Happy spring, and welcome to the Built by Kids podcast. Today we aim to give you the bug for birding, with ornithology enthusiast, Robert Nickel. In this episode, he shares why birding is the perfect outdoor activity to enjoy with kids and helpful tools to make your birding experience more enjoyable.
Robert developed his passion for nature as a young person while hiking and camping with the Boy Scouts. He then went on to earn his degree in Earth Science from Stanford University.
He caught the bug for birding from his mother as a young adult and to-date, has amassed a life list of 289 species (and counting). He has taken part in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count twice, the Nation’s longest-running community science bird project, and is a respected voice in the world of birding.
We met Robert at Stanford Sierra Camp where he regularly regales fellow campers with presentations about this semi-unusual passion and is unmatched in his ability to inspire others to pick up a pair of binoculars and start their own birding adventure.
After listening, we’re positive you’ll get the bug for birding as much as we have.
Must-Have Birding Apps
Must-Have Birding Guide Book
A fantastic intro to the hobby. More than a field guide that goes into a huge number of different birds; This book is an approachable “welcome to the world of birding” that teaches you what to look for and how to find it. Strongly recommend for anyone who wants to take their birding to the next level:
Something I meant to mention but forgot – the critically acclaimed board game “Wingspan” is the first mass-market breakout success that is fun to play and includes real information about the lives of birds that carries over into the field. Fun for ages 10 and up. https://stonemaiergames.com/games/wingspan/
My favorite book for kids about birding is from National Geographic, with great photos, engaging fun-facts, and do-it-yourself activities like “How to build a bird-feeder”: www.amazon.com/National-Geographic-Guide-America-Second/dp/142633074X/
The movie I referenced is “The Big Year” — https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1053810/
- How Robert got into birding
- How long he’s been birding
- How many species he’s seen
- How birding has enriched his family’s life
- Why now is the perfect time to start birding
- Social distancing while being outside
- Happy air, happy birds
- Birds are naturally shy, fewer people out means more birds are out.
- Why it’s so good for kids
- It’s a gateway into recognizing and appreciating a wider world that was there all along.
- Begin to understand how living things are connected and affect each other.
- Take a pause
- Learn to be observant
- You can do it from your house in a city, in a car, anywhere.
- How to get kids interested in Birding
- Birb meme
- Gamify it like Pokemon Go
- Can be social
- The Ornithology Pros
- How many birds has the champion seen?
- Honor system
- How their data and amature data can help bring light to environmental events.
- The tools you need to get started
- Phone and or field guide
- Merlin App and EBird
- Birding provides a unique way to see the world
- Becomes a personal memoir or journal
You can find everything we talked about today at builtbykids.com/birding
And, while you’re there – check out our video series – Today I Made – where we take your kids, step-by-step, through some impressive (but approachable) projects they can accomplish – by themselves – in one afternoon, with materials you can find around the house – and with minimal parental involvement.
Projects include everything from
Making a scrambled egg brunch for the family
Create a spray paint mural masterpiece
Build a hand-made wooden clock
Full Podcast Transcript
Happy spring and welcome to the built by kids podcast. Today we aim to give you the bug for birding with ornithology enthusiast Robert nickel. Robert developed his passion for nature as a young person while hiking and camping with the Boy Scouts. He then went on to earn his degree in Earth Science from Stanford University. He caught the bug for birding from his mother as a young adult and to date has a massive life list of 289 species and counting. He has taken part in the Audubon Christmas bird count twice the nation’s longest-running community science bird project, and as a respected voice in the world of birding. We met Robert at Stanford. Sierra camp, where he regularly regales fellow campers with presentations about the semi unusual passion and is unmatched in his ability to inspire others to pick up a pair of binoculars and start their own birding adventure. After listening, we’re positive you’ll get the bug for birding as much as we have. Hi, Robert. We’re so happy you’re here. Likewise, it was I will never forget the day we met you at Stanford Sierra camp on a hiking trail. And you of course, had your binocular around your neck and in your pockets and you’ve certainly seemed like a very interesting person we needed to know. Well, I would
have been very negligent ever to go into a natural setting without some binoculars along and you’re right when I’m at Sierra camp, I always carry an extra pair because if I see something interesting, I want to be able to share it with the people that I’m with and how can I do that if they don’t have binoculars to look through so
absolutely. And I love And this led us to here I wish we could be in person. But obviously in today’s quarantine, we cannot, but at least we can connect. And we’ll be missing our week together at Stanford camp this year, but we’ll have something to look forward to next year.
