By Diane Peter, Great Canadian Birdathon participant, Oshawa, ON
Diane with her husband and grandson Photo: Otto Peter
My husband and I have always been interested in the birds around us, but it was our son who made a difference in our birding behaviour. To earn a Cub Scout badge, he built a birdfeeder and observed and recorded all activity at it for a month. He watched while he ate breakfast and sat at the kitchen table to do his homework so he could observe the birds. I was instructed to watch the birds while he was at school! Since he showed such a keen interest, we encouraged his birdwatching and participated with him.
Our encouragement of young people has continued on several fronts. Since our grandson was two years old (he is now 11), we have taught him how to identify the common birds that come to our feeders. It was great fun to watch him call the chickadees through our kitchen window with his enthusiastic “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” when he was little. He watches his feeder at home and often wants to know what we see here, as we live in different areas. He has joined us several times when our local Naturalist Club has gone to Niagara Falls for our annual “Gull Outing” in November. In the summer, at our cottage north of Kingston, he is always ready for a walk to look for all things in nature including birds, insects, frogs, snakes, and plants. He has also accompanied us twice to Ontario Nature’s AGM in June and taken part in workshops and outings. He has his own field guide and likes to try to find the birds he sees in it.
One Thanksgiving, while all our family was visiting, our son and three grandchildren made birdfeeders from pine cones, peanut butter, and bird seed. We all went to Thickson’s Woods and hung them from various tree branches. The children were so excited when the chickadees ate from their hands.
Photo: Otto Peter
Several years ago, the youngest member of our Naturalist Club, a grade six student, accompanied us on my Baillie Birdathon (now called the Great Canadian Birdathon). Our club also sponsored him for three years to attend Ontario Nature’s Youth Summit held every September for high-school-age people who are interested in nature. The funds returned to our club from the amount I raise each year on the Great Canadian Birdathon are used to sponsor local youth to attend Ontario Nature’s Youth Summit. I am thrilled to say we will be sponsoring three teens this year. I think it is important to get our young people involved with an official group that can foster their positive energy and interest.
I challenge other Birdathon participants (and bird lovers in general) to do what they can to encourage young people who are interested in birds. After all, the future of our natural world is in their hands.
Thank you to Diane for sharing her story, nurturing young champions for birds, and being part of the Great Canadian Birdathon! Do you have a Great Canadian Birdathon story? We’d love to hear it. Email it to Kris@birdscanada.org or share it on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the hashtag #BSCBirdathon or #FledgeANewBirder.