Geography Quest: Great Backyard Bird Count Edition

 

Geography Quest Great Backyard Bird Count Edition

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It’s that time of year again! When families everywhere will be counting the birds that come to their yards in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) sponsored by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada. This year’s count takes place on February 13- 16, 2015.

Observe & Submit Your Bird Checklist

Have you participated in the GBBC before? If not, you can read all about how to get started. It’s a pretty easy gig:

  • Register or log in for the count.
  • Count birds for at least 15 minutes a day on one or more days of the GBBC.
  • You can count for longer than 15 minutes and you can count birds on as many days and in as many places as you’d like during the GBBC.
  • Read the directionsfor submitting the checklists using the checklist page or the new app.
  • Do you regularly use eBird? eBird is another website where you can submit bird sightings year round. If you are already an eBird user, please use your eBird account and your observations during these dates will count toward the GBBC. That is great information because I did not know that.

Use GBBC Data to Map The Results

Did you know you can access historical data on the GBBC? This would be a fun map making adventure.

  • There a few map options available to explore on the website.
  • Toggle between top ten lists for species and the map room to find what to map.
  • Pick a favorite bird species and map its populations in North America- or name any location.
  • Observe the data and see if you can find winter patterns or to see if any migration patterns emerge.
  • Look to see if there are patterns in the activity of a species using the places page.
  • What other types of maps could you make using the data from the GBBC? Tell us about them!

Resources for the GBBC

Need some help to keep things easy? Here are a few resources made available by the folks with the GBBC.

  • Create your own tally sheet.
  • A downloadable pdf data form
  • Birding apps recommended by the GBBC- this makes it easy to keep track of the birds you see and you can use it to log your results when the count is complete.
  • iBird Pro mobile bird guide- It’s got a thorough library of bird species information, calls, pictures, etc. This is one of the few apps I’ve paid for for my phone!
  • Merlin- this is a new app by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This looks pretty good although it’s not available for Android until the spring. Bummer! It’s a bird ID guide- I saw the prototype at the lab a couple years ago and it’s fun to use.

Join us this weekend to count some backyard birds and submit your results to the GBBC. Our feeder needs filling before we get more snow tomorrow. We see a bunch of birds daily out there enjoying our black oil sunflower seeds. I’m looking forward to officially tallying them this weekend.
Bird Notebook Pages | Harrington Harmonies Need a great way to record your birds during the count? Check out these bird notebooking pages from Harrington Harmonies.

 

 

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Tips for an Excellent Insect Display

Blog, She Wrote: Tips for an Excellent Insect Display

Labeling Your Insect Collection

As you might have predicted, there are rules on how to label an insect collection for display. Here are a few key points:

  • Number Labels- Each insect in the collection gets a number. If it is a 4-H collection, a numbered insect must have been collected in the current fair year (not before the previous year’s fair). You can have those insects in a collection, but they cannot be numbered in that year’s collection. These labels are the last ones on the pin with the insect.
  • Collection Labels- The first label on the insect pin (underneath the insect) is the collection information. Where the insect was collected and when along with the name of the collector.
  • Identification Label- For 2nd year collections and up, you must include another label which goes between the number and collection information. It will have the family name of the insect as well as the genus and species. Correctly identifying the insect to the species is important for point value.
  • Order Labels- These are larger labels and they are pinned inside the box. When you organize your collection do so by order.
  • Common Name Labels- Required after the first year, these labels tell the common name of the insect and usually include a family name (so not just “fly” but “crane fly”)

Keeping a Collection Record

Along with all the labeling in the box, you must turn in a collection record. Since the collections are additive over the years, these records can be many pages long. Below are listed the information you need to keep:

  • Insect Number- comes after you’ve labeled your insects
  • Common Name- 2nd year and beyond
  • Order
  • Family
  • Genus Species
  • Locality- location of collection
  • Date Collected
  • Place Collected- what habitat

A first year collection only needs to be identified to the order. After that, more work is required!

Blog, She Wrote: Tips for an Excellent Insect Display

Other Tips for Insect Displays

In addition to the labeling, here are a few more helpful hints:

  • Group orders of insects together in the collection and place the order label nearby
  • Numbers within an order should be chronological
  • Place the vials toward the bottom of your collection- So if they come loose, they don’t wreck other insects in the box!
  • Keep a collection record as you go- This is a time saver when you are preparing your collection for evaluation!

For more information on making displays, check out How to Make an Awesome Insect Collection from Purdue which follows 4-H guidelines for entomology projects.

This has been an exciting project area for us this year. We’ve already started next year’s collection. As of publishing time for this post, the collection pictured here has won a blue ribbon and a project excellence for first year collections and is headed for the NY State Fair next month.

