Summer is in full swing. The blue sky, bright sun and ocean breeze brings out hundreds of guests to Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. The guests, aren’t the only ones that are enjoying the natural area… the birds are as well! In these past couple of days, we’ve had some interesting weather patterns going around the headland. Despite what the weather forecast may say for Newport, YHONA seems to have a weather of it’s own sometimes. Many people arrive at the park wearing shorts and tank tops expecting sunny skies and simmering heat. Some days they are caught by surprise when they see the entire headland covered in a dense fog! Because the headland sticks out towards the ocean water, it is enveloped with moisture and humidity. With the addition of the wind, temperatures at YHONA can drop to mid 50 degrees on a usual summer day!
We hope for more wonderful summer days, especially with ranger walks beginning. I am planning on starting a ranger walk that leads guests to learning about some of the birds that occupy the rocks at Yaquina Head, mainly focusing on the Pelagic and Brandt’s cormorants, Common murres, and Western gulls. While these species differ in several aspects, one thing they all have in common is that they all have chicks! Many chicks can be seen with a good set of binoculars or scope. And who doesn’t want to see a baby bird? They’re the cutest (perhaps some more than others).
There are three goals in which we must achieve with our guests: psycho-motor, cognitive, and affective learning. Psycho-motor learning requires learning through the use of tactile interaction or movement. I plan on first teaching our guests on the ranger walk on how to properly use binoculars. This is vital for the latter parts of learning; if you can’t see the birds then you won’t learn as much. It is important to create a visual connection from the guest to the bird. Adjusting the diopters, the focus knob to see, and when to use them area all important in the aspect of the ranger walk, and can also be a skilled for the future. Cognitive learning requires learning and retaining new information. Much of the information I will present will cover the ecological connection between the seabirds we see and Yaquina Head. While I find birds a fascinating subject, some guests are not as crazy about them as I am. Some of them just want the fun facts, or answers to frequently asked questions! A good ranger walk pays attention to the audience and the feedback they receive. Walks are not exactly lectures, but rather a a guidance towards the nature. Lastly, the affective learning is gaining a greater appreciation or understanding for the information presented. Why are seabirds worth learning about, or why should someone care? Besides the scientific fact that they are awesome and their chicks are adorable, birds are one of the best indicators for ecological health in a natural area. Observing their nesting patterns, migration and behavior can, at times, open our eyes to the state of an environment… and even planet earth on a grander scale. these three elements of learning can really make an impact in a person. They may not become biologists or conservationists, but they can remember that one weird fact the next time they see a seabird flying afar!