Nature discovery is an incredible activity for children and adults alike. It reminds us how incredible life is, and certainly this time of year is brimming with opportunities to go out and connect with the life around us.
This month, the families of Creating Together are having fun with nature through a number of trips to the zoo, Downey farm, and local parks. On 2 days we had a specific focus on birds: the 18th we went to Beaty Park to identify birds in our neighborhood, and on June 26th our monthly science activity is creating bird feeders!
This summer, we thought you might like to do some bird watching yourself, because it has a lot of great benefits for families:
- builds respect and compassion for nature and all living things
- kids can refine their skills in concentration, observation and reasoning
- can be done at any time of year and across continents
- its fun and interesting to learn about bird behaviour (also called “birding”)
Before you get started, here are some tips on good birding manners, what to bring, and some birding activities to do with your children.
- Be respectful of habitat and neighbors’ yards.
- Don’t shake trees, take eggs, or wreck nests.
- Walk slowly and quietly.
- Point out birds, don’t yell.
- Shoot birds with a camera, nothing else.
- Leave grounded fledgling birds alone; Mom is probably nearby waiting for you to leave before she helps it back to the nest.
- Keep pets leashed so they don’t chase birds, disturb neighbors, or destroy fragile habitats.
- Take only memories away with you and leave only footprints behind.
Bird Watching Supplies
- A water bottle and backpack of snacks is wise.
- If you go into rugged areas, take a first-aid kit, too.
- Dress so you don’t invite poison ivy or insect bites.
- Bring binoculars (or a spotting scope) so kids can focus on details, like bird color or beak shape.
- A camera or a sketch pad and pencils help children focus on detail and allow them to reflect on what they observe.
- A pad and pencil for recording species is handy, too.
- Preschoolers can make their own binoculars by taping together two empty toilet paper rolls. Attach yarn for a neck strap.
- Remind kids that birds are hard to spot, but easy to hear. Have them close their eyes and listen. Can they point to where the song is coming from?
- Kids can keep a yearly bird record to track bird population increase or decrease.
- Bird identification guides, called field guides, name birds and help distinguish between similar looking birds. They narrow down possibilities by providing range maps of seasonal bird territory and preferred habitat. Some illustrate nest styles, too.
- Scavenger Hunt! To fire up kids’ powers of observation, make a list of target birds before heading to the yard or park. Use general categories like ducks and hawks or even critters in groups of threes or fours.
- Stick to areas near water if you can. You’re likely to spy herons, egrets, and swans, which are easier for kids to see. Plus . . . ducklings!
- Striking out on live birds? Point out the signs they leave behind such as nests, cracked seeds, whitewash (poop), or owl pellets.