Dec 20
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Boy Scouts Bird Study merit badge class in conjunction with Christmas Bird Count

Boy Scouts Bird Study merit badge class in conjunction with Christmas Bird Count

It always amazes me that so many kids want to learn about birds. We can only take so many for our class and there is always a waiting list.

What class is that? We just completed our fourth annual Bird Study merit badge class in conjunction with the local Christmas Bird Count. This has been a very fun partnership between the Boy Scouts and the local Amos Butler Audubon.

It was a very snowy day for the class and we were all bundled up for the birding part. But, the snow didn’t deter us from finding our required 20 different species nor did it deter us from having fun.

One of the highlights was a Red-tailed Hawk perched in a tree for all the boys to see it through the spotting scopes.

Another highlight was a very common bird that is not commonly known, Horned Larks. A flock flew overhead making their distinctive flight call, listen here. Horned Larks live in fields and can sometimes be drawn to yards with cracked corn.

Hopefully, some of the boys were inspired to begin the hobby of birding or bird feeding. At minimum, they learned a little bit more about noticing and appreciating birds.

Special thanks to the Rob and Eric Ripma of Nutty Birder for assisting with the class.

Feb 14
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It’s not like I need an excuse to go birding! And truth be told, if I am outdoors or even just have a view to the outdoors…I am always watching for birds.

I am not exactly sure when or how my passion for birds developed, but I do know the bug bit me at an early age.

I remember I was around eight years old when my curiosity about birds led me to try to catch one. I believe I patterned my cardboard box trap after the one Wile E. Coyote used in an attempt to catch The Road Runner in the cartoon of the same name. I wasn’t anymore successful than he was, but at least I didn’t fall off a cliff in the attempt!

My point with all this is that birds can be truly captivating to children.

Birds come in all shapes, sizes and colors. They have enchanting songs. And they can FLY! Birds can go anywhere they want at anytime they want. The sense of freedom and adventure that this represents to a child’s imagination is irresistible. If they could, they would be a bird, too.

So, since trying to actually catch a bird is totally illegal these days, just how does one go about getting kids to start thinking about the birds that live around them everyday?

I would suggest that this week’s Great Backyard Bird Count is the perfect activity for introducing kids to the world of birds!

The GBBC website, www.birdcount.org, makes it easy for young and beginning birders to get started. The website’s GBBC for Kids section includes a Top 10 gallery of the most likely seen birds and several clever bird-themed activities, such as a birdsong quiz, coloring sheets and on-screen jigsaw puzzles. Children can also take and send in photos of their backyard sightings as part of submitting the family’s bird tally online.

The GBBC runs from February 15 through 18 and it’s a great way to have some family fun over the long Presidents Day weekend and participation is free!

Please let us know your family’s plans for participating in this year’s GBBC.

Aug 03
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Summer is a popular time for outdoor family reunions, camping trips or sleep away camp for the kids. However, much of the fun in hiking and spending time outside is having encounters with animals in their natural environment.

“There are several easy things campers and hikers can do to get the most out of their outdoor experience,” said Jim Carpenter, CEO and founder of Wild Birds Unlimited. “Some tips are fairly intuitive, such as being quiet on the trail, so as not to scare away animals you are hoping to view. Other tips are very important, but less well known, such as the fact that feathers and nests are all federally protected and not to be collected.”

Carpenter offers the following 10 camping/outdoor tips to make sure people can observe the most wildlife:

1. Bring binoculars for kids and adults.
2. Turn binoculars into a magnifying glass by reversing the end you look through; it works great for looking closely at flowers, butterflies, insects and more.
3. Watch for birds actively feeding early in the morning.
4. Late-risers can still see birds but may have to be more observant as the birds sing less often as the morning progresses.
5. At night, listen for owls calling to each other.
6. Listen for Great Horned Owls calling a five-note hoot that can be interpreted as “who’s awake, me too.”
7. Listen for nighthawks in the evening sky—a nighthawk’s call sounds like a “pee-ernt.”
8. Set out a hummingbird feeder while camping and watch to see who shows up to investigate—don’t use a yellow feeder, though, as you’ll probably attract bees, not birds. Hummingbirds like the color red.
9. Use the simple ratio of ¼ cup of sugar to one cup of water (a one-to-four ratio) for hummingbird nectar.
10. Bird and other wildlife identification guides show you how to look for wildlife; what kinds of behaviors to look for; and what habitats to look in to be able to identify what you see.

May 24
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I must admit to how lucky I feel working for a company like Wild Birds Unlimited.

It is a company that truly aspires to live up to its Mission Statement to “Bring People and Nature Together.” It is not just a slogan…it is the ever present motivation behind what we do and it has never been more important than with WBU’s efforts to bring a new generation in touch with the natural world.

For the sixth consecutive year, Wild Birds Unlimited and the National Audubon Society are partnering to provide scholarships to underserved children to attend National Audubon Society summer camps nationwide. These very special camp experiences allow young people to connect with nature and gain a desire to preserve it for future generations.

