Saturday, May 21, 2016

Fortnight Ending 22 May 2016

The highlight of the past fortnight was a seabird watching trip with members of our local birding group. Thankfully this was shore-based seabird watching since both Miss 15 and I have sworn off boats after our last experience! We were lucky enough to have a seabird expert to guide our viewing. Without his input we would have missed seeing some birds and been unable to identify others.

Some of the albatross, petrels, shearwaters and other seabirds we spotted. Images from http://www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz/ since our camera is not up to capturing seabirds at a distance!

Most people opted to travel there and back in a day but Miss 15 and I decided to stay overnight. The following day we ventured into the bush. Miss 15 was especially keen to try and track down some Riflemen. They are our smallest bird, weighing as little as 5 grams and are more often seen than heard. On our walk we heard several calls but were unable to spot a single bird - until on the return trip we were just a few meters from our car when Miss 15 heard some calls (they are very high pitched, at the upper limit of human hearing and she is better at picking them than I am) and we finally spotted a pair flitting about in the bush. Very satisfying. All in all it was great weekend's birding - 11 new species for the year - and five or six we'd never seen before.

We also took the opportunity for a little historical field trip on the side. Fyffe House is the oldest remaining building in the town and all that remains of a whaling station that was established in 1842. We learnt a lot about the area and shore-based whaling. One unique feature of the house is that instead of regular foundations the earliest part of it is constructed on whale vertebrae!

The photo on the bottom right shows one of  the whale vertebrae supporting the house.


Seals were everywhere on the foreshore.


The rest of the fortnight was far less exciting -  routine, dull at times, but essential to our home schooling success nonetheless. There were maths lessons. Quadratic equations, completing the square, Euler's notation and polar coordinates do not add joy to our day and I know Miss 15 is relieved that this is the last year maths will be required. Her university class on ecology and conservation is coming to an end. Recent lectures that she has enjoyed have covered animal ethics, the economics of wildlife management and new tools in pest control techniques. She continues to work through Bravewriter's Help for High School. If she is in the mood and the activities speak to her all goes well. If not it is like getting blood from a stone. I was hoping this programme would help her develop her voice a little more but I suspect that will only come from internal inspiration. Still I believe in the worth of the programme so she'll continue to use it during the year, even if it doesn't yield all the benefits I'd hoped for.

Ornithology is going well. At the start of this ten week term I encouraged Miss 15 to pick a few longer term projects to work on. She's currently working on three things according to her mood. The first is reading Godwits a fantastic living book written by a tutor on one of her field courses about a species with which she has hands-on experience. The second is writing a site specific identification guide designed for novice birders. The third is working through Birds Without Borders. We used one of the free sample units last term and were so impressed we purchased the book. The last unit we completed was on modelling bird population trends. Many of the lessons use ebird, a site we use to record our bird sightings. It's good to discover more about what the site offers and see how scientists can use the data. It's helped inspire us to be more rigorous about counting all species on more of our trips. Sometimes counting is tedious and it is tempting to just check that a species was present without bothering to record actual numbers!

Despite this structure we've still got time to add in other unscheduled bird activities as we feel so inclined. This week we went on a short field trip and watched an older documentary about Royal Albatross. We're still enjoying watching an albatross chick via webcam and the documentary was a way to learn a bit more about the birds - and see how management practises have changed over the years!

We've also been enjoying virtual field trips in England courtesy of Miss 21.


The Surrey countryside.

Scenes from Brighton. 

When she's not homeschooling or out birding Miss 15 is at the gym, training or coaching. She's just agreed to help coach a couple of preschool classes for the remainder of the term, meaning one of our gym-free days is no longer gym free. Sigh!  As a result of all the hours she spends at the gym she's got very little downtime. It is something I worry about but she loves trampolining and can't imagine her life without it. So she continues and I keep a watchful eye for over tiredness, burnout or other signs that she needs to cut back or take a break.

Linking to the Weekly Wrap-Up over at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

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