Delight in Bird Sightings with Your Child. The Great Backyard Bird Count is this Weekend.

Bird watching. Credit Erin Millstead
This weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count, and I plan to introduce my 4-year-old to this event that engages bird watchers of all ages to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are. It will be easy and fun to watch and count birds in our yard and then report what we see by entering our bird list online. The data — collected by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon, with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada — is compared year-to-year to determine how bird populations may be changing.

I also plan to take my daughter to a local hiking trail to look for more birds and wildlife, different than what we see in our yard. Afterwards, we’ll have fun learning online about the bird species we have seen and playing the games and activities on the bird count website. The online bird guide will be a good resource for us.

I grew up in Southern California in the “land of eternal spring.” Swallows, hummingbirds, pelicans, and seagulls were the type of birds I saw around my backyard. From my backyard swing, I often gazed at the huge pelicans that sailed overhead and then plunged down with a huge splash into the sea chasing fish for their dinner.

Like clockwork, every March I would hear a chorus of birds outside my bedroom window and realized it was springtime and all the birds had again come back from South America to their California homes. In my little world, birds were seen and heard everywhere, because in Southern California, windows and doors were always open to catch the cool ocean breezes. With the temperature ranging from 50-70 degrees in my seaside town, bird calls always accompanied the roar of the Pacific Ocean.

When I moved to the East Coast and started to experience the seasons, I marveled at the glistening snow on the ground, deep green evergreens and bright red cardinals. What a beautiful contrast. Then, when spring and summer came, I witnessed purple martins (an East Coast version of my beloved Swallow) flying around my yard in search of bugs during the early evening hours. When my baby was born, I took her outside to point out all the birds and trees in our backyard so that she felt comfortable with the sights and sounds of nature.

I’m excited to share my love of birds and the outdoors to my child during the Great Backyard Bird Count. I can’t expect her to love the natural world as I do without spending time surrounded by a world of green. I hope the birds will cooperate by giving us a good show. Some great tips for enjoying the outdoors with children are at National Wildlife Federation’s Be Out There website.

What birds do you think you will see this weekend? You might see Cardinals, Pelicans, Canadian Geese, Egrets, and Ducks. Leave a comment and let us know what you find!

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