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Hiking and Bird Watching With the Kids


Photos by Rod Gilbert 1) robin 2) Western bluebird 3) American goldfinch 4) rufous hummingbird


by Ernie Allison


Children need fresh air and exercise to thrive. But how can you lure them away from the computer and video games? How can we make them appreciate the outdoors and connect with nature while at the same time connecting with us? I say, why not bond through hiking? Making hiking and bird watching interesting for children can sometimes be a challenge, but there are ways to turn it into an adventure. Without knowing it, they are actually learning a lot about their environment and how to use it to their benefit. Don’t forget to pack the PB&J sandwiches and some fruit - this will come in handy on the way as the kids start to tire out and need an extra boost. And by all means, don’t forget the water. Thirsty kids are cranky kids.


Building a Bird Feeder with the Things You Find

 

While hiking, ask the children to look for pine cones, which is a pretty easy thing to find outdoors. Tie a few of them together with a string (a shoe string, a weed, or a soft, pliable branch - doesn't matter). Take some of that peanut butter you packed to spread into the crevices of the pine cones. It is best if you use unsalted peanut butter, not just for the birds, but as a healthy choice for your children's diet by reducing their salt intake. Attach it to a branch that can be observed from where you plan on watching. Then step back and let nature take over. Fruit is another option to attract the birds. For example, if you have an apple, just bite off a piece and rub it against a pine cone. This works like a grater and the apple (pear or peach) will stick in the crevices of the pine cone. The rougher the cone, the better the outcome. A tree stump to set the fruit pieces, or even raisins, on will work just as well.

Make Bird Spotting a Sport

Now that you have a feeder, you will soon be attracting birds. Have the children point out the birds they see and try to identify them. This makes them more aware of their surroundings and helps to sharpen their senses.  It can be a competition, a fun one at that, and you can invite other families to join you on your adventures because the more the merrier!

Don’t Forget What You’ve Learned

You can continue the game at home by setting up a bird feeder in your back yard. See if they recognize any of the birds coming to the home feeder. Are they the same kind of birds or are they different?  You’ll be amazed at how this sharpens a child’s capacity for concentration. Happy Hiking and Birding!

To see lots more of Rod Gilbert's photos see our quiz of local trail-side birds.