And if you don’t believe the kids have a great time…just read some of the quotes from some of our previous campers:

“I loved the nature there a lot. Some of the things I saw really amazed me like a new type of bug I discovered that I’d never seen. I really hope I don’t get chiggers again.”

“I like playing camouflage. I was it. I won twice in a row! I saw a great blue heron. I caught a frog then put him back in the pond. But first I dropped him and had to chase him. I LOVE camp!”

I saw a butterfly. It was black and white. I caught it in the net then let it go. And then another, and another, another, another, another, another, another and another—WHOOPS. That one was a moth!

I have been to other camps and they either babysit you or you have no fun. This camp was different. I was busy all week having fun, but I learned. I liked the hikes in the woods.

Parents and caregivers should apply now to give their children the opportunity to attend one of these camps.

Scholarship eligibility is determined by each Audubon Center.

May 17
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Did you know… the average young person spends more than 53 hours per week connected to electronic media – more absorbed in the digital world than the natural world – and Wild Birds Unlimited and the National Audubon Society are taking action.

For the sixth consecutive year, we have partnered with Audubon to provide scholarships to underserved children attending National Audubon Society Summer Camps nationwide. Wild Birds Unlimited Pathways To Nature for Kids allows young people to connect with nature and gain a desire to preserve it for future generations.

Parents and caregivers should apply now to give their children the opportunity to attend one of these camps. Scholarship eligibility is determined by each Audubon Center.

If summer camp isn’t something your kids are interested in, click here and sign-up to receive our FREE kid’s activities all summer long! We will e-mail you two activities each month.

We aren’t the only ones who think kids need to spend more time outside. Here is a wonderful blog, Playborhood.com/blog, by Mike Lanza. Mike has also written a book, Playborhood: Turn Your Neighborhood Into a Place for Play, it’s a great resources for parents and grandparents on how you can get back outside and play!

How are your kids spending their summer!

Jul 22
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I recently spent the morning with a group of budding naturalists. There were 18 children ages 9-13 taking part in a Junior Master Naturalist day camp program. Our topic was birds and birding. Wow! They were quite eager to learn.

Each child had a copy of Backyard Birds (part of the Peterson Field Guides for Young Naturalists) and a pair of binoculars. After learning about their books and binoculars, we hit the birding trail. What a fabulous time of exploring with our ears and eyes.

We heard and saw the Gray Catbird ‘meowing’ in the thicket. American Goldfinches flew overhead calling out their favorite snack food; ‘potato-chip’. The Eastern Towhee was in the woods telling us to ‘drink-your-tea-he-he.’ The all-blue Indigo Bunting was politely singing his lunch request, ‘pizza-pizza cheese-cheese please-please thank you-thank you.’

We got to see the sparkling red gorget of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird while he perched in the open taking a break from all his foraging and territory protection.

And as many birding hikes are not all about the birds, one of the sharp-eyed, curious kids spotted a fawn quietly bedded down two feet off the trail in extremely dense brush.

All in all, a most successful learning endeavor.

Many people begin sharing their love of nature in their own backyard. Master Naturalist programs for adults and youth are taking that love to a whole new level. These programs are designed to bring together natural resource specialists with learners to foster an understanding of local plants, water, soils and wildlife, and promote volunteer service in local communities. Just do a ‘master naturalist’ Internet search to see if there are programs in your area.

How are you inspiring the next generation to learn about nature?

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Apr 22
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I can’t help but share experiences and observations about nature with my kids; or anyone else around me for that matter. It’s all about sharing one of my biggest passions and piquing others’ interest in our natural world.

One way my family experiences nature together is bird watching at meal times. Our dining table faces the bird feeders. While we’re eating, we try to ID the birds that are visiting the feeders by color clues or other things.

Birds’ colors are very helpful in identification. The bright yellow birds are the male goldfinches; while the females are more muted yellow. The kids’ competitiveness shines through as they vie to be the first one to confirm if the Downy Woodpecker is the male (red on the back of the head) or the female (no red).

We also pay attention to postures and behaviors. If it’s the upside-down bird, the one that walks head-first down a tree trunk before it hops to the feeders, it’s the nuthatch. If it looks like tree bark but is spiraling up the tree trunk it’s the Brown Creeper.

Sharing nature with kids does not require expert knowledge just a willingness to observe and share. It’s about having fun and discovering things together. Here are some ideas to get started.

Go outside and explore nature together without an agenda. Visit a park or a greenspace. See what you discover.

Check out our Pathways to Nature for Kids web site where you can find indoor and outdoor activities and resources.

Sign kids up for an Audubon Camp this summer. Beginning in April, select Audubon Centers will be taking applications for scholarships for a week of summer camp. Choose from a broad selection of camps near you.

What better way to celebrate Earth Day this weekend then by sharing a nature experience with the next generation?

How do you experience nature with others?

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