Robin Nest Video!
a teacher at Upland Hills School
in Oxford, Michigan, found a rare and exciting "teachable moment"
when a pair of robins nested on a ladder in a geodesic dome greenhouse
students were constructing. Students at the school made a wonderful compromise
so they could continue to build the dome without disturbing the robins.
Meanwhile, one student studying the babies produced a video showing the
baby robins at every stage from egg to fledging. Now their project itself
has fledged into an ongoing study, and current students are working on
getting more nest videos. This lesson explains how the school set up their
nest cam, giving you ideas for constructing a nest cam or other nest study
of your own, and also provides a good study in how people with conflicting
needs can reach a satisfying compromise.
It all started in spring, 2000. One student, Mike, was working on
his senior project, setting up bird nest boxes (from wren to owl size)
designed to hold a surveillance camera so he could watch what was happening
inside. At the same time, students in his class were constructing a geodesic
dome greenhouse on the school grounds. They were excited to be working
on such a cool project and hoped to have it finished before graduation.
When they left for spring break, the frame of the dome was up, along with
a few clear plastic panels.
During spring break, Mike and his senior project mentor,
Karin Nanos, came to the school to set up some of his nest boxes, and
when they went to get a ladder, there was a pair of robins, nesting right
on the ladder inside the dome! They were thrilled! They immediately set
up Mike's surveillance camera to watch them, and kept their fingers crossed
that they wouldn't scare the robins away. To keep watch on the birds,
they stretched 75' cord from the camera to the monitor in Karin's classroom,
where they could record all the action. Mike wouldn't be able to watch
the robins live, as Karin's own class would, but he'd be able to view
everything on videotape.
When students returned after spring break, Karin's class was thrilled
to be able to watch the robins on the monitor right in their classroom!
But students working on the dome had a big problem. Construction on the
dome was sure to bother the robins, and once the plastic panels were all
in place, the robins wouldn't be able to get in and out. The students
had to choose: the birds or the dome!
Monitor for watching baby robins
That was a hard choice for the students involved in building
the dome. Karin and the teacher supervising the dome construction, Ted Strunck,
who happened to be Mike's own teacher, came up with a great compromise.
They ordered a longer cord and moved the monitor to Mr. Strunck's room.
Now the students who delayed their own project could fully enjoy seeing
the robins who had taken over their construction site! As they watched the
robin behavior patterns, they started doing some work on the dome whenever
the robin was off the nest. Karin's students were disappointed because they
didn't get to watch the monitor in their own room. Ted's graduating students
were disappointed because thanks to the delay, the dome wasn't finished
until the following fall and they didn't get to see the completed project.
Fortunately, everyone got to see the robins' completed project--three
little fledglings! And everyone knew those little baby robins would not
have been there if not for their dome!
Start of Something Big
Students at Upland Hills School were fascinated by the nest monitor
project, and the following year they searched out another robin nest (this
one in a spruce tree, NOT a geodesic dome!) and set up their surveillance
camera to watch that one. The nest in the dome's three nestlings all successfully
fledged. The nest they watched the second year had five nestlings, but
only one survived to fledge. (The others disappeared when the camera was
off, so no one knows for sure what happened to them.) This year they're
searching for another nest to study. This year's Bird Cam Crew:
ADVISOR/TREE CLIMBING EXPERT
|"I like solving problems and
messing with wires."
||"Bird Cam requires many equipment
checks and cord. Make sure you have plenty of cord. Most technical
difficulties happen with the cord. So keep duct tape on hand and handle
the cords carefully."
||"I?m monitoring robin sightings
around our school."
|"It?s interesting to know about
||Tyler made this diagram of the recording
set-up and how the classroom plans to transmit their live cam to the
||"I like looking up bird facts."
a Robin Nest!
If your class has access to a surveillance camera, you can set up the
same system as the Upland Hills School Bird Cam Crew. If you're interested
in setting up a similar project, see Tyler's
Tech Talk. But even without this kind of equipment
you can monitor nests, using a video camera, or students hiding in a blind
using a regular camera. Some people set up a still camera close to a nest,
and then watch it from a blind, holding onto a cable release to snap photos
whenever something interesting is happening.
Make sure you work on setting up your system while the robins are away
from the nest. Never use flash or lights on an incubating bird. Don't move
any branches or leaves out of the way to give yourself a better view! And
make sure to make as little disturbance as possible, to avoid both scaring
the robins and alerting predators. If your class tries this, let us know
how you did!!
Imagine that your school was caught in the controversy that Upland
Hills School was. How would you feel if you were going to graduate and
really wanted to finish building the geodesic dome before you left? How
would you feel if you were monitoring the robin nest when other students
moved it away so they could do their project? How would you feel if you
were a mother robin who built your nest inside when everyone was away?
What do you think was the best way to handle the situation? What do you
think are our responsibilities when we discover a nest?
Read journal entries written by two people involved in
the real controversy: