Great Horned Owl - Photo by Shon Parks taken along Spring Valley Creek
"Daddy, I see its yellow eyes!" exclaimed Anne with binoculars pressed to her glasses as I boosted her up on my shoulder. These words were spoken with amazement and wonder while looking into the dense brush at a Great Horned Owl camouflaged on a tree branch along the creek in front of our home.
Anne is probably a lot like most seven years old girls. She is a big fan of the Disney Channel and she loves cats and horses. That Sunday afternoon, she announced that birds were her "third favorite animal" and that she wanted to go see some of them with me. Shocked that she would willingly step away from Hannah Montana and those wacky twins Zack and Cody and go birding with me, I jumped at the opportunity. "Put your boots on and let's go!"
It really was a gorgeous day. The sky was blue as blue can be. Snow still remained on the ground up here in the foothills just north of Eagle. Birds are surprisingly abundant this time of year. We watched a black-headed rufous-flanked Spotted Towhee scratching for food in the tree litter. Dozens of Dark-eyed Juncos, lemon-faced American Goldfinches, and White-crowned Sparrows flitted all around us. A tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet sounded "jidit jidit jidit" from a nearby naked willow. A cute black and white Downy Woodpecker with a brilliant scarlet notch on its nape zipped up and down the tree. Darling little Black-capped Chickadees chatted "chicka-dee-dee-dee" as they bounced from branch to branch. We even saw a rare bird in Idaho, a Rusty Blackbird. Ahh...a dad and his daughter, breathing fresh air and enjoying the outdoors. We soaked in the precious moments together!
Many organizations are promoting programs right now to give kids a break from the brain-numbing rigors of television and video games. I support their message. I invite parents everywhere to find a way to spend some quality time with their children outside every day, no matter the weather. Adventure awaits. Love will blossom. Life lessons will be experienced and shared. Memories will be made.
Will you accept the challenge?
Looking for some ideas of outside things to do with your kids, check out these websites: