School Vacation Week is For the Birds!

Raptors to Songbirds: Learning About Birds in Western MA During February Vacation

Raptors to songbirds, school vacation week is an excellent time to learn about and support our fine feathered friends here in Western MA!

School vacation week is for the birds! For learning about them, that is. Opportunities for exploring the local landscape through a feather-centric lens abound! The week is filled with events centered around birds of all sorts, and families can fill in the space between organized activities with feeder-making, shelter building, food scattering, and quiet observing.

Kick off vacation week by participating in the annual Great Backyard Bird Count, an event that engages communities all over the world as citizen scientists. Families can easily participate by spending at least fifteen minutes watching their backyard and keeping track of the different bird species who visit them. The Great Backyard Bird Count takes place all weekend, so families can collect data anytime between February 14th and 16th, 2014.  — Extending all the way through the end of February is the Mass Audubon’s citizen scientist program, Focus of Feeders.

In addition to the bird count, vacation week begins with Tom Ricardi’s “Birds of Prey” presentations with live rehabilitated raptors. On Saturday, February 15th at 12:30pm, Northampton Recreation hosts Tom Ricardi and his beautiful birds at JFK Middle School (300 Pine Street, Florence, MA). Tom will showcase a golden eagle, a red tailed hawk, a turkey vulture, and other majestic and fascinating birds who he has helped to rehabilitate. Admission is $7 per person.  Ricardi will also be at Springfield’s 36th Fabulous February at Forest Park with his “Birds of Prey” show on Monday, February 17th with two shows, one at 12:15pm and the second at 1pm.

Vacation week also brings two different presentations by Wingmasters, a group dedicated to spreading understanding of and appreciation for North American birds of prey. On Monday, February 17th at 7pm, Shutesbury’s MN Spear Memorial Library sponsors North American Birds of Prey, a presentation by Julie Anne Collier of Wingmasters. Held at Shutesbury Elementary School, the event will focus on raptors and will encourage understanding and appreciation of these birds of prey. On the other side of the river, Kestrel Land Trust presents Birds of Prey in New England: Their Lives and Challenges with Wingmasters with a second presentation to Easthampton’s Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary on Sunday, February 23rd at 2pm. Arcadia is located at 127 Combs Road, and a donation of $8 per adult and $4 per child is suggested.

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WebCam Catches Peregrine Falcons Nesting Atop UMass Amherst

Peregrine Falcons Nesting Atop UMass Amherst

Peregrine Falcon Webcam at UMass Amherst

Did you know that UMass Amherst’s W.E.B. Du Bois Library is home to a pair of Peregrine falcons? You might think that’s an odd place to live, but Peregrines love to nest on tall buildings! The nest box was installed in 2003 on top of the Library and has drawn the once-federally endangered Peregrine falcons to the Library each year since then.

Thanks to MassWildlife, families can watch these birds of prey in action by viewing their twenty-four hour live webcam. Kids can learn about animal behavior by watching the chicks hatch, fledge and fly. Viewers may even get to see the eyases (that’s what they call a baby Peregrine falcon) take their first flight!

This exciting event lasts from March until June each year and is completely free to view from your home computer or mobile device. Live images of the falcons brooding their eggs and caring for their hatchlings can be viewed at (or by clicking on the Falcon Cam button on the Library’s web page: with support for both iOS and Android mobile devices.

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