Thursday, June 9, 2016

Family Bird Watching Club

Does your family have any shared interest or hobbies? Do you all love to watch and play baseball? Or maybe hiking is your thing? Or do you spend the winter skiing and snowboarding? Whatever it is, a shared hobby is a great way to spend quality time together.

If you don't already have a shared interest, have you thought about trying something new together? It doesn't have to be complicated and it doesn't have to be expensive. I've got a crazy idea for you. Start a Family Bird Watching Club.

I know what you're thinking. "Isn't that something only old people do?"

Hear me out. Why is bird watching a good idea? It's simple. You may already have all the supplies you need. You can do it all over the world all year round. It gets the family outside enjoying nature. You can plan fun trips around this hobby. Anyone at any age can do it. Plus... birds are just plain fun.

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How do you get started?

First, you'll need to gather a few supplies.

1. Find a good bird field guide. We've had the field guide pictured above for a long, long time. It's still very useful and we use it all the time to identify birds. Birds (A Golden Guide from St. Martin's Press) is an updated version of our book. I also love the field guides from National Audubon Society, such as the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Edition. Find a field guide that will work for your area of the world.

2. Get some binoculars. You won't always be able to see birds close-up. A good pair of binoculars is crucial to being able to see and observe birds. You don't have to spend a lot of money, an inexpensive pair will get the job done.

3. Add a bird watching journal. You'll want to record all the cool birds you find, so you'll want a simple Bird Watching Journal. Get a nice notebook (like a Moleskine) or follow our tutorial for a simple and colorful DIY journal (you can find the tutorial here).

4. Find a basket or container. This isn't necessary, but it's a nice addition. Find a basket to keep all your bird watching supplies contained. Keep it by a window (it it's a window near a bird feeder - even better), and you'll have easy access for everything you need.

You've got the supplies, now what?

1. Learn about the birds that visit your own backyard. If you're going to try bird watching, you probably want to make sure your yard is bird-friendly. Add some feeders (and keep them full) and maybe a bird bath. Try to put a feeder near a window, so you can observe the birds from inside and not disturb them.

2. Plan some trips to watch birds. You don't have to go far. Visit a local park, pond, or nature center. Don't forget your binoculars.

3. Keep our eyes and ears open everyday. Birds are everywhere! Once you start noticing the birds, you'll find them all over the place. Use your field guide once you get home to identify the birds you saw.

Don't forget these important tips! 

1. Don't get too close! Stay a distance away - that's what the binoculars are for. Let the birds go about their day without disturbing them or even trying to touch them. And, while we're on the subject of touching, don't try to disturb or touch a bird's nest either.

2. Birds like it quiet. Sometimes even a little noise will scare away a bird. While observing a bird, keep it quiet and you'll see all kinds of fascinating things.

3. Use your ears. Often you'll hear a bird before you see one. If you hear a bird, stop, and look around. You may get lucky and find the bird you hear. If not, can you identify the bird by it's call?

Are you ready to start a new family hobby yet? Give bird watching a try once. You never know, you may find a new source of family activities.

Bonus Tip: The book Backyard Birding for Kids: A Field Guide and Activities by Fran Lee is a great starting point for bird watching. You'll find common birds, places to go, and activities to make your own yard bird-friendly.

Start a new hobby with your family. Bird watching is a fun, easy, and inexpensive way to spend quality time together.
Bird Photo © steve_byland via Deposit Photos

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