How to inspire a kid to get interested in birds and nature.
Say you have kids and you really would like them to become more interested in nature, but they are more into to TV and computer games. You are tearing your hair with the potato couch kid. You read some manuals about birding, which all invariably recommend getting a pair of binoculars first of all. You got $350 to spend. (You are a rich parent just for this argument).
Scenario 1. Binoculars.
You spend 350 dollars on a pair of binoculars and then drag the kid outdoors and show him some birds. Maybe he says “wow”… maybe he says “drag”….but when summer camp comes, he has invariably most likely already forgotten to pack his binoculars.
Scenario 2. Point and Shoot Camera
You picked up THIS EBOOK (forthcoming) and decided to spend 350 dollars instead on a point and shoot mega zoom camera. You drag the kid outdoors, let him take photos of plants and bugs using the macro, and dragonflies, butterflies and birds using the 35x optic zoom. Then you post some of the photos on Facebook or he posts them on his blog. Maybe you will find a local Facebook groups for birds or dragonflies which can tell you what the species they are. You are met with respect, in spite of having no experience of either birds, nor dragonflies – and you don’t own a field guide (yet). The experts on the group tell you the field marks you should look for to clinch the ID.
The kid says wow! How can they know all this? Another question to the Facebook group and you are recommended some field guides applicable to your area.
Comes summer camp and the camera is the first thing to be packed. In fact he’d have it in his hand the entire trip, documenting every detail. Sure, he probably won’t be thinking of shooting birds at all….but because he can, he clicks off some shots of a bird sitting on top of a tree, and when he zooms in, he can see it is a raptor. He shows his friends and they share it on his blog. Hey, it would be kind of cool to know what kind of raptor it is. Mom asks the Facebook group again. Red-tailed Hawk. Other kids, see his pics and also want a point and shoot camera. They also want to learn about the nature around them.
It is easier
It is cooler
A photo is tangible – and observation is not.
It possible to share it
It is viral.
But is it really birding?
I have gotten a lot of comments from birders, that this is not really birding. And maybe they are right. By sending off the picture to Facebook or an online forum and get the ID this way is a bit lazy.
Per definition by American Birding Association: A birder is a person who is actively pursuing the hobby or sport of birding. Birding is a sport and/or hobby in which individuals enjoy the challenge of bird study, listing, or other general activities involving bird life. Critics say that people photographing birds are not really observing.
But taking photographs of birds is a general activity involving bird life, isn’t it? With the new digital photography technique it is far easier to get interested in birds via photography than with binoculars as demonstrated above. This is where I am going with this series. Eventually, the kid will also want a pair of binoculars. Why? Because he likes birds. And he would like to watch them when the photography conditions are not the best. Birding grows on you.
Maybe the definition of a birder will be change soon: Someone who is actively pursuing the hobby or sport of observing or photographing birds. The old school birders will protest. So be it! Digital bird photography at all levels is here to stay. Some people will never become experts. But that is OK.
Jeff Gordon, president of the American Birding Association, said on my Facebook wall:
“Birders have often as a group been insular, though to be fair, they’ve often been marginalized. But part of my whole thesis about how I approach my job at the ABA is that we have to let go of the past, suck it up, and let our lights shine. Become less focused on ourselves and our own successes and failures and more concerned about building a bigger, more fun tent.”
Should pursuing birds by photography be included in the word birding? Comments below please. And don’t forget to subscribe to email updates so you don’t miss any posts. Have a wonderful week full of birds.
Top Photo: Canon SX40 HS (affiliate link): a highly recommended Point and Shoot Camera for $350 dollars. See Stephen Ingraham’s review. Stephen will be blogging about birding with Point and Shoot Cameras later in this series.