Sunday, 8 January 2017

Inaugural Christmas Bird Count for Children

07 January 2017

     The combined efforts of Marg Paré of Waterloo Region Nature and Jenna Quinn of the rare Charitable Research Reserve brought to fruition our first Christmas Bird Count for children - and a rare (pun intended) success it was.

Marg Paré - Waterloo Region Nature
Emily Leslie and Jenna Quinn - rare Charitable Research Reserve

     Gerrit Kamminga, rare's Educator welcomed everyone and explained rare's myriad activities and research ventures.

Gerrit Kamminga
     To start the programme I gave a short presentation to give the kids (and perhaps a few of their parents too) a few tips on how to bird successfully and covered several common species that we hoped to find as we broke into groups and ventured forth outside. Emily then explained to the kids how to use binoculars and they practiced inside before trying them on the birds of the great outdoors.

     Children of roughly similar age made up each team; our group called the Chickadee Team comprised the youngest children of all.

Stephanie Sobek-Swant (Executive Director rare Charitable Research Reserve), her daughter, Cordelia, Emily Leslie, Krista MacLaren, her son, Hunter

     The weather was perfect, a classic Ontario winter's day, with bright sunshine, little wind and a temperature of around minus 12° C. I think that the adults could have stayed out forever, but the attention span of our little charges was short as you might imagine. Nevertheless, they got exposed to a few birds, and perhaps this will kickstart a lifelong interest in nature. The parents who brought out their children deserve a good deal of credit.

     We started our walk at a couple of feeders strategically located behind the Eco Centre, and they were very active. This engaged the kids for a while and here are the birds they saw there.

House Finch (male)

House Finch (female)
American Tree Sparrow
Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Downy Woodpecker (male)
Downy Woodpecker (female)

     It was not long before Hunter told his mom that he was cold so she took him back inside. Stephanie, Emily, Cordelia and I carried on; it seemed as though Cordelia found new life and wanted to run and explore forever. She couldn't resit having her picture taken by the Bald Eagle sculpture featured at the trailhead.

      Walking on farther, it was not long before we found fresh Wild Turkey tracks, although we never did see any birds.

     The opportunity to hand feed a chickadee could not be passed up, but the birds wouldn't cooperate and we moved on. 

     We headed back to the Eco Centre where hot chocolate and coffee awaited us. Hunter had been happily playing with his mom while we were outside.

     Cordelia couldn't resist hamming it up a little as she donned her mother's ear muffs and sun glasses. We thought she looked like a movie start trying to travel incognito!

     All of the teams slowly filtered back and tallies were finalized and lively discussions took place.

     It has been a great day, thoroughly enjoyed by all. I am sure this will now become an annual event and I am looking forward to helping out again next year. Maybe Marg was already making the arrangements!

Species seen by Team Chickadee: Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura (12), Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens (2), Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata (1), Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus (13), White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis (2), American Tree Sparrow Spizelloides arborea (2), House Finch Haemorhous mexicanus (5).

Total species seen by all teams:  Canada Goose Branta canadensis (25), Snow Goose Chen caerulescens (20), American Black Duck Anas rubipres (1), Mallard Anas platyrynchos (2), Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula (20), Common Merganser Mergus merganser (15), Wild Turkey Meleagris gallopavo (2), Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis (10), Mourning Dove (106), Red-bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus (1), Downy Woodpecker (14), Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus (4), Blue Jay (3), American Crow Corvus brachyrynchos (11), Black-capped Chickadee (70), White-breasted Nuthatch (11), Brown Creeper Certhia americana (5), Golden-crowned Kinglet Regulus satrapa (3), American Robin Turdus migratorius (6), Cedar Waxwing Bombycilla cedrorum (1), American Tree Sparrow (7), Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis (1), Song Sparrow Spizelloides arborea (1), Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis (4), House Finch (15), American Goldfinch Spinus tristis (6).

Total species: 26  Total individuals: 364


  1. Hi. Awesome photos. Beautiful birds.

  2. Hi Both, what a wonderful event and the youngsters appear to have had a wonderful time, also some good images of the birds they saw. Shame the Chickadee wouldn't play ball and feed from Cordelia's hand. Brilliant and well done to all the adults who supervised. Hope this will start some of the youngsters on the road to bird watching Regards John

  3. Oh, you must definitely do this again next year. It looks a most wonderful event and so good to get the 'youngsters' involved and interested.

    Lovely to see their faces and all the different birds.

    Great post David, very uplifting.

    All the best Jan

  4. Great idea for getting kids involved! And great pix as always!

  5. What a great idea. I hope it does become an annual event, and fix their interest in birds for life!

  6. Wonderful selection of photos....enjoyed the humans and those pretty birds.

  7. Sounds like a great idea............

  8. Excellent photos David, I love the Chickadee.

  9. David, your photos are fantastic, all the birds are gorgeous, and I love to see children exploring and learning about nature! Thank you so much for sharing, and I hope that 2017 will be a wonderful year for you!

    1. Thanks, Linda. Getting children involved is so important. As the world's population continues to burgeon they will need to be the next stewards of its creatures.

  10. It might not have been the most spectacular of bird counts, David, but you've done a superb job in engaging these youngsters, and the photos taken by yourself and Miriam bear witness to this. I'm full of admiration.

    Love to you both - - - Richard

    1. Hi Richard: In total I thought it was pretty respectable, and the sighting of twenty Snow Geese was exceptional. As for Team Chickadee we could not venture as far afield as the teams with older kids could and keeping the two little ones focused on birds was not always easy. As I said though it was a great day! Much love to you and Lindsay.

  11. Wow what a great idea getting the children involved. They will grow up having respect for wildlife instead of running around with guns! So many birds and animals getting close to extinction, they need all the help we can give them so the next generation gets to see them and appreciate them. Have a good week Diane

  12. I agree with Richard,it's always rewarding when young people get involved,never fails to put a smile on my face.

  13. What a wonderful event. I would love to join if we have one here. Great idea to expose nature and love for animals to the young ones.

  14. That must be so rewarding to work with the children and have them enjoy the birds. You have a lot of snow already!
    Lovely post David.

  15. Excellent work from your team David. You certainly seem to have a good community spirit up there in Minus Twelve Land.

    What a coincidence that you hope to see Passenger Pigeon. I imagine that will be quite an experience for anyone who has read the story of the species.

    Shame I missed out your three soup repertoire and Miriam's legendary baking. One day!

    In the meantime I shall go back to cooking bangers and mash for Isabella nd Olivia whose turn it is today to entertain Nana and Grandad.

  16. A wonderful initiative for children.
    Beautiful weather and great scenic pictures of the birds.
    Very nicely done to make this day along with of kids.

  17. Initiating kids to nature in general not just birds is the way to go!
    The only way to save the future of this fabulous world we live in!
    Warm hugs to you and Lady Miriam :)

    1. Hi Noushka: This was a Christmas BIRD count. We cover many different aspects of nature with children at other times - fauna, riverine ecology, limnology, animal tracks in winter, basic plant biology.......and so on.

  18. Hello David,
    What a great event, well that children now are already involved in.
    They learn very early age the love of nature, maybe later all be biologists
    Happy weekend to you.
    Best regards, Irma

  19. Hello, what a wonderful event. I love hearing about children learning about the birds and nature. Great collection of photos. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Enjoy your day and weekend!

  20. What a great event, David. These children are lucky, they will learn about nature.
    The photos are beautiful; of course especially the one of a Black-capped Chickadee. :)