Friday, April 8, 2011

Paying it Forward

Friday, April 8, 2011
11 comments

Dear Fellow Bird Watchers:

Now that spring is here, or will be soon, I have a suggestion for how you can help to make the world a better place. Consider doing this: Volunteer your time to lead a bird walk for kids or new bird watchers. There's no better way to share the joy of being a bird watcher than to help another human open his or her eyes to the wonders of birds.

Remember how you felt the first time you "sparked" on birds? And remember all the help you got as a new bird watcher? Birding mentors, bird club friends, and helpful individuals are the people that welcome us into the community of bird watchers, encouraging our interest and enthusiasm, sharing their knowledge, and—perhaps most importantly—inviting us along to go birding. Without those invitations, our interest in birds might never have blossomed.

Every spring, Julie and I go to the local elementary school and take several of the classes outside to look at birds. The school is in a rural setting, so all we really have to do is step outside and pass out the binoculars or set up the spotting scopes. The birds do the rest.

Last Wednesday, we took the school's after-school Science Club out for an hour. The results were awesome! More than a dozen species seen well, just a few steps from the playground, including some species and observations worth noting: The American kestrel pair is again nesting in the barn on the west border of the school. Six black vultures added further confirmation of this species' ongoing range expansion into our part of Ohio. An eastern meadowlark sang all around us, going from tree to wire to fence, marking the boundaries of his territory. And two first-of-spring sightings seemed to be our reward just for being outside on April's first warm evening: barn swallow and osprey.



It was a grand experience and the kids thanked us over and over again. We even had a few parents join us! Who knows? Maybe we showed a spark bird to one or two youngsters. And that is the whole point. I feel like I am paying back the kind souls who encouraged my interest in birds way back in the mid-1970s. Wow! That's 40 years ago! I'd love to think that in 2051 one of these kids—now all grown up to adulthood—might be inviting a group of youngsters out for a bird walk, remembering all the fun we had and all the neat birds we saw and heard.

It's the BEST time of year to be outside with the birds, folks. Being a bird watcher is one of life's most renewable gifts. Consider paying it forward, won't you?

11 comments:

On April 8, 2011 at 8:49 AM Beyond My Garden said...

I'll have to get better at my identification skills first. I seem to have forgotten how to find the birds. They are flying farther away and they are smaller than they used to be. My husband blames my eyesight (age) but that couldn't be true. Thanks for what you do.

On April 8, 2011 at 9:35 AM Connie Kogler said...

Last November I started a "Birding The Big Thompson" monthly bird walk here in Loveland, CO. The small Big Thompson River runs through our town with great birding opportunities. People have literally flocked to this free monthly event. The first month - 25, second month, 30+. January? FIFTY-SEVEN, Feb and March? 35+. Many, many new birders and now repeat folks coming along. I have been blown away, blessed, and thrilled at meeting such great people.

On April 8, 2011 at 9:50 AM rebecca said...

I am incredibly fortunate in that I don't have to volunteer to do this - it's actually part of my job. I teach a variety of field classes for elementary and middle school students at an outdoor education center, but birds class is by far my favorite. This week I led a bird walk for a group of urban fifth graders, and they were SO excited to get to use binoculars! When we got to the pond and saw storks, spoonbills, egrets, and anhingas, they were saying things to each other like "I didn't know birdwatching was going to be THIS fun!" and "this is the best class yet!" It was amazing. Who knows, maybe one of those kids will grow up to be an ornithologist!

On April 8, 2011 at 12:52 PM Birding is Fun! said...

Another way to introduce youth to birdwatching is through Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. You can register as the Bird Study Merit Badge Counselor with the nearest Scout office. Back in Idaho I used to host scout groups for bird walks and had a blast. I hope to do more of it here in Utah.

On April 8, 2011 at 1:14 PM Bill of the Birds said...

Beyond: Might be time to ask your husband to buy you some new binoculars!

Connie: I've actually met one of your happy bird students! He raved about your walks.

Rebecca: Keep up the great work!

B-I-F: Great point about the scouts. and if you look closely at the art in the BSA birding merit badge booklet you'll see art by Julie Z!

On April 8, 2011 at 6:12 PM Connie Kogler said...

Seriously. Very cool. We do have fun it seems.

On April 8, 2011 at 8:46 PM Erik said...

I love volunteering with the local young birders walks. Our group has loaner binoculars and field guides so the kids get a first class experience. I'll even let some of the kids carry my scope. They seem to relish in an adult trusting them with the responsibility. As a bonus I get to lighten the load a little bit and let someone else lug the scope. Crafty adults.

Behind the local nature center is a spot where the Black-capped Chickadees will feed from the hand. Local birders have been working them for years and we finally have achieved success. The spot is along a fairly busy hiking trail and I've given a lot of kids who were hiking by with their parents a chance to hand feed the birds themselves. The look of pure and honest joy on their faces justifies all the hours people spent standing out there.

On April 8, 2011 at 9:07 PM Dave said...

Bravo Bill!
More adult birders should be out there helping the youngsters and promoting birding and care of the habitat!

On April 8, 2011 at 10:16 PM mkircus said...

Amen, Brother.

One of my most rewarding experiences was taking my Inner City Outdoor Club birdwatching. One child wrote, "you have set my eyes on birds".

I lead two tours a month at Anahuac NWR and seldom see children on the tour. I'd like to charge each adult one kid to come on the tour.

On April 14, 2011 at 7:00 AM Sunshine and Songbirds said...

New to blogging and appreciate additional knowledge in regards to birding.I spend lots of time photographing our wonderful birds, and you might say I "raise" bluebirds and tree and barn swallows lol. Thank you Bill for this blog. Loved reading about your magazinen also. Will need to ck it out.
"Linda

On April 18, 2011 at 5:18 AM animal supplies said...

I love volunteering with the local young birders walks. Our group has loaner binoculars and field guides so the kids get a first class experience. I'll even let some of the kids carry my scope. They seem to relish in an adult trusting them with the responsibility. Seem to have forgotten how to find the birds. They are flying farther away and they are smaller than they used to be. I teach a variety of field classes for elementary and middle school students at an outdoor education center, but birds class is by far my favorite.Thanks for sharing…

animal supplies


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