Birding is multi-generational

PHOTO COURTESY OF BONNIE MAHONEY Girl Scouts try birding at Rider Park.

In this era of smartphones, social media and streaming entertainment, many folks worry about how to have quality time with the youngsters in their lives.

Here at Lycoming Audubon, we may have an idea. Many members of our chapter can remember a parent or other significant adult who introduced them to the wonders of the natural world at an early age. For many of us, those early afternoon or evening walks enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of field, stream and woodlands fostered a lifetime of enjoyment of nature. Perhaps you could begin to spark a similar interest in your young person while getting some of that valuable quality time.

Many observers of modern society note with concern decreasing numbers of a younger cohort in our parks, on our trails, out fishing or hunting or in most other out-of-doors pursuits.

We in Lycoming Audubon see the same thing in the outdoor activities offered by the chapter. Our folks tend to be pretty “mature.”

Dr. Scott Sampson, of PBS’s “Dinosaur Trai,” claims that kids’ lack of exposure to nature is one of the most overlooked crises of our time. He notes that while we have other pressing environmental issues, people must come to experience a passion for nature right where they live before they generally would become willing to change behaviors to protect the environment that supports us all.

Again, that certainly rings true to us. As Joan Sattler, secretary of Lycoming Audubon, is fond of saying: “If you don’t know something, you won’t begin to love it and if you don’t love it, you won’t want to protect it.”

Lycoming Audubon members have a love of birds and of the natural world that supports them.

Here are some thoughts for spending quality time with your youngsters — and perhaps fostering a lifelong passion for nature and helping ensure future generations will protect the beauty of northcentral Pennsylvania.

Take them bird watching. It’s easy to do. Birds can be seen and heard practically anywhere — city parks, river walks, back yards, birds come to all those spots.

The more “wild” the spot you choose, the more numerous and interesting the birds and other fauna and flora are likely to be. You can spend that quality time with your kids, and you can learn all sorts of new things together.

Along this journey together, no doubt your child will be able to teach you some new things — how great would that be for them. Birds and nature are quite literally a bottomless well for learning. Even the most experienced birders in our Audubon chapter learn new details about birds and their habitats every time out. Birding is a lifelong pursuit.

There are other benefits. Natural, birdy areas tend to be calm, quiet and green in the way that behavioralists tell us is really beneficial to body and soul. Looking for birds, and taking in all the other sights and sounds, is an exercise in patience and concentration, skills that are valuable as we grow into adulthood but which youngsters often don’t come to naturally in their hectic school/sports/home lives.

Learning to slow down and focus, to step back from the rush of our multi-tasking, everyday lives is of benefit to us all. Of course, it doesn’t hurt any of us to get a little exercise as we walk in pursuit of the next good bird.

If anyone is inspired to give birding a try, why not join our fun group of bird watchers for one of our Saturday or Sunday outings at some beautiful “birdy” spot in the area. Newcomers are welcome, youngsters doubly so. There is always someone close by on our outings to help spot the good birds and probably to share an interesting factoid.

All of our bird walks are free and open to the public and we have adult- and kid-sized loaner binoculars for visitors to use. You can check our trip schedule on our website (lycomingaudubon.blogspot.com) or look for notices in the Sun-Gazette.

A Birding and Wildflower Beginners’ Walk is scheduled at 2:30 p.m. next Sunday (Earth Day) at Loyalsock Township’s Riverside Park/Canfield Island. What better time to come out, with your young people, and see what bird watching is all about.

Mosteller is an educator and enthusiastic Lycoming Audubon Society member.