Families going to the birds

Once upon a time many moons ago, a couple of women met up at a blogger conference in the Ozark mountains.  They enthused about the general awesomeness of the Natural State.  Lisa Mullis mentioned that ArkansasOutside.com would benefit from a wider lens as it related to family-friendly outdoor activities that went beyond races and competitions, and the idea for a smattering of posts about helping kids connect to the wonders of the outdoors was born.  While there are countless kid-friendly treks, races and challenges across the state, enthusiasm for the outdoors usually grows in one particular condition: when a child spends quality time exploring and enjoying the natural world with an adult.  Guest writer Beth Stephens of The Little Magpie (and a partner at Porch Swing Marketing, the parent company of Arkansas Women Bloggers) will share ideas for you to cultivate a lifelong affection for the outdoors in the kids in your life.  Happy trails!
 
The Great Backyard Bird Count (and a fabulous giveaway!)
Whether you’ve been enjoying all that Arkansas has to offer and thundering down single-track trails across this state for decades or are relatively new to either Arkansas or its natural wonders, try shaking things up this year by participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count this month.
Backyard Wildlife

Backyard Wildlife

Before you click away to something more excited while muttering that you don’t “do” birding under your breath, humor me… it may not be quite the mundane activity you’re picturing!  If your outdoor adventures move at a rapid pace, this is a perfect way to spend a little time slowing down, interacting with the kids in your life and learning more about the natural spaces you enjoy.  If you’re competitive, there are still plenty of elements to suit you and to challenge kids.
Family Time

Family Time

Who:  Anyone – all ages may participate, and no birding experience is necessary!
What:  The Great Backyard Bird Count 2013
Where:  Anywhere!  Hit a hiking trail or city park, walk in the woods, drive a country road or count from inside your home or office.
Why:  First and foremost, because it is FUN and interesting!  Going deeper: information collected from events such as the GBBC is a form of “citizen science,” with the general public contributing information that assists scientists in determing the big picture and gaining valuable insight into what is occuring in bird populations nationwide.  The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society (you’ll also find great information via Audubon Arkansas).
How:  Set aside as little as 15 minutes to observe birds during the four day challenge. Visit www.birdcount.org anytime beginning on February 15 to set up your checklist and report your findings.
What Else?  Keep this simple and fun!  It isn’t intimidating, and most kids will find it to be an enormous treat.  Plan a family outing to hike and count birds – this doesn’t have to be a “lazy” activity!  Birding can be really fun for kids and part of a wander in the woods on a sunny day.  Our family will probably hit the Tanyard Creek Nature Trail in Bella Vista, the Compton Gardens trails near Crystal Bridges in Bentonville or one of our secret favorite trails where we rarely see other people!
Let them loose.

Let them loose.

The reporting is easy (and fun for kids as well).  Your list might simply be: Five Northern Cardinals and 18 Dark-Eyed Juncos.  There’s no need to buy a fancy birding book or binoculars, although those can be fun!  (If you do, I must recommend Sibley Guides based on this experience!)  You will find all the details you need, including more detailed instructions if you want them and plenty of tips for identifying birds via the websites above and www.birdsource.org. You can also access a helpful PDF about the GBBC 2013 here.
Spot GPS
Share your thoughts and whether you’ll participate!  And, hop on over to The Little Magpie for a chance to win a $225 prize package for outdoor enthusiasts from SPOT GPS satellite systems!

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