The Joy of Bird Watching

Peter Bayne

Reporter:

Peter Bayne

Email:

peter.bayne@newrydemocrat.com

Wednesday 21 April 2021 7:10

As I open the window before starting work, I stop in awe at numerous birds' morning calls in the garden.

When inspecting further, I spot Goldfinches and Robins, which are familiar visitors; however, I still cannot help but stop for a few moments to admire them.

While out for a walk yesterday around Slieve Gullion, I was stopped in my tracks as a group of Red Kites (I think!) continually gilded above me, searching for small prey. As the sight of Red Kites is less frequent than the typical garden birds, it was fantastic to witness.

I am not a bird expert; therefore, I have to research many of my sightings to confirm what bird has crossed my path.

A couple of years ago, I downloaded a bird watch list from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds website, bought a bird feeder and began ticking off the list. However, once we got a cat and a few near misses, the bird feeder had to go! Like me, you do not need to be an expert, and limited knowledge may even help you go on a learning journey with your family.

Benefits for Children

Although you can participate in bird watching from inside, the best experiences are observed from outside.

There is something special about spending time in nature, not just watching birds but observing all the different sights, sounds and smells. Studies have also shown that spending time outdoors can improve blood pressure, depression, reduce cancer risks, reduce stress, and boost short-term memory.

It is a fantastic, free activity to take the kids away from screens and present the stillness of the world around them outside. Birdwatching will also help children appreciate and develop empathy for all living things and may want to learn further information within the field, such as food chains, ecosystems and pollution effects.

They could bring a pair of binoculars and a sketchbook to draw their findings or simply go out and observe. Additionally, it is essential to allow unstructured time spent outdoors.

Unstructured experiences allow for the sporadic climbing of trees, and jumping streams that develop increased confidence, concentration, problem-solving, and gross motor skills, which are all fully transferable to the classroom.

Don't Force It

It is equally important not to force a structured marathon bird watching day. Let the kids take the lead, and in turn, this will help them develop a love for the outdoors.

This time spent outdoors can also help deepen both family and nature relationships. Unfortunately, one thing more noticeable is the litter on our roads and even on some nature walks. It is essential to educate the next generation on the importance of protecting our environment and the devastating impact of plastic on nature.

Help spark curiosity by asking questions while outside. You don't need to prepare a list; remember the 5 W's and H: Who, what, where, why, when, how).

How do birds fly? What do Robins eat? Don't worry if you do not know the answers, as you can research them together. Some younger children may prefer to spot numerous birds, and you can cater towards this with a trip to the beach to observe seagulls or visit a lake or pond where there is usually waterfowl such as ducks or swans.

Get Creative

Encourage creativity around birdwatching. Your family could either build a bird feeder or buy one and decorate it together. For a fun activity, try and mimic the sounds of the birds in your surroundings. The most important message is not to make it a forced educational activity, but to have a little fun, and all of the other benefits will naturally flourish.

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Education Support Hub Founder

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