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Birding with Kids
By Chelsea Hobbs
Birding and kids. I wouldn’t normally put the two together. I have always pictured birding as a hobby that requires you to remain very still and quiet. With three kiddos—ages 11, 4, and 1— I didn’t think they could sit still long enough to enjoy birding.
Boy was I wrong! I recently learned that all it takes is a good pair of binoculars and a trip to a League City park to get the kids excited, and even quiet!
Being new to League City, I wasn’t sure where or how to start birding. So, before heading out with my family, we met up with Kristine Rivers—a certified Texas Master Naturalist and local birding expert—at Heritage Park to learn the birding basics. This waterfront park along Clear Creek attracts a wide variety of birds, according to Kristine, making it a great starting place.
Kristine was the perfect “hype woman” to get my kids extra excited for this adventure. She gave us strict instructions to “stop, look, and listen,” while searching for birds. My oldest child eagerly grabbed the binoculars and went on the hunt immediately. He eventually spotted what Kristine informed us was a Blue Heron. He enjoyed getting as close as he could to get the best look.
While at the park, Kristine also gave us some pointers about how to attract birds to our yard at home and helped us create homemade bird food. The kiddos loved spreading the bird seeds in several different kinds of feeders, as well as crushing up peanuts and spreading them around on the ground for the squirrels. Kristine handed my daughter a split orange and explained that leaving orange pieces on the ground is a good way to bring birds to our yard.
Nature Center Finds
Our next stop was the Dr. Ned and Fay Dudney Nature Center. The main trail of this scenic preserve splits off into several different trails that lead to bird blinds. We whipped out the binoculars and got to searching, making sure to stop, look, and listen like we were instructed. The kids loved looking around the wetlands to see what they could find. As we walked from bird blind to bird blind, my older two would stop us in our tracks if they heard rustling in the trees or chirping from up above. It was fun to watch them play what my daughter referred to as a new game of “hide and seek,” and I was surprised to see them get so excited about listening to the different bird calls, trying to distinguish one from another.
At the nature center we spotted several egrets out on the water. We also saw another bird that, at first glance, looked like a seagull. After a longer look at its markings and a bit of research, we discovered the bird we saw was actually a masked booby. These birds are usually found flying around warm waters, like the ones at the nature center. While my son and I watched several birds flying over the water, my daughter had her eyes on the several ducks swimming on the water, squealing every time they would dip their heads beneath the surface.
Our introduction to birding got us out of the house and interested in a new hobby. My kids have already asked me when we can go again, and if we can set up our own feeding station in our yard.
If you are looking for an outdoor activity that’s enjoyable for all ages, birding might pleasantly surprise you—like it did me—and League City is the perfect place to start.