Sunday, December 8, 2013

Notes on taking a nine year-old birding in December

Lily, Plum Island, Lot 1 Beach
Note 1: Bundle up. It doesn't matter how warm it is where you live, it is windy near the ocean. Don't forget gloves. Their lack will make using binoculars unappealing. Wrap-around sunglasses are also a good idea for keeping ocean breezes out of sensitive eyes.
Black Ducks and Northern Pintails, Salt Pannes, Plum Island
Note 2: Keep moving. Keep duck watching to a minimum. If you do want to watch ducks, bring something for the young one to do. We ate lunch watching these ducks. Nothing interesting happened.
Poorly-seen Snowy Owl, seen from road, Plum Island
Note 3: Have modest, yet attractive goals. "Hey, want to go find some owls!" was an effective appeal, and do-able given the state of things on Plum Island this year. And we technically "found some owls," even if we didn't actually see them well. A former "Hey, want to go see a real-life Peregrine Falcon!" Plum Island appeal did not end well.
Distant Snowy Owl, seen from Stage Island, Plum Island
Note 4: Approach goals in good humor and be open to surprises. Lily thought it was hilarious that the tiny white dot on the osprey platform counted as a Snowy Owl sighting (and even more hilarious that we only found 2 of a reported 19 reported owls on Plum Island that day). And while we were looking at the osprey platform, a raptor flew in and moved swiftly across the field. I thought it was a Northern Harrier at first--binoculars up--a Peregrine! Lily was thrilled. (By the end of the day, I had also convinced her of the charms of Northern Harriers.)
Lily on Lot 7 beach, Plum Island
Note 5: Encourage fun non-birding activities. No sea ducks (surprising!) or owls at Sandy Point but Lily had fun being chased by waves and riffing on the origin of the name, "Sandy Point." We ended up walking all the way around the point in good cheer, despite the wind. And we had close encounters with a Golden-crowned Kinglet and a Northern Harrier on our walk back up the road. 
Four chickadees at once, Ipswich River 
Note 6: End with Fireworks. Ipswich River was on the way home. I had secretly packed a bag of birdseed. We had about an hour before the sun would set. The chickadees and nuthatches were ravenous. It was actually a little scary how many attacked her out-stretched hand. But Lily deemed this her best birding day ever. Video version of chickadee attack below.

1 comment:

Chris Rich said...

My seven year old mind was fascinated by the strange globular Osage Orange fruits laying around in the underbrush at Ipswich River.

They are inedible but interesting.

The Rockery is a key spot to please toddler curiosity as there are the faux caves.

I was lucky to have the broad palette of lore to explore, plants, animal sign and so on.