Monday, April 6, 2009

American Coot

I posted on my Facebook account that I thought I saw and heard coots. I remembered reading about them in the field guides of my youth, but had never seen or heard one.

How did I figure out they were coots? I used these resources -- Waterbirds of Ohio book and CD, and a Golden Book entitled Game Birds. I have been using the Urban Birds book and CD shown in the photo for my "continuing education," but this bird was not urban. The CD's were both free to educators.

I had taken video of my kids, and realized that the background noise included birdsongs. Listening to my video and then using my print and audio resources, I decided that we sighted American coots.

Waterbirds of Ohio came from the Ohio DNR. It does not appear to be available, but you can view the website here. I debated about requesting it, and I am glad I did. Iowa shares many of the 138 birds mentioned in the Ohio resource. A photo book with details for each bird accompanies the CD.

The Urban Birds CD came from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Click here for their electronic teaching materials. This is a neat resource, because kids created it. One kid describes one bird's physical appearance and other statistics, using words such as "dimorphic" and relating its size to real-life objects like "a soda can." The kid then creates lyrics for the birdsong, and there are quizzes every four or five birds for a total of 22 birds.

Although these sites use electronic audio files, I find that CD's are easier for me than electronic media. It seems like one or two less steps to get the sounds I want to hear. And my younger kids can play CD's on their own, no assistance needed. I also appreciate the pdf files to accompany the audio resources. No shelf space to store masters (I have a few binders of masters from our early homeschool days).

I see my birding CD's as educational and use them in the same way many people would use foreign language CD's. Birdsong is a foreign language. Many homeschool families use CD's for other purposes -- memorizing poems, learning geography and times tables to music, appreciating orchestral selections, etc. These particular CD's are great in that they enable us to increase the enjoyment we find outdoors.

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