After decades of declining numbers, ospreys are on the rise again. Discover more about how people are helping ospreys recover with the new picture book, Swoop and Soar: How Science Rescued Two Osprey Orphans and Found Them A New Family In The Wild by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp.
In the first part of the book, we hold our breaths following the perilous journey of two newly-hatched osprey chicks. One night a storm destroys Swoop and Soar’s nest and the chicks fall to the ground. Nearby, another osprey family has lost their offspring, but still come back to their nest. With a little help from Jane, will the new family adopt the homeless chicks?
What comes after is not so much back matter as a second fascinating book about ospreys and how biologist Jane Veltkamp works hard to rescue them.
The illustrations are glorious full color photographs. The text matches the illustrations perfectly. Some of the photographs will make you ask, “How did they get that?”
With Swoop and Soar, get hooked by the nail-biting story of the chicks, then stick around for some amazing information about ospreys. Highly recommended!
Activity: Check the status of ospreys where you live.
Growing up in western New York state, we rarely saw ospreys even though we had ponds and lakes everywhere. Now, a few decades later, it is common to find the huge osprey nests atop utility poles. It is wonderful that the birds are on the rebound.
Check with your local Audubon Society or bird watching organization to find out whether ospreys are found in your area. Take a trip to look for them.
Disclosure: An e-ARC of this book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.
Why New Caledonian crows? It turns out they have a lot going for them. They are pretty smart. Not only can they use sticks as tools to pry their food- in this case large beetle larvae – out of wood, but also they can fashion new tools by shaping and modifying twigs and stems. As more sophisticated experiments have shown, they have a remarkable ability to solve problems (see some of the videos below). They also have bigger eyes than other species of crows and their eyes are closer to the front of their head, which means they have better depth perception.
Although the special crows are fascinating enough, author Pamela Turner’s discussion of Dr. Hunt’s research is written with just the right touch of humor to keep young readers fully engaged. For example, she notes one of the crows is named “Crow we never got around to naming.” Many of her observations are highly entertaining.
Andy Comins’s amazing birds-eye-view photographs (see the one on the cover above) help us see the crows as individuals. It isn’t easy to photograph active birds in the wild, and he makes us feel like we are right there studying the birds, too.
Whether you have read all of books in the Scientists in the Field series or none of them, you are going to want to pick up this one. Perfect for anyone interested in learning, animal behavior, birds, tool use, or science in general.
Below are some bird science activity suggestions that could be used to accompany the book.
Activity Suggestion 1: Building a Bird Blind
Dr. Hunt knows he might change the crows’ natural behavior if they knew he was watching them, so he uses shelter to observe the crows unnoticed. The camouflaged shelter is called a “hide” or a “blind.” In the field he uses a portable tent as a blind (photograph page 12 of the book), but children can design and build their own bird blind.
Sheet, large piece of cardboard, or cardboard box
Twine, cord, rope or painter’s tape
Paints in camouflage colors (optional)
Paint brushes (optional)
Scissors (craft knife for adults only)
Pens and pencils
Field guide for identifying birds
Clock or watch
Find a location to set up the blind, either indoors or out depending on the weather and other factors. If you already have a bird feeder near a window, setting up a blind inside the window would be ideal. Outside, look for areas where birds are active on a regular basis, such as in shrubs, trees, or near a food source.
If you choose to, paint the sheet or cardboard with camouflage colors (investigate what colors birds can see and plan accordingly). Allow to dry.
If you are setting up inside, cover the window with a cardboard box with the bottom facing out or tape up the sheet with painter’s tape. Outside, tie the twine or cord between supports such as poles, fences or trees. Drape the sheet over the cord, or lean the cardboard against the cord, and fasten with clothespins or twist ties.
Have the children stand or sit in a comfortable position. Using the markers, mark where the eye holes should go. The holes should be a small as possible so they aren’t obvious to the birds, but large enough to allow for comfortable viewing. Cut out the holes.
If you choose, sprinkle some birdseed in the viewing area or feed the birds to attract them (optional). Sit or stand quietly behind the blind and view the birds. Younger children may simply draw a picture of a bird they see. Older children may want to keep a more detailed record of what kinds of birds visit, what time of day, how long they stay, which direction they go, etc.
Suggestion for experiment: Do blinds really work? Design an experiment to test whether birds behave differently when observed through a blind versus when viewed from similar distances and circumstances without a blind.
Activity Suggestion 2: Watch some videos/bird cams of the behavior of crows and other birds.
Even if you don’t have the opportunity to observe bird behavior in nature, learn more about birds by watching videos like the one below and/or by visiting bird cams online (The Lab of Ornithology has a number of ongoing bird cams to get you started.)
Age Range: 10 – 12 years
Grade Level: 5 – 7
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (August 2, 2016)
Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher/author for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.
It’s a fun place to go to if you ever get a chance, especially if you are a bird lover or you enjoy nature.
That’s the main building across the water.
There are trails through the woods.
The trails can be wet in the spring, but they are well-maintained.
Of course, there are plenty of birds to observe. At the main building, the staff provides bird feeders so you can watch birds at any time of day.
Surprisingly, although they are known mostly for studying birds, the scientists at the lab also study a variety of other animals. Because they have pioneered sound recording of animals and now filming animal behavior, you will also find information about animals as diverse as frogs and whales. This promotional video gives you an idea of the variety of topics studied.
Although the video is quite loud and dynamic, we actually found our visit to be quiet and soothing.
Our final stop was to the gift shop. They carry a number of great nature books, including the exciting new children’s books about birds listed below. You might want pick up some of these books and read them to help get prepared for the trip. 🙂