Guest Post! Pandemic Winter With Kids: It’s for the Birds

Today we have a guest post from my new friend, Alyssa Walker! Alyssa and I recently met through our children and have enjoyed some outdoor adventures together. Today she’s offering a safe and fun way to spend time outdoors with your kids! – Rachel

Cardinal. Photo by Harvey Reed from Pexels

We typically love winter at my house: lots of skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, and cozying up with steaming mugs of hot cocoa, usually with friends. With winter Covid cases on the rise and no vaccine available (yet!), we’re trying to spice things up a bit with our socially distant winter wonderland activities. This year, we’re birding.

“What do birds even do in winter?” my son, 8, asked, when I told him about our new activity. 

“I thought they flew south,” said my daughter, 6. 

“Some do,” I explained, “but a lot stay here, and we’re going to learn all about them. Did you know they descended from dinosaurs?” I asked. Their eyes got big. “Start by looking out the window,” I directed.

They did, and they haven’t stopped. I recommend you do the same, and then check out these great resources for winter birding with kids in NH:

  1. “How Dinosaurs Shrank and Became Birds” Weird but true, this 5-year old article from Scientific American, totally not geared toward kids, is a great way to get kids interested in birds. Read it first, then explain it. My daughter now reports every time she sees a bird that “a long time ago, Mommy, those feathers were scales.” Every. Bird. Including chickens.
  1. NH Audubon. By far, the most NH-specific birding resources, NH Audubon has a whole section on tips for birding locally, lists of birds you’ll see in your backyard year-round, and all kinds of bird-specific knowledge. There’s an additional site on local bird sightings that’s helpful, too. 
  1. E-bird Hotspots. This site offers accurate sightings of birds by county and conservation area. Not a wonderful site for younger kids, but older kids who are curious about birds and data may find it interesting. It’s super-helpful for grown-ups who want to show kids which birds have been sighted close to them. I use it regularly.
Black capped chickadee, Photo by Erik Karits from Pexels
  1. The Appalachian Mountain Club. Always a treasure trove of great information, the AMC regularly posts birding info. I come back to this 2016 post on the regular about common winter birds in the state. Here’s a fun, recent post on winter bird-calls that my kids enjoy listening to. 
  1. Books, books, books. We really like the National Geographic and DK Eyewitness series for fantastic non-fiction info. For stories, especially for younger kids, I like this list of birdy books from Audubon. If you don’t have a field guide, get one. Get two. They’re great to have around.
  1. Binoculars. You don’t need anything fancy. While there are kids’ ones on the market, I don’t recommend them — an inexpensive, decent pair of binoculars will do the trick and will last much longer.   
  1. Field notebooks. Ok, so my kids don’t have field notebooks. They have regular notebooks that we call field notebooks. They feel very official and keep a running list of the birds they see, sometimes with drawings. 

Everywhere we go now, we’re on the lookout for our feathered friends. The kids can’t wait to see an owl. What’s outside your window? 

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Alyssa Walker is a writer and teacher. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Huffpost and a bunch of other places. She’s currently working on her first novel. She lives with her husband and two children in New Hampshire. Check out her website, alyssamwalker.com, and follow her on Twitter at @lysmank.

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