The Jr. Egrets Return With a Popular Christmas Bird Count for Kids

Written by Jessica Middleton for The Egret – Issue 35 – Number 1

After a 21 year rest, the Essex County Field Naturalists’ Club for kids, known as the Jr. Egrets, is back in action. The new Jr. Nat’s committee consists of Kory Renaud, Andy Paul, Jeremy Bensette, Sarah Renaud, Jessica Middleton and Gina Pannunzio. Our goal is to inspire and support a community of young field naturalists by providing opportunities for kids to connect with nature and each other. For our first event, we wanted something that would be relatively easy to set up and would attract a big and broad audience. We decided that a Christmas Bird Count for Kids at the Ojibway Nature Centre would be a perfect fit!

The Christmas Bird Count for Kids is inspired by the traditional Christmas Bird Count (CBC) and has been growing in popularity since its inception in California in 2007. The CBC4Kids is similar to the original CBC, but more kid friendly, lasting only half a day and often accompanied by some fun team names and hot chocolate. In 2010, Bird Studies Canada partnered with the founders and held Canada’s first CBC4Kids in Port Rowan, Ontario.

On the morning of January 12th 2019, 12 children and 17 adults gathered at Ojibway Nature Centre to embark on our birding adventure. After a brief introduction, Kory gave an interactive skill-building workshop that included how to use binoculars, what to look and listen for, and some practice spotting camouflaged owls. We then took to the trails with binoculars (many of which were lent by Ojibway Nature Centre), laminated field guides of the most common winter birds of Windsor-Essex, touques and mittens.

Christmas Bird Count Participants. Photo taken by Andy Paul.

Our birding experts (Kory and Jeremy) and professional educator (Andy) led the group around the park to find as many birds as possible. One of the highlights was a sighting of a Red-tailed Hawk perched near the trail. Other exciting finds were several cute tufted titmice and a bush full of sparrows (“Eighty-three House Sparrows!” exclaimed one particularly enthusiastic kid). The group was also treated to hand-feeding chickadees and nuthatches, and some hot chocolate and cookies back at the Nature Centre. In total the group counted 148 individuals of 17 different bird species (full results below).

After the success of this event, we are eager to keep the momentum going. Plans are already in the works for a spring herp hike and an activity at the Earth Day celebrations at Malden Park. Jr. Naturalist membership comes with a family membership to the Essex County Field Naturalists’ Club. If you know of any kids that might be interested in joining please let us know!

CBC4Kids Count Results

Tufted Titmouse, White-throated Sparrow, Blue Jay, Red-tailed Hawk and Downy Woodpecker taken at the CBC for Kids. Photos by Jeremy Bensette.

Tufted Titmouse (6), Black-capped Chickadee (7), American Tree Sparrow (1), Starlings (2), Mourning Dove (2), House Sparrow (83), White-breasted Nuthatch (10), White-throated Sparrow (1), Red-tailed Hawk (1), Gull sp (1), Red-bellied Woodpecker (2), Downy Woodpecker (5), Hairy Woodpecker (1), Blue Jay (2), American Goldfinch (8), Dark-eyed Junco (7), Northern Cardinal (1), Potential new Jr. Egrets (12)

Note: The cartoon egret at the top of the page is a character named “J.E.” from the original Junior Egret team, drawn by Anne Barbour.

Click here to read the Windsor Star article published about January’s CBC for Kids.

Thanks for reading, and we look forward to this event becoming an annual tradition!