A fun, hobby club is actually helping with bird populations

Tennessee 4-H’ers are bird-watching these days in a fun club focused on science and data collection.

A perfect afternoon at Nashville’s Shelby Park and there is an activity in the sky, in the trees, and on the water. Geese tour the lake, a robin dances through the field-- perhaps in search of a plump worm.

Meanwhile, some humans, young birders like Keagan Goenner, are quietly close by binoculars in hand giving the eye to all feather species.

“I’ve learned so many new birds and I’ve even started learning some of their Latin names like for the American robin, and I’ve just learned so much from this group, and I never would have had this experience if I hadn’t joined this club,” Goenner states.

Keagan and Carlos Velez are active with a 4-H bird club in Davidson County and lead by UT-TSU Extension agent Andy Lantz. They typically meet with other bird watchers on Saturdays and recently spotted more than thirty species at Shelby Park is just a two-hour period.

“That’s why I love it so much because you never know what you’re going to get,” Velez states. “Part of it is like the excitement because there are some birds you know you’re going to see every time like cardinals, then maybe you’ll see a great blue heron or maybe you’ll see a kestrel. I think that’s part of why I find birding so entertaining.”

These 4-H’ers are counting here. the young 4-H’ers are helping to do bird inventories, contributing to population estimates for many species.

A modern-day twist on bird watching. Andy is able to call birds with an app on his mobile device. Lantz calls his 4-H’ers citizen scientists and says that they learn much more than just species identification here. There are STEM concepts-- science, technology, engineering, and math-- as well as personal skills.

“It allows you to do a lot of problem-solving, a lot of math works as we’re going through it, and a lot of thinking about what you know and what you know you don’t know and kind of working through those as you try to figure out what you’re seeing and patterns that you notice over time,” he explains.

The birders will collect data for the National Audubon Society and are also producing their own bird podcast these days. It has been said you cannot know something exists until you see it. Here kids are watching and learning, lessons on life and nature.