Thursday, January 31, 2013

Our Younger Generation of Birders

One thing that you may have noticed about both me and Paul is that we are both fathers. Not only that, but we are both have three kids, which is quite a lot of work. When, oh when does one get time to go birding when you have kids running around?

Now I am lucky in that I work part-time and can spend the rest of the time as a stay at home father for my 2 year old and be there when my 7 year old twins get home. My older kids sometimes like to go birding with me (with varying results), but my youngest is even more of an impediment to seeing any interesting birds. Don’t get me wrong, he is great and all, but he is a handful and is not a quiet kid (he gets that from me). Not the best partner for trying to find and identify vaguely yellow warblers.

That, though, is mostly a function of his age; an almost three year old is not really built to quietly walk around, looking through binoculars (though he loves his plastic ones at home), and cross referencing field guides to compare distinguishing characteristics of similar looking species. One thing for certain, though, is that he loves nature.

I don’t try to make my children get involved in the same interests and hobbies as me; I won’t force my children into things just because I like them. The interesting thing, though, is that children actually want to be like their parents (strange, I know) and both my older kids have shown an interest in birding ever since I’ve started doing this Year of Birds. It is cute that my oldest son has started his own list of birds (his identifications don’t always follow the rules of the blog) and that my daughter makes me tell her the story about how I found a bird after every new one is added. But what of my youngest son?

One thing I have been doing with my youngest son is to take him to the toddler groups at Tyler Arboretum. It is every other week and involves stories, crafts, and some outside time (weather permitting). A fun time where I am not embarrassed by having my kid run around and not listen (there are 8 other kids who each take their turn running around and not listening) while having him exposed to nature. What was the topic this week? Birds!

Yep, yesterday’s topic was birds. Excellent, my son gets to do his little toddler things while I can take a little time to look around for some birds because, hey, that is what we’ll be doing anyway! So we went and sat down with the other moms and kids (because I am almost always the only father there) to color either an owl or a woodpecker (he picked the owl). After some time deciding which color he would barely scratch onto the paper, we went and sat and listened to the teacher read a story about an owl and a woodpecker. Err….make that “sat” and listened. Two year old and all.

After the story, the teacher showed the kids a little electronic thing that played different bird calls and talked a little about what we might see (spoiler: chickadees, lots of chickadees) and then we went outside.

Now, we walked around and looked at birds and smelled witch-hazel flowers, but the birds were mostly common birds. Ok, they were mostly Carolina chickadees, but we also saw some crows and turkey vultures and I heard cardinals and downy woodpeckers (well, probably downy because, as the teacher pointed out, it is hard to tell the difference between them and hairy by ear). But I did get see black vultures fly overhead (a new bird!). My son does not get to put it on his list.

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