KIDS COUNT CITY BIRDS

Nat­u­ral­ists start club

Windsor Star - - FRONT PAGE - TAY­LOR CAMP­BELL tcamp­[email protected]­media.com twit­ter.com/wstar­camp­bell

A dozen chil­dren search­ing for feath­ered friends de­scended on Ojib­way Park on a crisp Satur­day morn­ing, to take part in a lo­cal nat­u­ral­ist club’s first Christ­mas Bird Count for Kids. Mem­bers of the Es­sex County Field Nat­u­ral­ists’ Club, the event’s host, guided fam­i­lies through the park’s prairie land, teach­ing them the best places to look for birds and how to iden­tify them once they ’ve been spot­ted.

Field Nat­u­ral­ists’ Club board mem­ber Kory Re­naud said the Christ­mas bird count — which or­ga­niz­ers want to be­come an an­nual event — was more fun with chil­dren than with avid adult bird­ers. “The kids are very en­thu­si­as­tic,” Re­naud said af­ter the walk. “A lot of them don’t get out into na­ture as much as they prob­a­bly should. This is a great op­por­tu­nity for them to get out, es­pe­cially in the win­ter.” Kids held binoc­u­lars to their eyes with mit­ten-clad hands to get a bet­ter view of the lit­tle crea­tures flit­ter­ing around them. To make it eas­ier to name the dif­fer­ent species, many kids wore lam­i­nated pages around their necks, fea­tur­ing pic­tures of com­mon birds in Wind­sor and Es­sex County. The group saw 17 species. Ac­cord­ing to sev­eral young par­tic­i­pants, a red-tailed hawk perched near the trail and a few tufted tit­mouse sight­ings were the highlights of the morn­ing. Feed­ing spar­rows and other birds by hand also topped the list.

“I was sur­prised how many birds there are here,” said Sheila Gor­don, who brought her five-year-old grand­son, Calum Clark,. “It was amaz­ing to me. I thought we’d see a few, and just right out­side the cen­tre here there must have been 50 birds in one bush.” Calum had a lot of fun, Gor­don said, though he pre­ferred to place bird feed on the ledge, rather than en­tice the an­i­mals to land on him. “I’d def­i­nitely bring him back,” she said.

Satur­day ’s event was the first of sev­eral the club’s mem­bers hope to hold for young na­ture lovers in a ju­nior nat­u­ral­ist pro­gram, Re­naud said.

“We’re look­ing to tai­lor some out­ings and ac­tiv­i­ties more to­ward the younger gen­er­a­tion, where we can in­stil in them the im­por­tance of na­ture and what’s in our back­yards,” Re­naud said.

The Es­sex County Field Nat­u­ral­ists’ Club is a non-profit vol­un­teer or­ga­ni­za­tion aimed at con­serv­ing and restor­ing re­gional wildlife. Kids who join can par­tic­i­pate and learn from ex­perts as they go, Re­naud said.

Jeremy Bensette, an­other mem­ber of the club’s ex­ec­u­tive board, said he was glad to see so many kids come out for the first event. “Kids get an in­ter­est in wildlife, but so few of their peers are into it that it’s easy to fall off that track,” Bensette said. “I like to think this is a nice chance to meet other kids who are also in­ter­ested, and mo­ti­vate each other to keep go­ing with it.”

DAN JANISSE

David Flett, 5, and Emily Re­naud, 5, were among about a dozen chil­dren who came out to Ojib­way Park on Satur­day to par­tic­i­pate in the first of an ex­pected an­nual Christ­mas Bird Count for kids.

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