St. Croix’s birds were in the spotlight at Lew Muckle Elementary School’s “Learning With A Purpose” summer program on Monday, July 17. Kindergarten to 5th grade summer school students heard renowned architect and photographer Charles Peters describe the characteristics of about 54 species of birds in his “Birds of St. Croix” photo exhibit.
The poster-sized photos were displayed on two easels with names identifying each species from the fowl (chicken) around the yard and the heron flying in the darkness of the night to the mountain dove perching high on a treetop. All the species in the display are indigenous to St. Croix, Peters explained.
Students were mesmerized as the photographer presented on the habitats of most of the birds. The inquisitive students asked several questions about the habitats or natural communities of the birds on St. Croix. Peters identified the Lagoon area in Christiansted as an ideal location for bird watching. He added that bird communities are found in the ocean, bays, wetlands, dry forests, moist forests and developed areas on St. Croix. For example, he said, the snowy egret can be found in the wetlands.
“What does the egret eat?” asked student Jahnessa Charlemagne. “Lizards, worms and fish,” replied Peters, adding, “St. Croix has a large population of the great egret.”
Another student was curious about the turkey, asking if it is a bird. A third-grade student raised her hand and said that “humming birds fly backwards.”
“That’s right! Where did you learn that?” asked the photographer. “It is the only bird that flies backwards and is the most popular bird in the Caribbean.”
Peters, who served on the Virgin Islands Coastal Zone Management Board, also brought an environmental message to the students.
“What can we do to protect our environment? We need a landscape plan. We need more trees to keep birds flourishing on the island. The West Indian whistling duck moved out because of development and the closing off of some wetland areas,” said Peters, encouraging the students to read about and help preserve the environment.
Peters, who was a prominent photographer on the U.S. mainland, transitioned from architect and builder to photography. He said the “Birds of St. Croix” photo collection began in 2007 and is still growing. He plans to launch a public exhibit of his photographs at the Florence A.S. Williams Public Library in Christiansted in August 2017.
Muckle School Summer Program Administrator Delicia Espinosa said students followed through on the “Birds of St. Croix” presentation with a field trip to Salt River Ecological Preserve on Wednesday, July 19.