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Notes on bringing up a birder
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Our wait is finally over. Two weeks ago our precious baby girl was born. No reason now to envy all the new parents in the yard. We now have our own little nestling. I immediately begin to think about all of my new responsibilities as a parent as well as all of the new and exciting things I want to show her and teach her.

We hear it over and over again, how important the first two years of life are to a child. The bonds and relationships they form with people and objects can last a lifetime. Their emotional and mental development can be at some of its highest levels during this two year period. If I want her to enjoy the outdoors, wildlife observation and birding like I do, it is important for her to get out and experience these things even if on a very small level.

As they begin to grow that level of involvement can increase dramatically. There are a number of periodicals specifically geared towards kids and their interest in animals and nature, such as Ranger Rick, National Geographic Kids and Kids Discover, some of which I read as a child. I have no doubt that these played a role in developing my love of nature early in life.

There are also programs that can help guide young outdoorsman and woman like scouting and nature camps. For aspiring birders there are great programs in place such as the Youth Birding Mentorship Program and Birding competition. The aim of these is for adult birders to work with youth birders in an effort to develop their skills at location and identification. Ultimately kids team up to compete during a 24 hour period for prizes such as optics and guides for their club or scholarships to use after graduation. The youth birding competition not only promotes greater learning in the area of birding, but also promotes healthy competition among kids.

I have a while to go before my daughter is entering a youth birding competition, however she’s never too young to get out and start looking and listening. Early mornings, before the heat sets in, are often spent on the screened in porch looking and listening to the budding activity in the yard. Vocal cardinals and brown thrashers draw her attention rather quickly, while less vocal birds create a buzzing backdrop that often soothes her to sleep.

Of course there is always the chance that no matter what I do her love of the outdoors and of nature never really materializes. That is just a part of being a parent, accepting your child for who they are and not forcing them to be something they’re not. No matter what she decides to do I will be there to support her. As much as that remains a possibility, I still hope that she embraces the natural world and chooses to spend time in it exploring its wonders. Hopefully the positive experiences Mommy and Daddy create for her will go a long way to ensuring that happens.

Heifert is a Richmond Hill birder.

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