Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bird Survey in Amazon Park

Adding black sunflower seeds
to the bird feeder

Before heading off to Amazon Park on 4/17/15, the River Spies installed a bird feeder in the Edison Elementary garden. Over the next two months, we will be observing what bird species use the feeder and how quickly birds consume the black sunflower seeds.

The River Spies rest after the trek to Amazon Park

Barbara Gleason shows the River Spies
how to use binoculars
At Amazon Park (at the intersection of 24th Avenue and Amazon Parkway), we met up with Barbara Gleason, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited (2510 Willamette Street in Eugene). Barbara brought a handful of binoculars and gave the River Spies a lesson on how to use these handy birding tools.

Barbara then accompanied us on our bird survey at Amazon Park and helped the River Spies identify several species. The River Spies observed starlings and crows, spotted one Stellar's Jay, saw a Rufous Hummingbird going back and forth to the same cottonwood tree (nesting?), plus heard Black-capped Chickadees and Song Sparrows.

Recording bird observations
While some of the River Spies were absorbed in recording their observations, others could not resist the allure of rolling down the grassy embankment!
Results from our bird survey were recorded on the eBird website:

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Water Quality Testing near Amazon and 24th

On 4/10/15, the River Spies tested water quality in Amazon Creek near 24th Avenue and Amazon Parkway. The River Spies were excited to get their hands wet - along with the rest of their bodies! We measured water temperature, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, and pH.

The Amazon Creek site had a water temperature of 12℃. Aquatic organisms need a certain temperature range to survive and thrive. For a frame of reference, trout and salmon require cool water no greater than 20℃ to survive. Salmon and steelhead need water temperatures less than 13℃ to spawn.

The Amazon Creek site had a turbidity reading of 40 JTU. In general, the less turbid (or less suspended particles) the better. Suspended particles can clog fish gills, smother eggs, block sunlight needed by aquatic plants, and raise water temperature by absorbing heat.

issolved Oxygen
With a DO reading of 2ppm, our Amazon Creek site was about 19% saturated. We conducted the survey just south of where Amazon Creek enters a concrete canal paralleling the bike path. At this particular site, the water is pooled and has a slow flow rate which may account for the low dissolved oxygen reading. 

Cold water can hold more dissolved oxygen than warm water before it is 100% saturated. Bodies of water with high dissolved oxygen levels provide healthy and stable environments for a variety of aquatic organisms. 

Our Amazon Creek site had a pH of 7.0. 
A majority of freshwater organisms 
live within a pH range of 5.5 to 7.5.

I entered our data on the World Water Monitoring website:

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Food Webs and A Bird Quest

Food Webs
The River Spies constructed a food web to model how multiple food chains form a food web. The River Spies stood in a circle and each River Spy had a picture of a plant or animal taped to him or her. I stood in the center of the circle representing the sun. We created connections by tossing a ball of twine from the sun to a producer (plant), then primary consumer (herbivore), and then secondary consumer (omnivore or carnivore). As each food chain ended with an omnivore or carnivore, I cut the twine and began anew. After we formed several food chains, the shape of the food web appeared. When each person had at least one connection, I had certain kids drop their pieces of twine. This action represented an organism disappearing from the ecosystem. We observed how the food web weakened and then collapsed as species dropped out of the system. My goal for this activity was to get the River Spies thinking about the connectivity of fresh water organisms including plants, invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and small mammals that we might observe along Amazon Creek.
Recording bird observations at University Park
Bird Quest
Following a Bird Quest designed by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, we set out to identify birds in University Park based on shape, size, color, pattern, behavior, and sound. Although many birds were seeking shelter from the wind and rain, the River Spies identified American Crows, Black-capped Chickadees, European Starlings, and sparrows (most likely Song Sparrows). All of our bird counts will be recorded on the eBird website ( as the River Spies join citizen scientists around the globe by sharing data and observations.
The River Spies discussed improving bird habitat by adding to one of the essential habitat elements: food, water, shelter, and space. The River Spies will be installing a bird feeder in the Edison Elementary garden to provide bird seed and to give kids the opportunity to observe birds in their school backyard!