My husband and I are always on the look out for new and fun things to do with the kids. The standbys are fine, great even, but something new is so full of unknown possibility and excitement. Last Saturday morning, when the local paper ran an article on the expanding and increasingly stable population of bald eagles in our area, we were intrigued. And when we realized there were several hanging around a pond not too far from us, we knew we had a new activity: birding.
Within about an hour, we'd researched where to go, had a map, dressed the kids (including Woody's best friend, AKA our fourth child), and were out the door. We had a blast.
A walk in the woods - with binoculars
So what was it to go looking for birds? Just like almost any other hike or walk, but with greater reason for quiet and stops every now and again for looks through the binoculars. We found our way to a previously unknown piece of conservation land a couple of towns over with incredible views of a large pond. We meandered through the woods on a neck of land that pokes down into the pond, marveling that it felt like we were a world away - but it was only 20 minutes from home.
You should plan for a bird watching walk the same way you plan for any walk or hike: make sure you know where you are going, that you have enough time, that you have water, that you are dressed appropriately - basically that you are prepared for the conditions you might encounter. If it sounds like going for a hike, it pretty much is.
You local Audubon society is a great resource for good locations to observe birds, and for identifying what kind of birds you might see. You can then download and print photos of birds to help you identify them in the field. If you really get into it, you might be able to join other local birders for seasonal census taking or other activities.
No such thing as failure
Alas, we did not sight any of the bald eagles. But that's okay; we spotted other kinds of birds and we had fun anyway. We were out in the fresh air on a crisp winter day (the kids had the added incentive of hot chocolate when we arrived home) and felt invigorated when we were done.
The kids enjoyed themselves, and have asked to go again. I don't think it will be too long before we try another birding walk - I hear there are a couple of snowy owls hanging out at the beach.