Enjoy the collecting!

Other bloggers in the iHN are sharing their series this week for 2014’s summer Hopscotch. Don’t forget to hop over!

iHN July 2014 Hopscotch

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Best Practices for Collecting Insects

Blog, She Wrote: Best Practices for Collecting Insects

Now that we know what entomology is and how to identify insects, and we have all of the equipment we need to get started, it’s time to collect our insects! Today is all about Best Practices for Collecting Insects- how to collect and preserve all sorts of insects.

Collecting Terrestrial Insects

You can find specimens flying through the air or crawling on the ground. How do you catch the insects- especially the dangerous ones?

  • Use an Aerial Net- To catch insects which fly, take an aerial net and “sweep” it over tall grasses in a meadow. It’s best to do this in the heat of the day when the flying insects are most active.
  • Clasp the Net- So that the insects which have gone in have to stay and usually you can work them to the opening you create while you have the killing jar at the ready.
  • Use Your Killing Jar- Make sure your jar is “charged” with ethyl alcohol and open it. Around here, it’s a two person job. One has the net and the other is ready with the jar. You can even do this with bees and yellow jackets, but you must be right there with the jar. This is my new go to in the house- rather than swatting, I arm myself with a container!
  • Use any jar or container- Once you have the insect inside, take the container to the freezer. This is a great idea when your killing jar isn’t charged and you aren’t in the field.
  • Be ready with a glassine envelope- Moths and butterflies either need to be paralyzed (which we really haven’t gotten the hang of yet, but requires you to hold it between the wings and squeeze enough to paralyze but not squish) or they can be placed in an envelope and taken directly to the freezer. The trick with these guys is not allowing them to struggle. Once they flap their wings too hard, they will lose scales and it won’t show as well once it’s pinned.

Blog, She Wrote: Best Practices for Collecting Insects

Collecting Aquatic & Soft Bodied Insects

Soft bodies insects are those without an exoskeleton like caterpillars, thrips, silverfish, etc. Aquatic species are larval forms of mayflies, caddisflies, stoneflies, etc.

Both are different from terrestrial species because they get collected and stored in alcohol.

  • Jar of Isopropyl alcohol- Bring along a jar (just a normal kitchen variety) 2/3 full of 70% rubbing alcohol. When it’s time to catch and collect these insects, you just grab them with some forceps and drop them into the jar.
  • Use a pan- To dump the water and critters from the bottom of the creek. From here you and your kids can investigate what came up with the aquatic net for collection.
  • Bring along collecting tubes- Sometimes it’s easier just to bring a few collecting tubes rather than a whole jar of alcohol. They are lighter and easier to carry if you are in a pinch.

Storing Collected Insects

Once you have the insects in your killing jar and alcohol jar, you have to take of them once you arrive home. It’s important to pin the terrestrial insects before long so they don’t dry out on you. Pinning a dried out insect is difficult and leads to breakage.

  • Remove insects from the killing jar- and put them into individual air tight storage in your freezer.
  • Decant the aquatic/soft bodied insects- Pour out most of the alcohol and add new alcohol to the jar. Once the insects die in the alcohol, the water inside of them will diffuse out and dilute the alcohol. You want to avoid that for long because a diluted solution will not preserve the insect. I like to decant and add 90% isopropyl. Decant the solution twice to be safe.
  • Separate the insects into vials- Ultimately, they will need to be in their own container. This will save you time when it comes to preparing your collection for evaluation.
  • Keep them in glass- as opposed to plastic for long term storage so they don’t dry out.

Blog, She Wrote: Best Practices for Collecting Insects

Keeping a Record of Your Collected Insects

You’ll want accurate records of your insect collection as you go along. If you are turning in your collection for judging, a written record is required. Also, you’ll need the collection information on all those tiny labels that go under the pinned specimen. Keeping the information as you go, will save time in the end. Even if you think your collection isn’t large. Here is a sampling of the information to keep:

  • Location of collection- both the place (address, name, and town with county) and the exact habitat it was collection from (pond, meadow, etc)
  • Date Collected- Month, day, and year for each specimen
  • Name of the Collector- You are permitted to have others collect for you, but make sure you note who it is.
  • Name of the Insect- First year entomologists are required to ID to the order only. In the second year, they add common names to the record keeping.

Most of all have FUN! Collecting insects is a challenge which can be very entertaining in its pursuit. As you gather specimens, things get exciting as you find new varieties and add things to your collection. The next step is pinning your insects. Join me!

Don’t forget to visit other iHN bloggers as they share a series this week for Summer 2014 Hopscotch.

iHN July 2014 Hopscotch

 

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