Bird Conservation Through Education TM

September 1, 2014 

In This Issue
Kids:The Binocular Trap
Book Review: Look Up!...
California Fall Birding Challenge
2015 IMBD Theme Survey
Thanks to our BEN Bulletin sponsors:
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The Bird Education Network (BEN) was created following the February 2007 National Gathering, hosted by the Council for Environmental Education (CEE). BEN is a CEE initiative that seeks to connect and support a community of bird education professionals.


Over 4,000 individuals representing 300 organizations receive communications and engage in professional dialogue through the BEN-run Bird Education Listserv. 


A BEN Committee has been established to provide advice and guidance for this important initiative, to advance "bird conservation through education."

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Kids:  The Binocular Trap
 by Paul J. Baicich 


Why is it that when you share binoculars with an adult, perhaps a beginning bird watcher, you make sure that you share a solid, quality, even impressive, pair of binoculars, but when you go afield with a child, say, between 8 and 12 years of age, almost any piece of optics will do?

Worse yet, why is it that inexpensive and light "compact binoculars" are almost always ascribed to kid use?
It's a big mistake.

Too often, the very people whom many bird educators value the most, youngsters, are left with the worst in introductory binoculars.  Nothing will discourage continued bird-watching activity and learning in the field more than an initial experience with binoculars that are, essentially, junk. It's just no fun.

Of course, there are important optics features that do need attention when dealing with youngsters. These may include the ability for the young folks to get their hands around the binoculars, access the focusing knob, and adjust the interpupillary distance (to match the closeness of the eyes among the youngest kids in the group). What's more, finding the bird in the tree or bush is difficult enough for beginning birders - of any age - without having to deal with a narrow field of view or a high magnification that may have the image almost bouncing around.

Try a lower power - between 6X and8X - and definitely stick to a wide field of view.

Of course, some training and help - from a parent or other adult - is essential. Learning to bring the binoculars to your face, while constantly watching the bird, needs practice. (Focusing on a far-off sign - and reading simple text - is a fine way to learn locating the object and focusing properly.)  While practice makes perfect, that practice can be squandered if the binoculars are unserviceable.

We have probably all seen a box of binoculars distributed among kids in a group, binoculars that are small, light, flimsy, very low power, narrow field of view, and really unacceptable

The options for binoculars appropriate for youngsters are many today. It's not like the limitations of a decade or two ago. In fact, we live in an era when relatively good quality binoculars can be secured for around $100 or even less. Some of these are porro-prism binoculars that can be outstanding. There are so many options, that recommending a particular brand would be inappropriate or misleading here. Still, you might look around the website for
Eagle Optics to review the many, many brands and sorts of models that are available.  A final point to be aware of is warranty.  Some manufacturers will offer a unconditional warranty, a relief when binoculars get dropped, slammed against a tree, or run over with a lawn mower. 
Don't sell the kids short. They usually arrive in the field eager to learn something new. Don't make it more difficult for them at the very outset. Make it fun.

[Ben Lizdas, Tom Rusert, and Dave Watkins provided advice for this article]

Book Review: Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard  

by Dave Magpiong  

Many birders have thoroughly stocked shelves of books. Field guides, bird-finding guides, life histories of birds, and birding memoirs are some of the common variations. Through the decades, there have been several volumes addressing "how to be a birder" from the likes of Peterson, Kaufman, Sibley, Dunne, and others.  Perhaps it's time to add Annette Leblanc Cate to that esteemed list.


Her Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard captures many of the basics of becoming a birder and delivers the message in a kid-friendly package. Her cartoonish illustrations and humorous style will draw in and entertain younger readers. Yet, she provides many insights that will provide youth with the foundation to get started down the path to birding. Her light-hearted approach to birding is balanced out with the help of "technical assistance" long-time Massachusetts birder Jim Barton.


This is not a book that will teach young birders how to identify Empidomax flycatchers or distinguish between fall warblers. Rather, it will whet the appetite of kids who never considered bird watching to be an option for them. Cate gives her a readers a glimpse of the beautiful diversity of North American birds. She outlines general skills for learning birds - using shape, bill, feet, sound, habitat, and range. A nice resource is the "Bird-Watching Do's . . . and Don't's!" which touches on the ethics of birding. Quite importantly, she debunks the notion of "there aren't any birds where I live" by pointing out that birds can be found anywhere, including the suburbs and cities.


While some experienced birders may be bothered by the anthropomorphic birds and cartoonish feel, Look Up! achieves its goal of making birding both more appealing and more accessible to the bird conservationists of tomorrow. The book's humorous moments and laid-back presentation may also pull in the parents of its young readers - and they can impact conservation in many ways today.
California Fall Birding Challenge is Here! 

The San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory is dedicated to the conservation of birds and their habitats through science and outreach.

Founded in 1981, the Bird Observatory has produced over 30 years of scientific information on local bird populations, working with both government agencies and partner organizations.


The18th Annual California Fall Challenge (CFC) is SFBBO's biggest fundraising campaign of the year, a month of trips, contests, and events to raise money for their science and outreach programs. Join them for guided trips, bird-a-thons, band-a-thons as well as  photo and youth art contests through October 18.
Choosing an IMBD habitat theme for 2015 

The artist, Amelia Hansen, will be working on the 2015 International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD)theme, "Habitat Restoration".  In the process, bird educators have been asked for their input.


You can give your opinion and rank you choices on habitats, slogans, and accompanying materials.  Make your opinions known in this IMBD Survey from Environment for the Americas.

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