It's pretty safe to say we're a bit bird crazy in this household. Nothing warms my heart more than hearing my daughter cry out from the backyard, "Mom! Quick! Put the guineas in their pen. I hear a Red-Shouldered Hawk!!!"
There is always a pair of binoculars on the cupboard in the mudroom–whether they are Dan's nice ones or Mary's purple plastic ones. And they often get swooped up and carried outside in a flurry of excitement over something calling in the trees. Almost nightly, my setting of the dinner table requires that I first push aside field guides that have been pilfered during breakfast and lunch.
Once your ears begin to recognize bird sounds, it really is amazing how much more you hear and notice when you are out doors. The birds that wake you in the morning are no longer a cacophony of calls, but become Song Sparrows, House Finches and Nuthatches. It's like walking through life with cotton balls in your ears, and someone finally taking them out and revealing a whole world you only previously heard in muffled, muted tones.
And honestly, there's nothing better than seeing this awareness and consciousness of natural surroundings being passed on to my children. I love that their ears are alert, and their eyes are soft, looking for movement and color in the treetops.
Dan and I have gone through a lot of tapes and CDs of birdsong and calls, doing our best to learn as many birds as we can that are native to our area. And it isn't easy. You learn birds only by sound, but can't remember what they look like. Or you know their picture in a field guide, but can't remember what their call sounds like when you're in the field.
So when I heard about BirdJam on a birding podcast, I knew I had to try it. BirdJam is a program of "song files" that can be loaded onto your computer or better yet, your iPod, to learn your bird songs. Each song file brings up a photo of the bird, their name and their genus species. (if you're feeling really ambitious). It is the perfect combination, being able to listen to a song and call, while having the visual photograph in front of you as well.
And guess who's been stealing my ipod to listen to the "bird song CD"? My girls sit with the computer or my ipod and work their way through the songs, calling out the birds they recognize either by song or photo and they are able to put all their knowledge together.
Bird Jam comes in an adult version, too but we have the version for young birders. It is a companion to Bill Thompson's (editor of Bird Watcher's Digest) amazing Young Birder's Guide. (which he wrote with the help of his elementary-aged daughter Pheobe, and he says it is one of his proudest accomplishments of all his bird content writing. ) We have a lot of kid-friendly field guides, but this one is definitely the best. All the information for each bird is on one page and the photographs and facts about each bird are really interesting. I've learned something new about each bird I've looked up in the guide.
I get the chance to share a lot of good finds with you here on my blog, but I have to say, this goes down as one of my favorites. I hope I just made your holiday shopping a little bit easier because I know you bird loving friends will really enjoy this find. And sharing a love and appreciation for the natural world with children, is something I feel passionately about.
happy bird watching, listening and learning….