In the fall of 2017, Audubon New York’s For the Birds! (FTB!) education program teamed up with the Manhattenville Community Center in Harlem for their inaugural after-school endeavor. Over the course of a month students participated in citizen science surveys in St. Nicholas Park, installed dozens of native plants, and got hands on experience recording bird sounds with a trained professional.
The latter project was accomplished with the help of Ben Mirin, a long-time FTB! volunteer. Ben, also known as DJ Ecotone, creates and preforms music using sounds that he has recorded out in nature. As a part of our afterschool program, he brought his equipment to the local park and allowed the students to use his equipment to collect the songs of bird the students had studied this fall. Afterwards, Spectrograms (visual representations of the sounds heard) were created for the students to keep.
Picture below is a Spectrogram of a house sparrow created by the students at the Manhattenville Community Center. Spectrograms are commonly used to help birders learn the songs of particular species by providing a visual accompaniment to what they are hearing. Darker lines indicate greater volume. The higher the location on the graph, the higher the pitch of a bird’s song is. The heavy orange shading is a result of the heavy noise pollution found in NYC.
This spring, FTB! will continue work with the after-school students through a grant funded by Birdnote.org. As a part of this experience, students will be researching and creating podcasts on topics of their choice that concern birds in NYC. Over the course of 8 weeks students will use a combination of field work and online research for their productions. This is an opportunity that the FTB! staff is incredibly excited about, and that will hopefully lead to our presence in more after-school programs around NYC.