Thursday, November 13, 2008

Young Birders in Texas

Thursday, November 13, 2008
I was glad to have my spotting scope along. I kept it set on midget and the kids dug the great bird looks. Photo by Liz Gordon.

During the recently completed Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, I gave a presentation my most recent book, The Young Birder's Guide and discussed how we adults can help to get more kids into birds and nature. And that was fun and seemed to be well-received.

What was even better was getting to take two groups of local kids out birding in the park across the street from the festival headquarters. All told we took out about 35 youngsters and a dozen or so accompanying adults. The bird list was not exceptionally long, but we had big fun. Helping me herd the kids, spot birds, and impersonate sun-bathing Inca doves was Liz Gordon. Liz is a natural with kids, due in large measure to her own forever-young outlook on life. (Thanks again Liz of the Cosmos!)

We gathered 'round the field guide after each new species was sighted. Photo by Liz Gordon.

Susan Hoehne was the festival's coordinator for kids activities and she graciously arranged for us to borrow 15 pairs of compact Brunton binoculars from the Valley Nature Center. These came in very handy (as did the binocs loaned to us by our friends at Eagle Optics)—each kid got to have his or her own pair to use on the field trip.
Small binoculars work best for small hands and close-set eyes. Photo by Liz Gordon.

After a few quick lessons on using the binocs we crossed the street to Lon C. Hill Park seeking birds. The afternoon prior I had scouted around the auditorium and park to see if there were any stake-out species I could rely on. There were no birds in the afternoon heat. ¡Campo sin pajaros!

I felt better on Saturday morning when I showed up an hour before the first kids bird walk and found lots of bird activity. A pair of red-crowned parrots low in one of the park's trees were the best of the early birds. Alas they did not stay around for the kids to see.

Our total bird list was as follows:
  1. great-tailed grackle
  2. Brewer's blackbird
  3. golden-fronted woodpecker
  4. yellow-bellied sapsucker
  5. house sparrow
  6. rock pigeon
  7. Inca dove
  8. Eurasian collared dove
  9. European starling
  10. Couch's kingbird
  11. turkey vulture
  12. Lincoln's sparrow
  13. northern mockingbird
  14. laughing gull
  15. orange-crowned warbler
I gave away copies of the Young Birder's Guide to a few very interested youngsters and sold a few others to their thoughtful and generous adults.

The thing I was most pleased about was that Liz and I opened the eyes of these three dozen or so young south Texans to the avian wonders of their part of the world. They knew about the local parrots and chachalacas, but the mockingbird, golden-fronted woodpecker, Inca doves, and Couch's kingbird had them saying "Awesome!" and "Cool!" and "Oh WOW!"
Watching two very active golden-fronted woodpeckers. Photo by Liz Gordon.

I have to say, I am pretty sure that's why I was put here on Earth—to show people (of all ages, but especially kids) awesome and cool birds!

The second field trip of the morning. That's me in the green shirt with the littlest birder. At far left: Liz Gordon, my co-leader.


On November 13, 2008 at 5:47 PM Kathi said...

I think my favorite BOTB posts are those featuring BT3 showing birds to kids. (The "Giant Things" series is a close second.)

People, if you have never seen Bill in person, he is a tall guy. Watching him fold himself up (down?) to the height of his littlest birders is awesome, and gives me an empathetic backache. The time he takes to be sure every birder, regardless of age or level of experience, gets his or her eyes on the birds, the speed at which he can find, identify, and focus the scope on his targets, and his boundless enthusiasm for his craft makes him one special guy.

Don't sound so negative about that trip list, Bill. Seven of those species would have been lifers for me, so even though your tip list was short, it was full of some sweet birds.

Thanks for all you do for the birding world, especially its future members.


On November 13, 2008 at 6:13 PM Julie Zickefoose said...

I can think of a few more good reasons you were put on this earth, but that is a big one. Proud of you, Pied Piper of Birdwatching.

On November 13, 2008 at 10:09 PM entoto said...

You truly have a natural grace with hospitality, and acknowledge that young people like to be included.

I get frustrated around these parts with birding experiences that specifically exclude children. It would not be so frustrating if the local groups would in turn, offer things for children, but they do not.

Want to collaborate in bringing birding to northern kiddos?

On November 14, 2008 at 10:53 AM Rondeau Ric said...

That's cool Bill, convert as many as you can.

On November 14, 2008 at 11:55 AM Bill of the Birds said...

KatDoc: You are very kind.

Zick: You, too.

Trix: Sure. Can you get me up to Alaska in one of your cargo containers? I need to bird in the middle of your fine state.

Ric: Yep. That's my goal.

On November 14, 2008 at 8:46 PM Dawn Fine said...

wonderful what you are doing...Thanks

On November 15, 2008 at 10:49 AM Anonymous said...

Wonderful post Bill.


On November 17, 2008 at 1:31 PM RuthieJ said...

Way to go Mr. T!
Get 'em hooked while they're young.