I’m currently teaching an afterschool program at Gunston School in Centreville, Maryland for middle school kids from Queen Anne’s County. Yesterday’s program was on waterfowling, and so when scouring the web for a video that would help to embody the historic Chesapeake’s prodigious population of waterfowl, I thought this one fit the bill. I challenged the students to identify as many of the birds as they could, and I found, at most they recognized three: ducks, geese, and swans.
What a remarkable change from the days (50 years ago or more) when Chesapeake children, raised in connection with the world around them, could have identified on sight the waterfowl indigenous to their particular arm of the watershed: canvasbacks in the Susquehanna flats, or mergansers in the vast marshes on the lower Eastern Shore. Each of those birds represented food or money, and also made up the kaleidoscope of winter colors, sounds, and images that made their neck of the Bay home. Dabbling ducks and diving ducks made up the vast proportion of the flock then, with some smaller populations of Canada geese and Tundra swans scattered within.
Just in this video, we can see the changes: geese, snow geese in particular, make up a huge proportion of the migrating fowl. What the video doesn’t catch is what I can see in the classroom: our connection with those birds, as more than an auditory backdrop in the colder months, is waning. But from the excitement and interest of the students in my classroom as I showed them this clip and then discussed the birds of the Atlantic Flyway, it proves isn’t too late to show our kids what they’re missing.