Christmas Bird Count

On Saturday, December 21st, Brushwood Center partnered with Nuestro Center and Audubon Great Lakes’ Wild Indigo program to participate in a Christmas Bird count at Ryerson Woods. Forty families from Nuestro Center’s program came out to Brushwood Center to conduct the count, and celebrate afterwards with crafts, hot cocoa and pan dulce.

With clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid-forties, it was a perfect day for a hike. Staff from Audubon went through some common species in English and Spanish with participants, and instructed students on how to properly use binoculars. The fifth grade students had done bird identification activities with Wild Indigo the week before, and were eager to put their newfound knowledge to the test.

Everyone split up into three different groups for the hike, each led by an Audubon staff armed with identification guides and binoculars for students to share. Almost immediately, it became clear that the students were taking this mission very seriously. Pausing often, students slowly raised their binoculars up as they squinted at the tree tops. Every few seconds, silence broke as they excitedly reported their discoveries:

“American Robin!”

“Blue Jay!”


After some double-checking with staff and the ID guides, the species was recorded. Students got more and more excited as they discovered rarer birds, and even other animals they had never seen before. One group caught a rare glimpse of a double-crested cormorant soaring overhead. Another group walking along the Des Plaines River was lucky enough to spot a beaver slipping back into its den.

The students were excited as they explored these new dimensions of nature, and very determined to count every bird they could. They shushed one another when conversations got too loud, worried that birds might be scared away. They cooperated on identifications, and eagerly showed their parents their findings. After about an hour on the trails, everyone headed back inside Brushwood Center for hot cocoa and conchas, and a craft activity making paper Cardinal ornaments.

In total, we recorded 18 species and 98 birds during our hike (detailed in table below). Students were emphatic as they identified species they had never seen before, and parents enjoyed the quality time outdoors with their kids. Topped off with delicious snacks and a fun craft, it was the perfect way to end 2019 programming!

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