UPFRONT / LEARN
Birdwatching connects children to nature, and is a cheep (sorry!) hobby (even sorrier!) that families can enjoy together. Martin Fowlie of the RSPB has two young boys – we got him to tell us his top twitching tips
“THE BEST WAY TO START birdwatching with children is simply to point birds out to your child. From the car, in the park, in the garden, or while you are out walking. Whether you’re feeding ducks in the park or chasing pigeons in the street, birds can capture kids’ imaginations. Talk to your kids about flying and what an amazing thing it must be to be able to do so effortlessly. Explain that birds are modern dinosaurs!
By talking about the different things you see them doing, you make them more interesting. Eating worms, preening their feathers, singing from a bush. This can provide great fodder for young minds to explore. For most kids, watching birds will be just one part of a day out. Because they can be difficult to get close to, try and find a spectacle. Search for a starling flock murmurating or large numbers of geese and swans coming in to feed. Or find a bird hide. I think we over emphasise the need to stay quiet
– that can stop some parents from taking their kids into hides. Shouting and screaming is never a good idea, but some talking and chat is fine. Birdwatching is supposed to be fun, not a chore! Take some paper and
'PERHAPS BUY OR MAKE A SIMPLE BIRD FEEDER TO USE AT HOME. GET YOUR CHILD INVOLVED WITH FILLING IT UP AND WATCHING FOR VISITORS'
pens and get your kids to draw what they see. Of course, you don’t need to organise a big day out; even watching from a kitchen window and getting away from a screen for an hour can provide the downtime that all children need. You don’t really need any special equipment. Binoculars are difficult for small children to use – a kids’ bird book with big pictures and some fun facts will be perfect at maintaining an interest. Perhaps buy or make a simple bird feeder to use at home. Don’t be downbeat if the birds don’t hang out on it straight away, it can take a few days for them to find it and be comfortable feeding. Get your child involved with filling it up and watching for visitors. Books and apps are readily available and the RSPB’s website can help identify birds too. But I think birdwatching should be just about the enjoyment of watching too. It’s great to put names to faces but don’t get too hung up on getting it right – at least to start off with. Get your kids to make their own names up for the birds they see. For me, the kestrel will always be known as the ‘motorway hover bird’. If your children get keener on birdspotting, why not visit one of the RSPB’s amazing nature reserves, especially one that is specifically geared towards children? Look online for events taking place near you.” rspb.org.uk
FEBRUARY/MARCH 2019 www.thegreenparent.co.uk