Well, and you know, it’s like I was saying when we had our conversation about this, the great thing about birding is you can do it anywhere. You know, birds don’t care that you’re not at San Francisco. gam birds don’t care that there’s a pandemic, birds are just going to do what they’re going to do. And in fact, I think if you look around the birds are thrilled that we’re having a pandemic because this is one of the best years for looking at birds that we’ve had in quite a while. So yeah, if you want to get a hold of some monoculars and get out there in nature and start looking around, it’s a it’s a great time of year to pick up the hobby, it’s really you can tell that the birds are enjoying the extra space that they’ve got because there’s fewer people out and about
no doubt and that’s what even made us reach out to you for this because our backyard is filled with chirping and Talking and flying and everything lovely and I’ve seen birds I’ve never seen before just in the last month so and with our air here in Los Angeles so clear, people staying home unless mog as you say we have happy birds. So how did you get into birding?
Well, it’s an interesting story and I’m glad you asked. birding is one of those hobbies that you usually meet somebody who likes to bird and at first you think it’s ridiculous and then you eventually see the genius and you become interested in yourself and that was certainly how it happened for me. I had a a period of many years that my mom was interested in bird watching as it used to be called now it’s called birding that’s you know, more fashionable and Plus we’re all in a hurry nowadays, so you know, taking out the extra syllables but but anyway, she was interested in bird watching and and I just thought it was the most ridiculous dorky hobby I could possibly imagine. It would put I picked up her field guide which is her you know, book that shows the different kinds of birds in it and I was like literally like, Mom. So all this is this entire book is just all just different pictures of different kinds of birds. That’s it. And she’s like, yeah, exactly here. Let me show you. And I was like, No, thank you. So anyway, this was the way that we were for years and years. And what you have to know about me is I’m a huge Steve Martin fan. And Steve Martin, a few years back made a movie called The Big year, which is about competitive birders going out to try to see the largest number of different bird species that they can in a single calendar year. And I thought, Hey, this is fantastic. I like Steve Martin. My mom likes her ridiculous dorky hobby. We’ll get her to come over we’ll have a family movie night, something for me something for her. And so she came over and we were having the movie night. We’re sitting there watching it. And it’s also got jack black and oh, and Wilson. It’s really good movie. I strongly recommend it for anyone who is a fan of gentle comedy. But But anyway, halfway through the movie, I leaned over to my wife and I said, Honey, actually, this looks really fun. And so then the next time that we were on a trip with my parents, one morning bye bye Mom and I got up early. And we happen to be up in Orange County near one of the best birding spots in the country. And we went down there and I was hooked. And it’s been over five years now. And I’ve got over 200, almost 300 species on my life list now, and, and I’m just going strong with it.
Wow. I love that. Yeah, we’re even titling this episode, the, you know, catch the bug for birding. And so, that’s what you’re doing for us, and we appreciate that. That’s right. That’s right. I love it. So I mean, what so tell me like, how has birding influenced your life? How has it made it richer?
Well, I mean, I could go on for a whole episode just about that. You know, like I said, one of the things about birds is that they’re everywhere. And so once you kind of get sensitized to it once you catch the bug, as you said, it It follows you around you know, other hobbies you have to go to your hobby right. If you’re a ski enthusiast you have to go up to the slopes. If you like to go bowling, you have to go to the bowling alley, but Birds man, they will just be wherever you are. And once you start seeing them, you cannot help pay attention to them to the point where literally when I was interested in birding, but my wife hadn’t quite caught it yet. She has now she’s got over 200 species on her life list as well. But for a while there, it was just me. And we’d be driving and like, you know, you drive past a lamppost and sitting on top of the lamppost is some interesting species of Raptor. And so there I am, as I’m driving, trying to get a good look, and you know, is it an osprey, or is it a red tailed Hawk? What is it and she made a rule, she’s like, honey, no birding, wild driving. And, of course, now that now that she’s a birder, too, I have to remind her of her own rule, when we’re out driving around now so. So one way it’s made it richer for me is just by noticing things in the world that I never noticed before. Hmm. And and this is what I do for other people too. I actually have a calendar that I keep on my desk, and it’s a like a bird of the day calendar. And I have a number of co workers now about a dozen or more of my co workers come over Every day at 130, and we have the bird of the day. And everybody tries to guess what kind of bird it is. And I’ve had coworkers who say to me, you know, after two or three weeks of doing this, they’re like, I had no idea. There were so many different kinds of birds. I had one coworker who’d said, Yeah, I thought there were like, there’s sparrows, there’s pigeons, there’s seagulls, there’s crows, you know, and that’s about it. And this was the guy who one day we had a goal as the bird of the day. And he came over to look at the choices that I had listed. And it was like Iceland go block this wing go Western goal. And he was like, Where’s seagull? I don’t see Sega list. And I was like, actually, there is no such bird as a seagull. There are, you know, almost 100 different kinds of goals, but none of them is called a seagull. And so yeah, just kind of being aware of the incredible diversity of nature. You know, no matter what, what your perspective is, I mean, Christians will talk about how, you know, God made All this diversity and people who come from a different perspective can just appreciate what evolution has done. But whatever you are interested in, you can get out there and realize that there’s so much more going on in the natural world than
