Fellow Idaho birder Danette Henderson emailed me a flyer designed by her daughter Iris for the first Boise area Christmas Bird Count for Kids. I had never heard of a CBC for kids and I love the idea. A subsequent internet search revealed that several groups have organized CBC's for kids over the last few years. I encourage interested birders everywhere to organize and carry out a CBC for Kids. It's all about sharing the passion for birds and birding with the next generation.
Here are some tips:
- Be flexible with the time frame. A CBC for Kids doesn't have to be from dawn to dusk. Kids, especially young children may not be prepared for long exposure to cold conditions nor have the physical/mental/emotional ability to spend more than a hour or two in the field looking for birds. Older kids, especially teens probably can outlast the most seasoned birders in the field. Adjust to the needs and abilities of the group. You may want to decide which age groups you want to focus on, or have two different report back to headquarters times.
- Spread the Word - share your event on the local birding listserv. Add the event to local community event calendars. See if you can get it into the newspaper or even getting a local TV station to announce and cover it.
- Equip the kids - round up equipment and/or volunteers so that kids can have quality viewing experiences with decent optics. I appreciate that donations have been given of binoculars by birding groups, but too often they are cheap binoculars that are so poor that they hurt the experience. To engage kids in birding, they need to see the vivid colors and details. Provide a mentor, a map and a checklist. Just as for regular CBC's, a well planned coverage area and even suggestions for the route will help the adult drivers. An experienced and enthusiastic birding mentor will make the CBC experience all the more impactful. Also see that safety instructions are given to all participants.
- Hold a Group Debrief Session - once all the groups are back together, go through the checklist and tallies together. This is exciting stuff! They will see the miracle of team work and synergy as the species totals grow and grow.
- Treats are always good! - Some hot cocoa and a doughnut or even healthy snacks that aren't too boring are always something kids look forward to and enjoy.