Children and Birds

To: <>
Subject: Children and Birds
From: "Colin Clarke" <>
Date: Fri, 17 Nov 2000 10:35:52 -0500
G'Day Y'all,
I've been a birder for over 50 years.  I was the one person in my (Australian bush*) farmer's family that took an interest in birds almost from the time I could walk and talk.  I became very adept at bird call identification and, as a youth at least, bird call mimicry - no TV back then at home.  I often got razzed by my elder brothers - even when a rooster crowed - "sshh, listen ... plumheads".  They razz me still.  I love it. (And, of course, they are closet birders themselves although they would never admit it to me.)
But the biggest event in my life was getting <my first binoculars> at about age 8 or 9.  Old, tattered, with bloomed lenses and all, but <magic>. 
Sure, I still had to go into town to the library at the weekend to read 'What Bird is That?'.  But to be able to 'sneak up' on the willie wagtails, the plumheads and diamond sparrers, the jenny wrens and bronzewings, double bars and zebs, was the real foundation of my lifelong interest. (When my friends were playing 'cowboys and injuns', I was on 'safari' rediscovering my secret valley full of night parrots.)
So, in my humble view, we have to "Pay it Forward" and take the opportunity whenever we can to get old or new, cheap or not so cheap binoculars into the hands of children.  Because when we do, the rest will follow.  They will beg their parents and relatives for books on birds and other animals, on nature, the environment, and the earth.  They will 'show and tell' at school.  About a year ago, I gave a pair of used and battered 7x35s and a 'backyard birds' book to an 11 year old.  She is moderately interested still (boys are a higher priority), but the parents - well, they now have books, binoculars, telescope, star charts, Internet, a yard list etcetera. Because of one thing - a battered binocular.  The 'rest' did surely follow.  I have seen similar happenings many times.
I don't even remember the number of binoculars I have given away.  I think four of my old and maybe 'technologically antiquated' models, and quite a few that I bought at junk sales, trash and treasure, etc.   (If I can see through them OK, and focus OK, then $5 or $10 usually buys them).
So, my theory.  Give children something <magic> of their <own> to look <with>, and let them discover what to look <at> (with some subtle hints).
Thanks for reading my soapbox meanderings.  I may have solved your Christmas gift(s) dilemma.  = ;-)
Colin Clarke
Mount Pleasant SC 29464 USA
32N.8517    79W.8228

'The desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world'.
John Le Carre, Writer.
Gunnedah, my closest town as a child, is at

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU