This weekend is the launch of the first-ever, global initiative to introduce a new birder (adult or child) to birding in a "soft" way that may spark future interest. I would like to be a part of this movement to increase awareness and generate an interest in a pass time to beat all pass times. Birding adds a richness to every outdoor experience and can be a primary or secondary focus. Yesterday, a biker stopped to talk to me on Blackhead Road. He had just seen a large raptor with a fan tail fly overhead. I had just caught a glimpse of it, so I had no idea what it was. He was very excited to know more about it. I pulled out a field guide, and he looked at the pictures. He thought the tail looked most like a Rough-legged Hawk. I knew that would be very unusual in that area, so I drove the road, hoping to see it again. This is a great example of birdwatching being an added outdoor dimension to his main focus of cycling. It is just this kind of interaction that the Pledge to Fledge program is promoting.
I am particularly keen on enriching the outdoor experience for my granddaughters and would like to share some of my ideas about how to introduce birding to a child. In the Spring, I shared an experience of birdwatching with my eldest granddaughter. Beyond the occasional outing, it is really nice to bring the birds home so that they can be enjoyed every day. This can be done by setting up a feeder. Not all feeders are as aesthetically as pleasing as this one set up by Catherine Barrett in her yard, but there are many choices of style and price range to suit any location.
Again from the Barrett yard, here is an example of the pre-formed seed bell and feeder cage.
When selecting a feeder(s), consider the potential variety of birds that may visit the feeder depending on location and bird population frequenting the area. Different feeders are available for different feeds, and of course, different birds eat different food. You don't have to be a bird expert to make the choice. The bags of seed will provide information about the meal-deal. Look at the pictures.
Black-oil Sunflower seed often provides the greatest return. Finch of all kinds will soon find the feeder. This little green feeder can handle sunflower seeds or typical finch seeds. The suet ball hung above the feeder will appeal to Blue Jays and Northern Flickers, while the suet may lure in some Black-capped Chickadees or Red-breasted Nuthatch. Of course, the species are all local to Newfoundland; so depending on where you are, you may find different birds coming to your yard.
In the winter I place this old bird bath under my feeder to catch falling seed. Some birds really prefer to eat from a flat surface rather than a swinging perch. Others, such a sparrows, prefer eating off the ground as the Purple Finch are doing below. All of that said, take a child shopping for a feeder and seed. Talk to them about how different species like different food AND how the beak is shaped to eat food they like.
Kids are in tune with shopping so make the most of it. Take them to several places to look at all of the different types of feeders and feed. The variety is amazing. Once the feeder and feed is selected, go home and hang it right away...strike while the iron is hot! Be sure to place it in a location where it can be viewed from a window in the house. All you have to do now is sit back and wait. They will come.