Monday, July 28, 2008

Weekend Mash Up: Nature, Kids, and Bloggers

If you dropped in on this post expecting conference proceedings in which bloggers save the world by turning kids on to nature you'll be disappointed. This was a much more informal experience, though it was educational on a number of fronts (but, really, what experience isn't?), and ultimately a lot of fun.

A last minute change-of-summer-plans (again) found my daughter, Reina, and I off to Rochester to visit my folks. Schedules were created (ultimately to be ignored) and play dates were hastily arranged, including an attempt at a birding trip with Mike of 10,000Birds. He was in the same boat I was: single parenting for the weekend but wanting to get out a bit. We arranged to meet at Mendon Ponds Park, kids in tow, to see what birds we might stumble across.

Mike tries to keep up with the young explorers, patiently
instructing the next generation of naturalists.


Those were the best laid plans, and as the saying goes, they went somewhat awry. We were the ones in tow, and though we paid some attention to the birds there were no stealthy glances at skulking individuals, no pishing to stir up hormonally-charged parents, no calling for rails or any other hardcore attempts at compiling a good day list. But it didn't matter that the list was small and unremarkable, we found lots of nature to excite the kids and had a good time in the process.

Looks like a good crop of crows this year, but that wasn't
one of the sightings that engaged the younger hikers.


We started on Bird Song Trail, locally famous for the overly-friendly chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, and (for the lucky few) perhaps a Downy Woodpecker that come to your hand for sunflower seeds in the colder months. Tangentially, that always makes me wonder what birds have come to people's hands over the years. Anyone ever get a Hairy or Red-bellied Woodpecker interested? A hungry Golden-crowned Kinglet after an ice storm? A curious Carolina Wren? If you've got a story, please drop a comment!

Back to our journey, which then ventured on the Swamp Trail. Somehow we never skirted any of the numerous ponds that give the park its name, but we did bushwhack along a boardwalk through the swamp, spying a pair of Eastern Garter Snakes while hearing Swamp Sparrows trill in the background.

Nice day to catch some sun. The smaller snake disappeared
with too many eyes on it; this one was more accommodating.


Ants were a nuisance, often crossing the line and becoming a problem. Standing around to watch for birds probably wasn't going to happen even if the opportunity arose. There was some time for photography, though I now believe most acclaimed nature photographers do not have kids. Can you imagine a shooting all of your images like this?

I don't know what the subject was, but I hoped it
stayed still! Ivy keeps an eye on it while Mason looked for
other creatures of interest. Reina never looked back.


All in all, an extremely successful trip, at least through the lens of my parental eyes. Mike and I did get to catch up (about what I can't remember!), the kids had a long morning not in front of a TV or being overscheduled with Toddler Fencing, Chinese for Tots, Cooking With Kids or whatever else their overstructured lives contain these days. No, just plain wandering, exploring, and ant-avoiding fun.

Best of all, the kids hit it off - Ivy and Reina stayed
together for much of the return walk.


I'm looking forward to future trips, and though I love hanging out with the younger generation, I'm hoping we get back for a good morning of listing, pishing, and chasing. Thanks to Mike, Mason, and Ivy for a wonderful outing! Mike's account of the trip is available at 10000birds.com.

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4 comments:

scienceguy288 said...

Seems like everybody had a good time. It gives me hope that some young kids are enthralled in nature.

noflickster said...

scienceguy288 - I like to think that we're "doing our part" by exposing our daughter to as much nature as possible, kids are natural-born scientists and observers. How that will translate through the teenage years and beyond isn't up to us, I don't think, but I hope the seeds are sown and that their roots are deep.

As always, thanks for dropping by!
-Mike

Anonymous said...

Mendon Ponds is one of my favorite places. I've only had chickadees and titmice take sunflower seeds from my hands (they'll do it all year long, not just in the winter). This spring, however, a northern flicker came very close, clinging to a small branch just out of arms length. I never knew that they would also eat seeds, but he picked up a few off the grounds.

noflickster said...

Anonymous - flicker! That would be cool! Interesting that it did take seeds from the ground, unless it selected seeds that were infested by insects, or picked around them for insects.

I figure the most like candidates are the smaller birds, larger ones just seem to be more wary in general. Unless you're wearing a leather glove and holding raw meat and your raptor was nearby!

Thanks for your comment, and please do let me know if the flicker, or any other species, eventually lands on your hand!
-Mike

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