KEARNEY — Many experienced birders can identify species by sound.
“I cannot bird by ear,” said Beka Yates, education manager at Rowe Sanctuary. “All the bird calls sound very similar to me. I tend to look more for color and size, which is what we usually teach the kids first. If they can figure what color it is and how big it is, that will help narrow down the search.”
Next Yates looks for distinguishing features.
“Does it have a crest? Does it have feathers that stick up on its head? Does it have an unusual tail shape? Those different and defining features can also help narrow down what you’re looking at,” she said.
Armed with this information — and birding techniques — children better can understand the birds that populate the habitats in central Nebraska.
Yates will lead a free workshop, Christmas Bird Count 4 Kids, at 10 a.m. Saturday at Rowe Sanctuary. The two-hour event, designed for children and their families, will provide information on the annual Christmas Bird Count community service program along with tools on how to identify birds.
To register for the event call 308-468-5282 or email Yates at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Participants will learn to use binoculars and field guides and then join staff on a bird walk to count the species of birds seen on the trails at the sanctuary. After the hike, participants can enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and help enter the data into eBird.
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“The kids will come with a parent or a grandparent and we’ll go over some basic bird identification techniques,” Yates said. “And we’ll quickly go over how to use binoculars. We’ll then go for a walk and take note of the birds we see along the trail. After that we’ll come back to the center, have some hot chocolate and put our data into eBird. That way our data will be recorded even though it’s not part of the official Christmas Bird Count. Always, they should dress for the weather.”
Yates recognizes the importance of allowing children to contribute — in a small way — to gathering data on birds.
An activity like the Christmas Bird Count 4 Kids also introduces them to new ways of looking at nature, encouraging young people to actually get out in nature and observe.
The education manager started paying attention to birds as a young adult.
“I did some bird counting in college while I was earning my biology degree,” she said. “We had to do things like that, but not when I was younger. It was something I would have been interested in but I didn’t have opportunities like that in the area where I lived.”
From 1-4 p.m., also on Saturday, Yates will lead a program for participants of all ages designed to show how animals and insects find ways to adapt to the cold of winter. “Winter Walkabout,” part of the Rowe Adventures series, provides an open-ended time to explore nature.
“We’ll look for any tracks on the snow or other signs of animals including scat or holes,” she said. “We’ll have guided walks so people can go out with a guide, if they like, or they can just go out on their own and explore.”
Registration for the Winter Walkabout is not necessary.