Spring is finally here and with it comes our amazing array of Australian birds. Birdwatching is something that the whole family can enjoy and it can be connected with a variety of activities. Hiking, reading, writing, drawing, gardening and conserving are just some of the areas into which bird watching can expand for kids and their families.
Our interest in birds really blossomed when our youngest daughter started drawing beautiful pictures of birds. In nurturing that creativity, we discovered a family hobby that brings our family a lot of satisfaction and happiness. If you and your child have an appreciation for the unique birds we see in the Newcastle area, here are ten tips for birdwatching with kids.
Participate in the Aussie Backyard Birdcount
National Bird Week 2020 will take place between Monday 19 October and Sunday 25 October. BirdLife Australia organises and promotes Bird Week “with the goal of inspiring Australians to take action and get involved in bird conservation efforts”. You can celebrate Bird Week by taking part in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count. This will be our third Bird Count as a family and it has cemented our love for birds.
All you need is 20 minutes in your backyard (or any other local space) to observe and record the birds you see in your line of view. This is an easy and fun activity for the whole family and you can do this as a complete novice (like myself!). You will have help with recognising birds along the way if you need it so this is a great way to become more familiar with different bird species. The information that is compiled by thousands of participants is analysed to see how our Aussie birds are faring.
Get a bird feeder / bird bath for your garden
The simple step of purchasing a bird bath and putting out bird feed regularly in our backyard has reaped amazing rewards. We are visited daily by rosellas, King Parrots and of course those quirky and sometimes a little greedy, cockatoos.
The joy of seeing such magnificent birds in our yard has not worn off and probably never will now that we all have such a deep appreciation for birds and nature. You can get bird seed blocks at your local supermarket. There are lots of options available so choose what is best for you and the types of birds you hope to attract.
Choose bird attracting plants and flowers for your garden
The plants and flowers you choose to include in your garden can also attract birds so do some research before heading to your local garden centre and you will be able to design a garden that is bird friendly as well. Banksia, Bird of Paradise, Kangaroo Paw, Grevillea and Bottlebrush are known to be great choices for attracting birds.
Use a notepad or sketchpad to record your bird sightings
Part of the fun of birdwatching is learning about the different species and getting creative. This is a great way to encourage kids to draw and use all those brightly coloured pencils that seem to accumulate around the house.
Children can research the birds that they have seen and do a sketch or follow along with one of the many online drawing tutorials available. They can keep a scrapbook of sketches, information and photos.
Add a field guide to your book collection
As a beginner birdwatcher, having a field guide to refer to is incredibly handy. This helps to identify the birds that you spot, keeps the interest fresh and encourages further learning. Here are some recommended field guides: The Australian Bird Guide by Peter Menkhorst, Danny Rogers and Rohan Clarke, Field Guide to Australian Birds by Michael Morcombe and Birds of Australia by Graham Pizzey and Frank Knight.
Visit a local pond / lake / beach
A few weeks ago we were incredibly lucky and thrilled to spot a family of ducks. The ducklings were absolutely adorable and this was one of those special family moments that we will remember for a long time. You are pretty much guaranteed to see some pretty special birds with a visit to any body of water.
Pelicans are another magnificent species to watch. Our children were impressed to read that Australian pelicans have the longest bills of any living bird and with a wingspan of over 8 feet, can remain in the air for 24 hours!
Participate in free online bird information sessions
Birdlife Australia is an independent, not-for-profit conservation organisation dedicated to creating a bright future for Australia’s birds. They share lots of amazing photos, information and events. I recently attended two free and live online sessions and was really impressed with the knowledge and dedication of the volunteers involved. One session was called The Secret Life of Powerful Owls and the other was Recovery and Resilience: Swift Parrot. Some other great options for online information about our Australian birds include Birds in Backyards, Ausbird – The Australian Birding Directory and Birding NSW.
Find your local bird watching hotspots
With its amazing coastline and inland estuaries, Newcastle has some optimal bird habitats. According to the Hunter Bird Observers Club, “more than 450 species have been recorded in the Hunter Region, making it one of Australia’s most prolific birding locations.” Stockton sandspit is a free birdwatching spot in Hunter Wetlands National Park where you can observe flocks of shorebirds gathering and feeding. Two other notable locations include Glenrock Lagoon and Myall Lakes, but you are also likely to spot some beautiful birds very close to wherever your home is too!
Binoculars are handy for zooming in on birds
There are so many affordable options these days for child-friendly binoculars that do the job. This can be a good investment and something that many kids enjoy using. With some basic birdwatching supplies like a notepad, pencil, field guide and a pair of binoculars, your child will feel like a real ornithologist!
Have fun! Be inspired! Look and listen!
Once you start to really appreciate birds and how beautiful, smart and special they are, the fun follows pretty easily.
It’s easy to motivate ourselves to get out there for nature walks when we know there is a good chance of seeing some of our fine feathered friends. Get to know the various bird calls. Enjoy the moments as they come and know that the birds will be waiting again tomorrow, ready to sing a happy song to brighten your day.
Janice is a proud mum to two energetic girls who love spending their time dancing, exploring and just plain having fun. She followed her heart and relocated from overseas to Australia thirteen years ago. After six years in Sydney, Janice and her family made the decision to return to her husband’s hometown of Newcastle and with the amazing lifestyle Newcastle has to offer, they feel grateful to call this place home. She is passionate about embracing lifelong learning and making lasting memories with loved ones.