Inaugural Christmas Bird Count for Kids

The combined efforts of Marg Paré of Waterloo Region Nature and Jenna Quinn of the rare Charitable Research Reserve brought to fruition our first Christmas Bird Count for Kids (held on January 7, 2017) — and a rare (pun intended) success it was.

marg looking down
Marg Paré – Waterloo Region Nature


two females
Emily Leslie and Jenna Quinn – rare Charitable Research Reserve

Gerrit Kaminga, rare‘s program facilitator welcomed everyone and explained rare‘s myriad activities and research ventures.

Gerrit Kamminga

To start the program I gave a short presentation to give the kids (and perhaps a few of their parents too) a few tips on how to bird successfully and covered several common species that we hoped to find as we broke into groups and ventured forth outside. Emily then explained to the kids how to use binoculars and they practiced inside before trying them on the birds of the great outdoors.

group of adults and children standing in snow

group of adults and children in winter gear outside

Children of roughly similar age made up each team; our group called the Chickadee Team comprised the youngest children of all.

group standing on winter trail
Stephanie Sobek-Swant (Executive Director rare Charitable Research Reserve), her daughter, Cordelia, Emily Leslie, Krista MacLaren, her son, Hunter
The weather was perfect, a classic Ontario winter’s day, with bright sunshine, little wind and a temperature of around -12°C. I think that the adults could have stayed out forever, but the attention span of our little charges was short as you might imagine. Nevertheless, they got exposed to a few birds, and perhaps this will kickstart a lifelong interest in nature. The parents who brought out their children deserve a good deal of credit.
We started our walk at a couple of feeders strategically located behind the rare ECO Centre, and they were very active. This engaged the kids for a while and here are the birds they saw there.
House Finch (male)
House Finch (female)
American Tree Sparrow
mourning-doves in tree
Mourning Doves in tree
Mourning Dove
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Downy Woodpecker (male)
Downy Woodpecker (female)

It was not long before Hunter told his mom that he was cold so she took him back inside. Stephanie, Emily, Cordelia and I carried on; it seemed as though Cordelia found new life and wanted to run and explore forever. She couldn’t resit having her picture taken by the Bald Eagle sculpture featured at the trailhead.

girls in winter gear outside

Walking on farther, it was not long before we found fresh Wild Turkey tracks, although we never did see any birds.


The opportunity to hand feed a chickadee could not be passed up, but the birds wouldn’t cooperate and we moved on.

girl standing in snow with bird seeds in hand

We headed back to the rare ECO Centre where hot chocolate and coffee awaited us. Hunter had been happily playing with his mom while we were outside.

mother and son playing on the floor

Cordelia couldn’t resist hamming it up a little as she donned her mother’s ear muffs and sun glasses. We thought she looked like a movie star trying to travel incognito!

girl with oversized sunglasses and earmuffs

All of the teams slowly filtered back and tallies were finalized and lively discussions took place.

group shot indoors

It has been a great day, thoroughly enjoyed by all. I am sure this will now become an annual event and I am looking forward to helping out again next year. Maybe Marg was already making the arrangements!

marg on phone

Species seen by Team Chickadee: Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura (12), Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens (2), Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata (1), Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus (13), White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis (2), American Tree Sparrow Spizelloides arborea (2), House Finch Haemorhous mexicanus (5).

By: David M. Gascoigne

David Gascoigne is a part of rare’s volunteer bird monitoring team. He documents his own adventures on his blog




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s