Connecting with the Southern Florida Community

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Four birding programs and twelve more to go! I am off to a great start and have been really enjoying the educational and interpretive components of the Fish & Feathers internship because I get to work with people from the community. I look back on why I became interested in the environment and inspired to study this in order to obtain a career in the STEM field and I would have to give the credit to all of the adults that I met when growing up. They were so passionate about nature it was hard to not get excited too when talking to them! I really tried to replicate my experience with these children by getting them engaged in the activities and making a connection to what we learn in the program to the area they live in: the Everglades in Southern Florida. In my birding programs, I worked with the local library and 2 YMCA groups from ages 3 to recent adults. We went over what makes a bird so special by going over their adaptations to better survive in their environment such as color for camouflage, mating, and feeding as well as beak shape to easily eat the food typical of their diet. Additionally, we brainstormed ways birds help nature such as pollination, seed dispersal, bug control, pest control, fertilizer, and scavenger behaviors. The groups were very excited to play a Heads Up/Headbands game where they have to practice identifying parts of a bird and describing its physical features in order for the other participant to guess the bird’s name. Binoculars were then handed out as we went over the definition of ethics for birding, how to use binoculars, and what birding entails. We all participated in drawing and coloring each a unique bird from the Everglades and hid it within the room we were in, searching for them with our binoculars. By the end of our program they learned the following:

  • Can the audience define the ethics of birding?
  • Audience can successfully use binoculars
  • Identify what makes a bird a bird and various characteristics of birds that help them survive (feathers, beak, body shape, color, etc.).
  • Audience will be able to identify some common species of bird found in the park
  • Why it is important to bird watch?
  • What is the Atlantic Migratory Flyway? 
  • What is an indicator species?
  • What is a bird of prey?

What we learned is how birds are different from other animals, their special adaptations to our Everglades environment, and how to
bird. The Everglades is a unique place that provides us a great opportunity to bird because we have so many different kinds of ecosystems here and we are part of the migratory path for birds during the winter. They now know that that birding is super important, and they are helping with citizen science. Also, they do not be afraid about not knowing all the birds that exist in the area. I am learning still as well! At any level of birding, people will still be discovering and seeing new species all the time.

Snail Mail

The smallest US post office is right on the Tamiami trail. Don, the post office employee there is the only person that runs the building.

Sunsets

The sunsets are amazing here in the Everglades! One midnight beach trip allowed me to see two baby, just-hatched Leatherback turtles crawling across the beach. The moon was not out, so they were going the wrong way! I used my t-shirt to carefully move them into the ocean.

Here is just some of the wildlife I have seen so far!

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