then you think of especially when you’re in Los Angeles in the smog is bad, right, you know. And another thing that’s nice about birding is it’s kind of a like a real life version of Pokemon Go. You think about how you’re, you know, going to get out there and catch them all? Well, that’s what birders do. You know, there’s actually a mailing list that I’m on, where other birders in town who see something interesting or unusual, will post on this list and they’ll say, Hey, there is a European widget here in town, get down to the San Diego river and see if you can find the European widget quick before it’s gone. And birds are like tourists, they will go to the same places year after year. You know if you think about how we like to go back to Stanford theory camp once a year. And if you were to be a human watcher instead of a bird watcher, you Notice that every single year on a certain date, these exact human beings show up at this exact place. And birds do the exact same thing. My aunt is actually really interested in birding, and she had a very pretty Oh gosh, what was it? I think it was a northern Cardinal that showed up in her yard one day, and she doesn’t usually have northern Cardinals. And so she went and looked back at her birding records from the previous year. And the bird had shown up on like, you know, Wednesday, August 8, and the previous year, it was on Tuesday, August 7, or something like the bird was in her yard down to the exact day. You know, it’s kind of like how you stay at the same hotels when you travel? Well, birds want to stay in the same yard that they had a good experience in the previous year. And so anyway, so because of the fact that birds are in predictable places and because of the fact that you can share with people like I saw this bird and it’s here in town. birds will visit for a day or two before they move on. And during that time, if it’s something really cool or weird or unusual, you will have little groups of birders. Walking around going, you know, Hey, have you seen the three colored Heron or whatever it is? And give each other tips like, Oh yeah, it’s over there and those clump of bushes or that kind of thing. So there’s some camaraderie to it. That’s, I mean, obviously not now, because, you know, we’re all trying to find places to bird where other people aren’t. But normally there’s a lot of camaraderie to it and a lot of support, and people are more than happy to, you know, if they see something interesting, they’ll, you know, see that you’re interested too, and they’ll tell you all about it. So, it’s a lot of good aspects. Like I said, I could probably do the whole episode on how it makes my life richer, but I think that kind of covers some of the high points. It’s pretty interesting. Robert, when you mentioned traveling in birding and Do you ever make vacations just around? You know, like you said, like, you went to Orange County, a rich in birds. Do you ever, you know, make travel around birding? Well, that is what the big year is about the movie The big year that I was referring to before actually what that is, is there is a thing in the word world of birding with the word of birding, look at me in the world of birds. Where people who are really top level birders, you know, who can immediately recognize any of a number of different species and so on, they will do these competitions were starting on January 1, they go to wherever interesting birds are. And their goal is to see as many different species in the course of one calendar year as they can. And to the point where like, in the year that the movie is about, there were actually three of the world’s best birders who all sort of independently decided on the same year to deal with big year and it was quite a while before they all found out that each other was doing a big year of course, and but like one of the guys heard that there was a rare species of awk that is not normally seen in North America. And so he literally from New York, got on a plane and de tripped it to point Barrow Alaska to go and see if he could spot this arc. And he didn’t see it. So he went back to New York and then about two weeks later the Aqua spotted again so he day trip to two point Barrow Alaska again, right? Well, we are not to that point yet. I’m happy to say My wife and I have not got the birding bug quite that badly yet, nor do we, of course even have the means to day trip to point Barrow, Alaska, even if we wanted to. But, but no, what we’ll usually do is, when we’re going to a specific place that we plan to visit any way, I will do my preparation so that I know what kinds of birds unlikely to see you there. One of the exciting things about birding, it’s almost like a action sport because you’ll go out in the field with your binoculars and you’ll be looking for something. And birds in the words of the Sibley guide are shy and wary creatures with no particular interest in being seen. Birds are actually our superiors in almost every sensory aspect, they can see better than we can, they can hear better than we can. And so by the time you spot a bird, it has been aware of your presence for quite a while. And it’s only because it doesn’t consider you a threat that it even sits around long enough for you to get a good look at it. And so the thing that you want to do when you’re traveling to a place, you’re going to maybe get a hold of a bird that you see for two seconds, four seconds. Certainly very, very rarely do you get to look at a bird for more than 30 seconds. And if you don’t have any idea what kinds of things you’re