Birding has recently become one of my favorite family pass times. This is partially because birding with kids can happen almost anywhere. It is amazing how many birds we can spot or hear in our own backyard. Even driving down the highway near the Mississippi, we have a good chance of spotting a bald eagle. While some parks, such as Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and North Mississippi Regional Park allow visitors to check out backpacks with birding equipment, not all parks do. Even parks that have packs to loan don’t provide some personal necessities. We find it worthwhile to keep an exploration pack in the back of our van. Here’s what we keep:
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Birding Checklist To Keep In the Car:
Binoculars: This is probably the most expensive, but also most necessary item on the checklist. I do see binoculars regularly at thrift stores, but its not always easy to determine their quality. We really enjoyed birding at North Mississippi Regional Park, where they were happy to loan us enough binoculars for the family. If you are bringing your own, sharing works pretty well. The set below gets high reviews for quality and is only $15.99/pair through our Amazon affiliate link. Plus they have a money back guarantee.
Bird Guide Book:
Bird guides are pretty easy to find anywhere that sells books, but I particularly like this book for a family backpack because it includes interesting facts including where each bird nests and what their calls sound like. It also has a section with additional activities families can do together.
Hats for everyone: I have a family full of Scandinavian children with pale skin and sensitive eyes. I always regret when we don’t having hats with us. Luckily this bucket style is cheap and easy to find. I usually thrift them so they are no big loss when they get left behind, which they often do. I actually like this style for myself too, but my teen prefers a Sherlock Holmes style hat and my husband usually prefers a baseball cap or Aussie hat. Whatever their preference, it’s good to keep a few extra tucked in the van.
Sunglasses: As cute as sunglasses are on my kids, and as sensitive as their eyes are, they don’t keep them on. So we pick them up cheap at thrift stores and more often than not, rely on hats. This pair would be adorable:
Bug Spray: I wish I had a good recommendation on this. However, I’m on the search for a safe but effective bug spray to use with my own kids and dog this year. Some State Forest Campgrounds where we ave camped have been pretty miserable with mosquitoes and this is supposed to be a bad tick year, but I’m uncomfortable using pesticides on kids and dogs – both of whom may just lick themselves at any time. If you have a recommendation or a recipe, leave it in the comments. In the meantime, we’re going to try this one:
Sunscreen: I really, really don’t like to use sunscreen, but again, Scandinavian children burn easily. I try to find one with the least harmful chemicals, use sparingly and do my best to keep my kids out of the sun during peak hours. We also double up on green smoothies during summer months.
Birding Checklist of Items We Grab Before Going:
Clean and Refilled Water Bottles:I like a strap on mine.
Snacks: I envy parents who remember to keep snacks packed. I always end up stopping to by a box of granola bars.
Your Cell Phone: This isn’t absolutely necessary, but it’s nice to compare bird songs with an online resource. You can find many of them at the Bird Academy.
How to Dress for Birding:
Dress comfortably for the weather, wear layers and comfortable hiking shoes or walking shoes. If you are worried about ticks, you can wear longer clothes and tuck your pants into your socks.
At Home Birding Checklist:
Although sometimes a set of binoculars are nice at home, usually, in the summer, we can just lie quietly on the deck and lazily watch the trees above. Its fun to do this in the morning with a cup of coffee or in the evening when the squirrels are going to bed. In the winter, we can set up a birdfeeder right outside of our living room window. There are different types of bird food that attract different kinds of birds. You can learn more about that from the Minnesota DNR. You can also visit a local nature center.
Recently, I grabbed the Book House Sparrows Everywhere by Caroline Arnold from a Little Free Library and read it while my kids played at the park. Although its a children’s picture book, I learned a great deal from it, and can’t wait to spend some time watching common house sparrows now.