Eight-year-old Irene De La Fuente is already working toward her goal of becoming a superstar birder.
And she says she wouldn’t be able to do it without the help of the Children’s Museum of Brownsville.
“Here at the Children’s Museum they help me a lot. They don’t let you just play all day. They just help you focus on your work and show you how to do the work because they want you to be, like a superstar birder,” she said. “And they help me do my homework and when I have trouble with time tables. They help
me memorize them and help me with
De La Fuente could be seen Tuesday morning sitting cross-legged by the resaca next to the Children’s Museum as different species of ducks took a dip while small birds darted through the air.
She was counting birds, along with the rest of the children attending the Brite Minds Summer Enrichment Program, a free summer camp for the children that’s funded by the Chase Foundation.
The counting of the birds is part of the “Celebrate Urban Birds” project in which the children participated in the Citizen Science Research Project for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
The numbers will be passed on to the Cornell Lab where they will use the information to help learn about how birds use urban habitats, officials said.
Children’s Museum Executive Director Felipe Peña said most of the children in the program attended it during the school year as well where they got help with tutoring and participated in after-school activities.
“It’s a free program we provide to the community,” Peña said. “So they help these kids that probably otherwise wouldn’t have a summer camp to go to.”
And the children were living it up Tuesday as they were led on an urban bird count.
Students were responsible for small areas around the museum where they observed and counted all the birds that they could see in a 10-minute time period.
De La Fuente’s favorite sighting was a green kingfisher, which she said is her favorite bird.
And in the past two weeks, she has learned a lot about birds, which she applied to the Tuesday bird count.
“You can like match the colors (on the birds) but sometimes they are the same and you get confused or maybe they are close but not the same,” De La Fuente said. “You have to focus on the birds and not look around and do other stuff because you have to be careful.”
But there’s more to her store of knowledge than just how and what to do during a bird count. De La Fuente knows about why birds fly, including the mechanics behind flight. She is fluent about the topic of birds and camouflage.
“There are a lot of species in the world and some are here and they can fly when they’re sleeping,” she said.
De La Fuente also knows that Brownsville and the Rio Grande Valley are famous for their huge populations of birds that can only be seen here.
“People from Canada or South America come to see this. They come to see this because there are like a bunch of species here,” she said, saying that makes her proud.
De La Fuente said she wants to be an ornithologist when she grows up.
AT A GLANCE
The results of the Brite Mind Summer Enrichment Program citizen bird count:
- Green kingfishers: 5
- Laughing gulls: 77
- Black-bellied whistling ducks: 14
- Great kiskadee: 4
- White-winged dove: 5
- Grackle: 19
- American coot: 6
- Chachalaca: 11
- Mallard: 10
- House sparrow: 30
- Mockingbird: 1
- Red-crowned parrot: 2
The count was conducted by children, many of whom are just learning to identify birds and movement from area to area may mean that some species were counted multiple times.