I picked up the book The Big Year when I went to buy bird food recently and it’s rekindled my love of bird watching. The book is about a year-long competition to see the most birds in North America and has been made into a movie with Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black.
When my oldest daughter was ten we would sit on my bed watching the birds at the bird feeders on the porch off my bedroom. We learned to identify our local mountain birds together and later incorporated some aspects of an ornithology course from Cornell University into her homeschooling studies. Now, years later, we both still love watching birds and plan on making a trip after Thanksgiving to Bosque del Apache, a National Wildlife Refuge.
One February I participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count sponsored by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which counts specific species of birds. This year, I’m thinking of participating in the Christmas Bird Count sponsored by the Audubon Society, which goes from December 14, 2011 to January 5, 2012.
The Audubon Christmas Bird Count began in 1900 as an alternative to “side hunts,” contests to shoot the most birds on Christmas day. Frank M. Chapman suggested that we count birds rather than kill them and today the Christmas Bird Count helps amateur and professional bird lovers study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America.
If you are already providing food, water and habitat for the birds in your area or want to, look into the Wildlife Habitat Certification offered by the National Wildlife Federation.
After decades of feeding the birds and leaving out fresh water for them, I now see new generations of birds growing up already accustomed to the bird feeders. Watching them helps me to keep in touch with the wild and learning the names we give them helps me to feel part of it. I’d love to hear about your experiences sharing bird watching with your children.
Tags: Audubon Society, Bosque del Apache, Christmas Bird Count, Cornell University, Frank M. Chapman, Great Backyard Bird Count, Jack Black, National Wildlife Federation., Owen Wilson, Steve Martin, The Big Year, Wildlife Habitat Certification