On Friday, local SPREE Ornithologists gathered to investigate the raptors of Denver that rely on our River to survive. Campers put their skills to the test as they competed Olympics style against the biggest, fastest raptors around, built the best adapted raptor imagined, and tried their luck at falconry!
In the first activity, campers found themselves training among the best Aves (bird) Olympians around. The Olympic games are less than a week away, and campers were put to the test to see if they could run faster than a Golden Eagle, smell better than a Turkey Vulture, hover in the air longer than a Kestrel, among other challenges! Most found out they have some training to do if they want to compete against these amazing birds, but some were able to beat select raptors in the wingspan competition!
In the second activity, campers discussed all the unique adaptations that make South Platte River raptors so well suited to survive. After learning about some specific birds and their individual traits, campers were put to the creative test to design and build the best bird of prey. Campers were able to use creativity to design a raptor that would be well suited for a particular habitat. We then used recycled materials so designs came to life!
During the third activity, campers learned about falconry- the sport where raptors are used for hunting. Campers again designed a local raptor on paperboard. Using pennies to add and balance weight, they were then challenged to balance their created raptors on just 1-2 fingers! This proved to be really tough for some campers, but a piece of cake for others! Once balance was achieved, the campers were really put to the test and asked to complete an obstacle course. In the course, campers were asked to jump, kick a ball into a bucket, and hula-hoop all while balancing their bird! Woah, talk about skill! Unfortunately, SPREE instructors were taking part in the challenging fun and forgot to capture photos of the obstacle course.
Finally, as our wrap-up activity, campers got into the River for a critter crawl! Raptors may not eat small macro-invertebrates, but their food do! The River is an important gathering spot for our migrating and residential raptors. It is a place they can find water, shade, nesting sites, mates, and food! It was a warm day, but some campers felt the water and made the decision to stay on shore. Others, braved the chilly water to look for critters from the River. Even though many macros and crawdads will dig down into the warm mud during the winter, campers did successfully find a crawdad in February!
In fact, this winter being relatively warm, campers found a bunch of small macro-invertebrates! It was a successful ending to a fun, educational, bird of prey day!