Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Salience and Competence WRT Birds

I have theorized in the past about the dynamic connection between salience and competence and have applied this to sport. The more you know about a sport, the more interesting it is, the more you want to know, and so on. The first time I saw cricket, it seemed to me that nothing was happening. I eventually learned more about the game and am now a fan. I have travelled to test matches and have in the past spent entire summers of weekends at limited overs matches. Soccer seems to me to be random running around on a lawn, but I know that if I bothered to learn the game it would become more interesting.

I decided to try to identify the birds that visit my garden and have been looking them up in my Petersen guide. It is amazing to me that, once I have identified a species, I see them everywhere when I never used to notice them at all. They have become salient because I am competent to identify them. And I find that I am becoming keen to know more about the habits of the birds I can identify. Is this connection between competence and salience exploited in education?

So far this year, the following birds have been seen feeding outside our kitchen window: junco, chipping sparrow, cardinal, blue jay, tufted titmouse, black capped chickadee, mourning dove. In the back garden, I saw a robin today, and crows have been filing across the lawn since the snow melted. A turkey vulture was sighted on the road last week, and wild turkeys are frequent visitors to the wetland next door. There are some raptors, but I have not been able to identify them with any confidence.

We hung a woodpecker feeder by the fence, and we hope that this will entice some other species. Spring's arrival should bring more species to the house.

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