Groff's Plant Farm Images

Birding with Kids

Published: Fri May 31st 2013

My oldest grandson, who will soon exit first grade, exhibits a significant interest and knowledge of birds. Most of his knowledge has come indoors. When his outdoor observation skills match his knowledge I expect that he will be showing birds to his pop pop rather than the other way around.

For the third time, Memorial Day Saturday, I rescued him from his busy schedule and took him to an organized bird walk for kids at a private nature preserve in Chester County. Private, yes, but in cooperation with the Delaware Nature Society, it is the site of frequent organized bird walks. The woman who helps the kids is a skilled youth nature educator.

This time we took his pre-kindergarten sister along. The walk, in addition to looking for birds, included several nest box inspections. They were able to see eggs, some recent hatchlings and that different birds use differentmaterials to build nests. I was able to hoist each of them high enough for a good look but glad that they are past the carry-me stage.

During the 40 minute ride each way they talked about birds with the aid of Bill Thompson’s Young Birder’s Guide. Several years ago Thompson, a nationally known bird expert and magazine publisher, together with his daughter’s fourth grade class produced a wonderful bird guide for kids.

Somewhere along the ride my grandson started talking about Red Knots. That’s a shore bird that winters near the tip of South America and migrates to the northern Arctic to raise their young. Delaware and the Horseshoe Crab play an important role. Most fly nonstop to the Delaware beaches timed to arrive with the crab’s egg laying. In a few weeks, they double in weight and make the final leg of their journey.

The selfish side of me was plotting for several weeks how to escape the greenhouse for a trip to Delaware the third week in May.The grandson’s comments and knowing that my wife was sitting them the next day, was perfect. A picnic, two grandkids, a wife and a trip to southern Delaware to see the Red Knots.

On the trip down the seven year old read his bird book to sister while she looked at the corresponding pictures in my adult field guide.We were almost there before any signs of restlessness appeared.

Since it was best to wait for lower tide to better find the Red Knots we stopped at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. We saw a few birds but hunger quickly took precedence. After lunch they wanted to go to the beach where Horseshoe Crabs became the focus of attention.

As the afternoon wore on we did look successfully for Red Knots. We saw maybe 150 mixed in with thousands of other shorebirds and gulls in a feeding frenzy. Fortunately, the crabs lay many thousands of eggs as most become fuel for migrating birds.

On the trip back both slept until this side of Newark. How could one have a better day or days?