|Family Bird-Watching: Bringing Parents and Kids Closer to Nature|
|Friday, 28 September 2012 00:00 | Written by Willow Lune | Article|
As my six-year-old son careened down the path in skates, he stopped to pick up a piece of trash along the way. He remarked that garbage along pathways could be dangerous for birds and other wildlife, then suddenly changed gears and pointed excitedly to a flock of cedar waxwings flying overhead. We paused to take in that beautiful sight. Our intention on this particular trip was not for bird-watching or trash collecting. It was solely for skating. So what happened?
For my son, bird-watching has become a gateway to an affection and appreciation for everything in nature. Before birding came along, he didn’t have much of an interest in picking up litter; he couldn’t tell the difference between a fir tree and a pine tree. Nowadays, his love of nature is a big part of who he is. Whereas others see birds sharing this world with them, my son sees a world made for birds
Learning Outside the Classroom
We don’t set out for a math, geography or other lesson before going bird-watching. It just happens naturally.
And you don’t need to live in the country to take up this pursuit. You may be surprised to discover the number of feathered species residing in urban areas. There may be crows, mourning doves, house sparrows, robins and perhaps even peregrine falcons. Buy or check out a field guide from your library, such as the Sibley Guide or National Geographic Guide to help with identification. For kids, try Backyard Birds or the Peterson First Guide. If you have binoculars, make sure to bring them for a close-up look, which can be very helpful in making identifications. Mid-sized binoculars, such as 8×32 or 8×40, are excellent for birding. They are light enough to carry on a hike and have powerful magnification to see detail while still providing a wide field of view to track moving objects.
Also consider bringing a digital camera, preferably one with a telephoto lens. Then you can preserve your memories of the birds you spot—maybe even start a scrapbook. Also, a photo will give you time to confirm your identification and become more familiar with various bird species, which will sharpen your classification skills in preparation for your next bird-watching outing.
Best Birding Locations
Cemeteries and parks also attract birds. Or, if you prefer, you can get them to come directly to you. Just set up a birdhouse and feeder in your backyard. Different feeders, houses and foods are preferred by different birds, so consult your field guide for advice on attracting the kinds of birds you seek. Of course, your field guide will also tell you whether the birds you seek are native to your area or whether you will have to travel to see them.
Bird-watching has really changed my family’s routine. Now that we know every outing is a potential birding adventure or a possible trash-collecting journey, we keep our eyes peeled and are more inclined to stoop down and pick up a discarded wrapper or cigarette butt along our route. Even if we’re walking or skating around, we can always spare a moment for the birds. So keep exploring with your family—you just never know where your birding adventures might lead.
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