Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Keeping it Simple

Two trips to report on this week,

No big impressive species lists from Friday at Holloway Park in Lakeland, Three of us walked the big loop, and got some exercise. We also had some great views of different butterflies. We did have some very brief glimpses at some Northern Parulas and Blue-gray gnatcatcher. Most of the migrants it seems, were taking advantage of the tailwind provided by the tropical low in south FL that day.  Coolest thing I'd say I saw was a Loggerhead Shrike. I've always thought it's a good day when I see one of those. I did take some horrible pictures of an American Kestrel using my binoculars and my cell phone camera.

There he is!
I suppose it will pass as "art"

The girls (Katie age 9 and Emma age 6) woke me up this morning wanting to go bird Circle B Bar, once again, not a big list, but we did have good practice using binoculars, and had some excellent looks at a little blue heron, and a Turkey vulture. I was especially proud of Emma, who ID'd the Little Blue Heron using field marks, shape, leg color and bill color. She also spotted the turkey vulture, which was only 15-30 yards away. You could really make out the details on the turkey vultures's head, I think we were leaving just as the migrants were waking up, there was some BGGNs in the parking lot on the way out. We got there at 8AM and left at 9AM.

Here's the link to the ebird checklists:
Holloway Park:
Circle B:
I plan on being out at Holloway again at 09:15 Friday, and I'll certainly welcome any company.

Some notes on taking kids birding.
  • Prepare to be patient. You've got to be there to help the kids, iding birds, finding birds, and keeping lists comes second.
  • Make the outing about spending time together. They have fun birding, but I know it's mainly about being together, outside. The best part of our trip to Circle B was the ride home where I rolled all the windows down and they laughed while the wind blew through the car.
  • The right equipment makes a big difference. The most important thing to consider when considering binoculars for kids is size. smaller, even if it means less magnifcation is better. If you have to choose, choose lower magnification and bigger objective lenses. A pair of 6x 30s is good enough. Especially to start a young birder off right.
  • They'll love you forever if you remember to bring a snack. 

Monday, September 08, 2014

New Places and New Season

My girls are growing up!
I also have another one on the way.
Life is funny with the blessings that come your way.
Saturday August 30, KT (age 9) and Emma (age 6 almost 7) took a trek to explore a new park closer to our house called Holloway Park. It's an interesting little park that has a lot of potential to bring in some migrants. We got there at 8:15 in the morning, ready to find new birds in a new place.
There's a pond near the nature trail parking lot, and that's where we started. Fire ants got us, and E wound up with at least 6 bites. This proved to be the limiting factor for the day, as one can tolerate fire ant bites for only so long.

examining the ground for tracks.

At the pond we saw a Louisiana Heron (tricolor, I know, but this is a habit I keep), Sandhill cranes, and some black-bellied whistling-ducks.
Turning our attention toward the east side nature trail, we began walking down it, and discovered many tracks. Emma, despite her ant bites, loved seeing the tracks from various animals, and she was the track spotter for the day. We saw rabbit tracks, dog tracks, racoon tracks, bird tracks and bobcat tracks. Not to mention all the shoe prints on the ground from the runners. Holloway park is going to turn into a regular place to bird, I can tell. There's loads of oppurtunity and habitat.

look to the ground where they are looking, those are bobcat tracks!

I submitted my very first checklist for this field trip! Not a very big list, but it's there now, and I hope to be submitting lots more. I hit the park again on Friday after dropping Grace ( age 4 almost 5) off at Pre-K. Ebird is a lot of fun, it's nice to have access to what's going on where. I resisted going there at first, but now that I use it, I've discovered some tools that I can use for developing web applications using Ebird data. I'll save those details for another blog though.

Katie, Emma, and I also joined the Audubon Society on the Saddle Creek fieldtrip again this year, and there wasn't a lot of birds out yet. The girls and I stayed out about an hour, and logged 18 species. The trip leaders only managed 31 according to ebird, so I don't feel so bad. Next week, Katie gets to pick where we will go, she was pushing pretty hard for Circle B this morning, but had fun anyway. Emma needs new nocs to get the most out of those sort of trips. The real highlight for me was watching at least two, maybe three or more Green herons fly around the ponds. The girls like getting a good look at the black vultures on the way out of the park.

From this trip I learned a couple of things, having decent kit for kids really helps, Emma needs a new pair of 'nocs. Right now she uses a pair of Tasco 7-15 X 35 bins that I inherited from my Nana when she passed. They are great for watching birds on the feeder, but the min focus distance is too great, the field of view too narrow, and if you use the zoom feature, the image is too dark. I did some research about good bins for kids, and came across the Bushnell Natureview 6x30. They came recommended by Bird Watcher's Digest. I'll let her write a review of them, I'm interested in seeing how a 6/7 year old figures binocular usefulness.

My kids love sharing what they are good at with me, when I give them the chance to share back and incorporate something we share together, we get the maximum learning and togetherness experience. On Sunday evening, Katie decided that she wanted to make a powerpoint about something bird related. I suggested she make one about all the places she's been to watch birds. So far, I have to say, it's pretty good. I'll have to find a way to get it online for people to watch.

We're already talking about the next trip out, and can't wait to give the next update!