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Lessons from a Young Birder

August 19, 2008

While I was in Wyoming earlier this month I got to bird with my 10 year old cousin, Andrew. We were looking for Dippers. We were successful. One of the most rewarding things about my recent trip out west was spending time with my cousins from California, who I rarely get to see. I figured Andrew was just about that age where he could easily persuaded to check out these binoculars I had brought along.

And for the most part he was. We used them to find all sorts of birds, though most of the big flashy ones that could really spark the interest of a potential young birder were absent. I never managed to get the Trumpeter Swans or the Western Grebes or the Sandhill Cranes whenever he was around. We were mostly checking out the abundant Mountain Chickadees and Pine Siskins, which are cool and all, but not really for the 500th time. The optics were far more useful for looking at big mammals, and that coolness cannot be understated. It’s the sort of stuff that sticks with you even if the birds don’t. The experience in itself was the important thing, and if his bird awakening is anything like mine, it’s preceded by a heightened interest in the natural world on the whole.

Did I succeed in jump-starting the career of a birder? Time will tell. Andrew is one of those kids who does lots of stuff and is pretty good at all of them. I’d love to be able to follow-up the experience with an age-appropriate field guide, the new Peterson Young Birder’s Guide for Eastern North America would be a fantastic gift. But with his living in California, it’s not particularly useful. I hope a western version is in the works, as there are lots of potential young birders on the left coast that would enjoy a the personal touch of that book.

One thing is for certain, if I ever make it out west to visit one of these days, I’ll be bringing my spare binoculars (though carrying two pairs of bins is reason to search one’s bags if my last trip is anything predictive). Though he might have convinced my aunt and uncle he needs a pair of his own before then. That’s the true mark of success.

  1. The Little Sister permalink
    September 13, 2008 12:27 pm

    I love this entry into your blog. You are so important to Andrew (and Katherine, and well, Alex is just Alex)….
    I am so glad that you have such an interest in him. After all, he is a duplicate of you…..
    We love you!

  2. The Little Sister permalink
    September 13, 2008 12:31 pm

    Hi Nathan,

    I really appriciate this. See ya soon.
    Your cousin,

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