Fledging a Child to Bird Watching: Field Trip - Part III
With a little bit of knowledge and a lot of enthusiasm, it may well be time to try a field trip. Engage the child in planning and preparing for the bird walk. Prepare a list of gear to make the trip pleasant. Plan for a long day, but be prepared for a short jaunt. First and foremost, be sure the child is dressed for all possible weather conditions: Suitable shoes/boots (sparked, princess shoes not recommended), layered clothing, jacket, and hat. Pack a backpack to carry extra clothing in case of a weather change. Apply sunscreen and take bug spray. Try to pick areas where flies are not going to ruin the trip. Take the child shopping for a size-appropriate pair of binoculars. Teaching a young child to use binoculars is not easy. I can't see what s/he is seeing. I have found the best way to teach them the focus feature is to look at a large object, bright and colorful. Then ask them to turn the dial until it looks clear. Try this over and over before going on the trip. To not be able to find an object in the binoculars can be very frustrating. Purchase a small bird call. The squeeking sound peaks their interest. Pack a picnic lunch and plenty of water/juice. and be sure to take some bird seed and maybe some peanuts. Take a bird field guide for reference and a pencil and notebook to record anything special seen along the way.Take a long a camera to record any special moment. It doesn't have to be fancy, just capable of taking some record shots. With everything in order, decide where to go.
There are numerous city parks with natural surroundings. May I suggest a place where a play ground is not available. It is very difficult to compete with swings, see-saws and other children romping about. City parks provide benches where it is possible to just sit quietly and listen for any sound of birds.
Other parks, like Samonier Nature Park, offer a guaranteed chance to observe owls and other animals such as moose and caribou. Samonier provides a great trail and very natural surroundings. With a bit of luck, small birds will be flitting around.
When walking through the woods and spotting small birds, I will stop, listen and perhaps pish to see if any little bird might come near. Without teaching a single lesson about pishing, I heard my granddaughter model the same behaviour. The tiny little "pst" that came from her was just perfect. In no time, little birds became curious, and she was ecstatic.
A bird walk doesn't have to just be about birds. Stop to enjoy all that nature offers including flowers, butterflies and insects.
If a dragonfly crosses the path, take a picture. It is impossible to see the friendly little face of the dragonfly when it is moving about. However, a picture to review later can provide an amazing little character. This is a great way to remove the fear associated with small, flying things.
Stop at a comfortable place along the trail to have a snack or lunch. Be alert to your surroundings and watch for any little visitors that may show up. The first field trip should be an all-encompassing nature walk and can make or break the potential willingness of the child to go on future trips.
Encourage the child to talk and ask questions about what you find. It isn't necessary to have all the answers, because finding the answers together can be a future activity. Follow up on their curiosity and enjoy every minute. Look at things common to you through the new, little eyes that are seeing and experiencing it all for the first time.
With a little luck, Nature will charm the child into looking forward to the next field trip.