course of a week, students learned about hawks, their flight and migration patterns, and so many other science topics to help spot the hawks and learn more about their environment. Naturalists from the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center worked with the students and taught them many different natural subjects.

The Hawk Watch has been an ILES tradition since 1980.

In the unit, students learn how to spot hawks and other birds and what areas to look for where they might be. As part of this students learned how to work with binoculars. Hawks will often fly in thermals, columns of rising air. As part of this students were taught how to measure wind speed, temperature, and barometric pressure. They also learned about bird migration, especially with so many different species of birds are starting their migration this time of year.

Iain MacLeod, executive director of the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, said all of these are key pieces to studying these birds and spotting them in the sky.

"(It) kicks off the year, gets them looking up in the skies, gets them experiencing nature," said naturalist Jeremy Phillips.

The event started with a virtual introduction, during which Macleod said students would get the chance to see the Science Center's live raptors. This year, however, the introduction as virtual where the different raptors were filmed on a livestream. Kids did have the opportunity to ask questions an ask to see some parts of the birds up close.

Students, teachers, and naturalists from the Science Center stood on the hill outside the high school field overlooking the elementary school on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Wednesday's Hawk Watch was moved up a day because of poor weather conditions.

Students spotted numerous hawks and spotted several other kinds of birds from crows and blue jays to eagles and falcons. Naturalists had a collection of different bird silhouettes that students could use to identify the different birds in flight. Students are also charting the migration of monarch butterflies and this has been an opportunity to continue that unit.

The Hawk Watch also helps with hawk research across the country. The data the students collected over the course of the project will go into a national database.

This is the first year that fourth grade teacher Shannon Folan took part in the Hawk Watch.

"We're so excited that we were able to do it this year," Folan said. Folan said this event is a way to, "get kids excited about science."

Folan said this was a great opportunity for kids to be exposed to something they've never experienced before.

"It's really cool for them to learn this and be able to teach your friends and their family," Folan said.

Fourth grade teacher Lee Schultz said her now adult children did the Hawk Watch when they were in fourth grade.

"I'm a birdwatcher so I find it exciting," Schultz said. "Because I like nature and I like to watch birds, it's nice to see budding naturalists.

She the program instills in the students a curiosity about nature and said as the school year goes on the kids will still ask questions.

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