The first two months after the Stay at Home order were pretty intense. The decision was made that Natalie would live with Ajay and I for a few weeks. This was to decrease our exposure since Christina was working in a health care organization, and so we could give Natalie continuity as she finished up her school year at home.
Her parents alternated visiting her after their work day in the back yard, but the reality of keeping an active child entertained and engaged could feel overwhelming.
With a limited scope of activities to choose from, we were soon opting for walks in the city and metro parks. Since I like to bird and Natalie was already a budding birder, that became part of our walks. I was also mindful that the spring migration was starting, and while Natalie had seen a few Warblers in our yard, her exposure to that part of spring was limited.
The last weeks of March into early April was still primarily a variety of ducks. On April 1, we got up early to see and hear Common Loons at Prairie Oaks. Gradually throughout April the number and variety of migrant birds on our walks and in our yard increased.
By May 1st, Natalie was hooked, but she wanted a little monetary incentive. I promised her 25 cents for each new bird of the season and/or new to her that we spotted.
The next three weeks, we went out every few days in the early afternoon. Sometimes it was only for an hour, sometimes more. We went primarily to local places, Glen Echo Park, OSU wetlands, Duranceau Park, Walhalla Ravine, and Greenlawn Cemetery. A number of migrants visited our yard.
At the end of those 8 weeks, she had seen 48 birds; Warblers, thrush, flycatchers, vireos, orioles, meadowlark, cuckoo, buntings, etc. Some birds she saw because I pointed them out, others she was actively engaged in identifying. She is now a full-fledged birder. With her sharp sight and good hearing, she is an asset!
Her interest in birding was a huge win-win. Let me say it again, HUGE! Some days the feeling of being trapped felt almost overwhelming. I felt trapped by being with a child 24/7, trapped in this house, trapped in this city, trapped in this state, wondering if, when, how this was going to play itself out. Being outside and focusing completely on something we both enjoyed was life giving! This experience was indeed a Gift!
As the school year ended May 22nd, Natalie moved back with her parents, and migration seemed to wrap up. It rained for several days that week, and the last few migrants were grounded. The sun came out that weekend, and by early the next week, most of the migrating birds had moved on.
Natalie was satisfied with her sightings for the spring. After all, she needed to save some new birds for next spring, but she still wanted to see a Scarlet Tanager. Her wish was granted in early June when she and Christina followed a tip from the metro parks and took a walk on the Spring Trail at Sharon Woods.
Tips for birding with a Seven-Year-old
1. Adjust your expectations, this isn’t a time for meditative silence and total focus
2. Go with the flow. Pulling garlic mustard also has value.
3. Be ready to stop when they are done
4. Make sure they use the bathroom before you leave home.
5. Take a snack along
6. Make sure they are dressed warm enough.
Loon call, Prairie Oaks, morning of April 1: