Become a Backyard Birder

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Carolina wren
Carolina wren image by GeorgeB2 from Pixabay

Over weeks, we have learned to be all of the things that we never thought we’d ever have to deal with. Lockdowns, selective shopping for necessities, and staying at home 24/7. The first few weeks were easy. We cleaned, we read, we Netflix binged, and we bonded further with our children, pets, and significant others. But then came further responsibilities in a time of unrelenting increase of potential danger to us and to others. Social Distancing became a buzzword, and the clarion call for the event created by COVID-19. Now, we have begun to weary of our isolation and have begun to seek ways to reintegrate in useful and entertaining ways. In fact, this effort is now important to many of us as we wait for the end of the viral assault on the world at large.

During this trying event, many have come together to create ease and respite from the isolation that is in place to help end the forward advances of COVID-19. Musicians have provided free streams of impromptu and personal concerts, often from their living rooms. Free books have been offered by authors. Even Sirius XM Radio has provided their pay service for free to anyone to stream from a browser or a downloadable Sirius XM app until May 15, 2020. We are beleaguered but we’re not without a community of support. Bird lovers are also being offered and provided extraordinary services for free that were usually associated with a fee. Here are two:

Garden Watch Bird Program

British Trust for Ornithology homepageThe British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) offers a Garden BirdWatch program, usually for the sum of £17 BP ($21 US). This program is designed to not only entertain but to educate as well by providing a packet of tools and access to information. With these tools, you can watch birds from your backyard, learn about them, and even help by contributing your own findings. Normally, a purchased packet includes a 220-page guidebook that helps in identifying British backyard birds, a magazine that is published four times a year, access to the BTO databases with a wealth of expert information, and a regular e-newsletter. BTO has offered everyone free access to this year-round service, but without the book and magazine. Nevertheless, the invaluable access to the service is offered for free for an entire year.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Kids at home? Check out Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Science and Nature Ideas for Cooped up Kids.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a program called Science and Nature Ideas for Cooped up Kids. Currently there are already several full-scale weeks available so readers here will be playing catch-up if you find this a useful and educational subject of exploration for your children. But during school closures and “same-old, same old” routines, these weekly directed activities can be just what your kids (or you) need to help break up an increasingly boring day. They provide videos, extensive step by step processes, and fun activities that include outdoor explorations, and assignments.  Currently, there are two weeks of posted activities. Week one teaches “Diversity,” exploring birds and their dinosaur ancestors, and Week two teaches on “Courtship”, explaining sound and nesting. Get started with The Science and Nature Ideas for Cooped Up Kids start page. This program is further enhanced by a robust and well-attended Facebook community page that furthers discovery and learning.

Dust Off the Camera for Free Classes

For budding photographers who enjoy taking photos of wildlife in the backyard, Nikon is currently offering its entire set of online photography classes for free. Normally, the ten offered classes cost between $15 and $50 each depending on the complexity of the class. The classes are taught by professional photographers.

We wish everyone a safe journey through this global pandemic that we are all going through together. We appreciate the global efforts by businesses like BTO, Cornell Labs, and Sirius XM to provide free access to their paid services during this crisis. We will get through this together.

Remember to always wash your hands.

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