Birding....The Next Generation!
Recently, I became the "owner" of abundant free time. Yesterday I used some of that free time to take my 19 month old grandson, Angelo, for a little birding field trip. He was given the cool Fisher Price binoculars once owned by his father...yes, they really work!...and we set off into the LaCrosse River Marsh. This is a great area to introduce children to birds and birding, because it's fairly certain they'll see birds, and often up close.
The water was predictably high from the recent snowmelt and minor flooding, but the trails were still above water. Off we went! Of course, we didn't get very far. There were Red Winged Blackbirds right there! I showed him how I used my binoculars to bring the birds up close. He first wanted to put the eyepiece to his mouth, but that is the nature of some toddlers with anything new. Finally he got the idea and....the photo shows his reaction.
From there, we spotted the ever present Canada Geese. We were able to get several close to water's edge looks at muskrats before they dove under and away. I was amazed that by getting down behind him, speaking in hushed tones and pointing out a Great Blue Heron, that he kept that same attitude and got nice long looks before it lifted up from the weeds.
He would mimic certain bird calls... Canada Geese, Tree Swallows and Red Winged Blackbirds...as he watched their activities. At one point, two geese on the trail in front of us got into a squabble with another pair and he was ready to rush in to referee. First lesson of birding..."Angelo, no, geese are MEAN!" Surprising how fast little feet can go when they have a mission!
The child knows quality, too. He wanted to look through my binoculars, and after that...the Fisher Price ones came off and dumped on the trail!
All told, we were probably out there almost two hours. When he'd tired of looking at birds, he found a nice pile of rocks to throw into the water, an activity that he relished for almost half an hour. Though he's spent time before with Grandma pointing out birds by name, this was his first real birding outing. Interestingly, the only thing he actually calls "bird" is an American Robin. He'll figure it out.