Guest Author - Kimberly Misra
Birdwatching is an excellent activity to introduce your child to, whether you live in the city or the country. Birdwatching is fun, free, and gets you and your child outdoors. Best of all, birdwatching is a hobby that can be enjoyed for life.
To spark your child's interest in birdwatching, get them involved in a project to help the birds. Spring is an excellent time to set out materials for nest building. Begin by collecting materials from around your house and yard. Place the materials in a container that will allow the birds to choose from them freely. A mesh bag, such as those onions or oranges are sold in, works well. You can also use a wire suet feeder. If you don't have either on hand, you can just set your materials out on the lawn or porch. Place a heavy rock on the center of the pile to keep the wind from taking your materials away before the birds can. Locate your materials where bird activity is heaviest, perhaps near a birdbath or feeder.
You and your child will undoubtedly come up with your own ideas for nesting materials, but here are a few to get you started.
String and Fabric. This is a great way to use up odds and ends of string, yarn, embroidery floss, or twine. Cut the string into manageable pieces, about 4-5 inches long, and stuff them in your bag. To make it easier for the birds, pull an inch or two of string out through the holes of the bag. If you include a few pieces of brightly colored string, you may be able to spot them in a nest later on.
Fur and Hair. If you have a dog or cat, give them a good brushing. Their shed fur makes a nice, soft nesting material. Human hair works for this too! And if you're lucky enough to have a horse, their hair makes great nesting material.
Natural materials. Collect materials from around your yard, such as moss, pine needles, small twigs, dried grass, dried leaves, fluff from plants (such as milkweed),and lightweight strips of bark.
What not to use: While there are many materials that make good nest components, there are some you should avoid. Don't use grass that has been treated with pesticides or fur from pets that have been treated with topical flea medications. Also avoid dryer lint; it tends to crumble when it gets wet.
Enjoy your birdwatching!