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The birds of Corsica invite themselves into schools

The association Oiseaux de Corse, founded by passionate naturalist photographers, offers kits to teachers to make children aware of the protection of nature

Names of birds will resound in the playgrounds, but no reason to punish the children for all that: on January 17, the association Birds of Corsica launched a “common” bird discovery kit for schoolchildren.

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After a first general kit on island birds distributed free of charge to schools in 2021, the association wanted to focus on the birds that children can see every day: The first step was to raise awareness among children with a panel of about twenty birds that live in Corsica, such as the nuthatch or the red kiteexplains René Roger, founder of the association. Very quickly, we received messages from teachers asking us for information on the birds we see every day, hence the operation we are launching with the discovery of common birds.

With the robin as its emblem, this new kit allows children to learn more about the tits, sparrows, goldfinches, pigeons, finches, doves, swallows, swifts… that they can observe on a daily basis. Each kit contains twenty large-format photos to be shown in class, accompanied by a brief description of the species, guides for setting off for observation, small-format photos so that each student can take them home, coloring pages modeled on the photos, and above all a USB key on which the songs of the birds were recorded. “We wanted to bring something extra by offering children the opportunity to listen to the songs and cries of birds, because we often hear them more than we see them!”,

comments René Roger.

René Roger practices photography

Thanks to the sound bank of the company Biophonia, specialized in bioacoustics and ecoacoustics, two scientific disciplines which are based on the study of the sounds emitted by animals to follow the evolution of biodiversity, the association was able to enrich its kit of discovery and give teachers the opportunity to explain what bioacoustics is, continues René Roger. Distributed free of charge to schools that request them, the kits were produced with the financial support of the Office for the Environment of Corsica (OEC). The first edition was distributed last year in 97 schools and more than 5,000 pupils, from CP to CM2, were thus made aware of the protection of birds.

One out of two sparrows has disappeared in Europe

According to a European study, one out of two sparrows has disappeared in Europe over the past forty years.  - Rene Roger

Why choose birds rather than mammals or flowers to make children aware of biodiversity? Because it is an exceptional toolreplies René Roger. Children can see them, hear them, while if we talk about bears or deer, they will never see them. It is also a way to extend the passion and investment of the association’s volunteers through awareness-raising actions that make sense: ” When I started taking photos of birds, I thought it was a shame not to show them to people who don’t have the opportunity to go bird watching themselves, especially that it is often difficult to see them: the birds are always too high, too far away or pass too quickly, smiles René Roger. With the members of the association, we therefore thought of reaching out to the general public through exhibitions.

The chaffinch is one of the common birds highlighted in the discovery kit offered by the association.  - Rene Roger

In 2016 and 2017, Saleccia Park thus hosted an exhibition on the nuthatch and the red kite throughout the summer. But we realized that we had to reach children more directly because they are the most affected. We started to make temporary exhibitions, sometimes for a single day, for the children and we noticed that they were attached to the photos but also that they were interested in what we were telling them, that they were asking questions. Hence the idea of ​​making them aware of the protection of birds. And there is urgency: over the past thirty years, several species of birds have lost 30 to 60% of their population in France, according to the latest count from the National Museum of Natural History. And among them, it is sometimes very common species that suffer the most from human activity: according to a European study published last October, 247 million house sparrows have disappeared in Europe since 1980, or one in two sparrows.

For René Roger, what was a simple passion becomes a mission: photography is a way to arouse emotion, to raise awareness of the diversity, beauty and fragility of our environment.

Ethical photography

When the volunteers leave with their cameras in hand, they take great care not to disturb the birds: We don’t go near the nests. For example, for the bearded vulture, it is forbidden to go there from November to August, that is to say from the moment when the adults begin to build the nest until the fledgling of the young. Ditto for the red kite: if the female is on the nest, we don’t go there. The tiny sparrows that migrate thousands of kilometers, if disturbed when they stop to feed, they may have difficulty completing their journey explains the naturalist photographer who is indignant at the less scrupulous methods of some. On the pond of Biguglia, I saw people throwing pebbles in the water so that the birds fly away and it makes a nice picture… The birds that are there rest and feed, this is not is not possible to do that, you have to think before you act! With a website, www.oiseaudecorse.fr, listing approximately 3,000 photos of 200 bird species, a Facebook page with nearly 4,500 subscribers, bird guides, exhibitions and now discovery kits for children, the association Oiseaux de Corse campaigns peacefully, with triggers, for biodiversity and respect for nature. If you want to take beautiful photos, you have to take them on the lookoutexplains René Roger. It’s a lot of patience, you have to install the hides well in advance because the birds are suspicious and if something changes in their environment, they move away. To be a good wildlife photographer, you have to be a naturalist, learn, discover… It takes a lot of time. And when you spend a lot of time doing that, you say to yourself that you have to transmit.

To order common bird discovery kits, teachers can contact the association directly by email: contact@oiseaudecorse.fr

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