By Cayla Rosenhagen
“Look, look! There’s a bird up in this tree … and there’s a nest, too!”
A young boy with binoculars pressed against his face cheerfully announces what he has found. An American Robin flies to her nest, cozily tucked in a nearby cedar; the child notices she has a worm in her bill. More young birders gather to watch in awe of the mother robin feeding her recently hatched chicks.
Nothing compares to watching a child’s face light up with happiness and fascination as they become immersed in the world of birds. I had the joy of seeing this firsthand. On June 27th, my sister Iris and I launched the first Children’s Birding Adventure at Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket for Four Harbors Audubon Society.
The event began early in the afternoon at the entrance to the park, as enthusiastic families circled around to introduce themselves on the lawn overlooking the lake. Their children ranged in age from infancy to age 10 and were bubbling over with questions and stories about wildlife they had seen. One of the participants, Olivia, 8, a birder for about two years, looked forward to seeing a Northern Cardinal, one of her favorite backyard birds.
Before our walk began, the children engaged in a round of nature-inspired activities, including Sparrow Says (Simon Says with an aviary twist) and a storytime, featuring a book by Kermit Cummings entitled A Backyard Birding Adventure: What’s in Your Yard? To further their birding knowledge, we presented the budding ornithologists with a photo album of birds we were likely to spot on our adventure. Bird BINGO cards, illustrating the same feathered friends, were handed out to all the children so they could record their sightings in a novel manner. Each youngster was then lent a pair of child-sized binoculars and taught how to use them.
Eagerly, we headed down the path encircling the picturesque Mill Pond. As we strolled the half-mile paved loop, a dozen children and their families surveyed their surroundings for birds and were met with great success. Catbirds, swallows, woodpeckers, swans, and warblers filled the lenses of every pair of binoculars. Little eyes spotted blue jays, sparrows, and egrets; the children announced their birding discoveries to the group with delight. The group paused along the old stone bridge and I pointed out turtles on a floating log and the blackbirds who nest in the nearby reeds. When birds weren’t readily in sight, scurrying chipmunks, zigzagging butterflies, and the iridescent wings of dragonflies captivated the young minds. As the hour-long event came to a close, it was so gratifying to hear from both parents and kids alike that fun was had by all, and much was learned about the natural world.
The members of Four Harbors Audubon Society have been my role models and mentors for many years and continue to inspire me. I started participating in their monthly bird walks when I was the age of many of the children who attended Saturday’s event. At age 16, I now serve on the Board of Directors for 4HAS, and it is a privilege for me to contribute to the younger generation’s love and appreciation of birds. Who knows? Birding may become a lifelong passion for them, as it has for me.
In the future, Four Harbors Audubon Society plans to run the Children’s Birding Adventures on a seasonal basis. If you are interested in joining us for our next program, please email us at [email protected]
Cayla Rosenhagen is a local high school student who enjoys capturing the unique charm of the community through photojournalism. In addition to the Four Harbors Audubon Society, she serves on the board of directors for Brookhaven’s Youth Board, and is the founder and coordinator of Beach Bucket Brigade, a community outreach program dedicated to environmental awareness, engagement, and education. She is also an avid birder, hiker, and artist who is concurrently enrolled in college, pursuing a degree in teaching.