Sunday, October 11, 2009

Beth, Birds, Boy Scouts and Bill of the Birds

On Saturday I took a group of 12 Cub Scouts and 8 parents/ chaperones to Peace Valley Park to go birding. Bill Thompson went along in the form of his book, A Young Birder's Guide, which I distributed to all the kids. It was a fabulous two hours full of discovery for these young people. And I had a good time, too.

Bill's book ready for distribution

It drizzled all morning, but we had Scout badges to earn, so we met in the parking lot of the Peace Valley Nature Center where I gave a quick lesson on the use of optics and a field guide. The attention span of a ten-year old is about 6 seconds, so I lost them pretty quickly.

Off to the bird blind where we saw Mourning Doves, Eastern towhee, tufted titmouse, Carolina chickadee, Northern cardinal (easily the day's favorite bird), blue jay, white breasted nuthatch and house finch. While in the blind, I took the opportunity to talk about feeding birds, male vs female plumage and migration. The Scouts impressed me with their intelligent questions and their observations. I anticipated a bunch of apathetic pre-teens who would rather be in front of an X-Box or the computer. Boy, was I mistaken. They were anxious to learn and that warmed my heart (which was shivering in the cold drizzle).

On Deer Trail in Peace Valley Park

Checking out a bunch of rocks where a snake might live!

On to the woodland trails. We saw bluebird and owl boxes which gave me a chance to talk about nesting habits and nocturnal birds. One of the boys saw a great blue heron fly in and perch in a tree over Lake Galena, so we all got great looks at it. Meanwhile, three belted kingfishers were doing a noisy display diving for fish. We trekked for about an hour and saw gray catbird, American goldfinch, mallard duck, downy woodpecker (thanks to a quick spot by one of the parents - I love it when the parents are involved), red bellied woodpecker, Canada goose, Northern mockingbird and the last bird of the day - double crested cormorants. By the time we saw the cormorants perched on rocks in the lake, the boys were more interested in tossing pebbles, so I knew it was time to wrap up the trip.

Tallying up the day's list

The Scouts also found deer and raccoon tracks, deer poop, a small animal den (with a front and a back door, one of them pointed out), turned over rocks looking for snakes, and picked me a beautiful bunch of wildflowers to show their thanks. But the day's best find, and the one that garnered the most excitement and shouting each time it was spotted.....the gray squirrel.

We gathered back at the picnic pavilion to write down our observations and have a snack as well as to gather for a group photo.

Me and the new birders (note some of them holding up their new field guides)

It was a fun birding day (20 species - not bad for a day in the rain with a rowdy group) and I hope that I was able to turn at least a few young boys into birders. Thanks boys. I had a blast.

And a special thanks to Bill of the Birds for a wonderful book that helped us immensely throughout the day.

My thank-you bouquet


Mary said...

Beth, this is what we need - leaders like you to help nuture some nature lovers. I loved this story and I give you applause for tending to all those young boys! That's quite a challenge, trying ot keep them focused.

Beth said...

Thanks Mary. I really don't consider myself kid-friendly, but I offered to help a friend out with her son and his Troop and was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Kudos to you Beth! You did a great, good thing helping those boys earn their badge and open their eyes a bit to the wonder of birds. We need more young people to care for and respect nature and we sure need more people like YOU to inspire the rest of us to do our best too.

Love ya Beth!!

Beth said...

Love you, too, Lynnie! Thanks!


Susan Gets Native said...

Holy crap, look at Beth, the Bird Walk Leader!!!


Crayons said...

I'm so inspired! My interest in birds has grown for decades, and now it seems so strong that I must call myself a Beginning Birder. Maybe I'll read more of your blog to see how you came to this point.

And bravo for getting those young people out. It will make for great memories.

LauraHinNJ said...

Oh... boys can be such fun!

Beth said...

Hi Crayons (love the name) and welcome to the blog. Thanks for the kind words.

Laura and Susan - I didn't think I could do it, but it was a lot of fun.

Beth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dguzman said...

Wow, way to get the fledglings interested in birds and nature! And you're leading trips now? You could start your own bird festival!

Beth said...

Whoa- a festival is a far cry from taking a bunch of kids out. Can you imagine a Flock Member designing a bird festival?? - how much actual birding would get done??? We would spend too much time socializing and giggling! Much love to all my fellow Flockies!