likely to be looking for, you’re going to miss that identification. Right? So there’s a resource. I like to refer to it as the mothership of birding in North America, called the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. ornithology being the scientific word for walking around looking at birds. And the the Cornell Lab has huge amount of really great information, not just for scientists and bird nerds like myself, but anybody like you guys. You’re looking out in your backyard, you’re going gosh, I’ve never seen a bird like that before. I wonder what it is? Well, there is a great deal of information available and a lot of it is right there on your phone that you can use to answer those questions for yourself. My favorite app is called Merlin and er Li n. And it’s a pawn that works on many levels because first of all, it’s like magic. Merlin is a wizard but also a Merlin is a type of bird and so What you could do is you can download this app. And if you see something cool in your backyard, you just bring up the Merlin app and you say, all right, it’s today’s date, I’m standing in the place where I am, you know, it knows your location, because your phone knows your location. You say I see a bird that was about the size of, I don’t know, a crow, and it had brown and red, and it was sitting on a fence. And then Merlin will go and it will compare your information you put in with actual data from birders all around your area in real time, who have reported what they’ve been seeing to the Cornell Lab. And then it’ll come back and it’ll say, you know, based on what you’ve specified, there’s four or five likely possibilities, and you’ll look at it and there’s a picture and you go, Oh, that’s the bird I was seeing, hey, it’s a red tailed Hawk, and now you know exactly what you saw. So that can be really interesting, even if you’re not gonna put your observations in. Now, if you do want to have what’s called a life list, which is just what it sounds like. It’s a list of every bird you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Cornell labs also has a thing where it will keep track of that for you. There’s another app called e bird, like electronic bird. And you can go in once you figure it out, I saw a red tailed Hawk, then you can go to E bird and say, Hey, on this date, in this place, I saw a red tailed Hawk, and you will now have on your life list, one bird. And it’s cool because, you know, it keeps that list. That’s a permanent list. And that’s how I’ve got my almost 300 species and, and you always can go back and look at those dates and so on and kind of remember Hey, you remember that one day when we you know, we’re sitting in the backyard? It was during the quarantine, we saw that bird. There it is, look, there’s that red tailed Hawk, you remember that? That was so cool that day. And and you can kind of have almost like a travel journal because you do see a lot of unusual birds or at least birds that are new to you when you go someplace new. And so I have birds were you know, just looking at the fact that oh, we have that jack on the list. You remember that day when we were in England and we went out for that walk, you know, behind that bar and then we saw that weird little look like a mini crow sitting in the alley and you know I remember this date that I had with my wife that day. And it’s just it’s a good way of kind of remembering what happened in your life. When you go back and look through your life list, you know, in later months or later years. Did I ever answer your question, Tim?
No, that’s perfect. Yeah, I mean, it just, I think it adds a new element to travel even. Even if you’re not going specifically for birding. It just like you said, If you pass by a park, or you’re just, you know, you’re outside it just kind of like you said, you see the world through a different lens.
Right, like almost a gateway into recognizing and appreciating a wider world that’s been there all along, you’ve just never been aware. Well, that’s what’s so cool about it. Exactly.
It’s been right under your nose your entire life. And suddenly, it’s like you’ve been given X ray specs. Now you can see all this stuff that was previously invisible to you.
I love it. And you know, you popped on to so many different reasons why kids would be interested in this from the action sport aspect to mentioning gamifying and pokeyman. I mean, what else Can you think of how can we get because it took you until you were an adult to realize that your mother’s birdwatching wasn’t as dorky as you thought? So how do we get our eight year old interested in this?
Well, for me, you know, kids are already interested in burbs with a beat. I know that on the internet, it’s gonna be hard to hear the difference between a bird with a D and a bird with a bee. But, but my daughter loves to show me pictures of birds, which are apparently that’s a you know, a word for a cute little bird that, that she’s gotten, you know, sent to her by her friends. And you can go out in the world and actually see them doing things and one of the neatest things is like we have a little fountain near our house. And sometimes you can go over there and you’ll see birds and they literally want to get in there and take a little bath and and they kind of splash into the water and frolic around and have a great time and it’s one of the cutest things you’ve ever hoped to see. So if you have any interest with your kids in you know kind of cute little creatures, that’s a great way to get them interested. Another way to get them interested is, like I say, you know, get them to where they’ve started their own life list. There’s no age limit, my daughter has a life list. And, you know, she’s 14 now getting up there. And so she likes to you know, for example, if I’m pulling the car out of the driveway, she likes to be the one to do that. And so the other day, I was pulling out of a parking lot, and I was letting her you know, kind of control the car while it rolled down the driveway. And suddenly she stops and she goes, Daddy, look, there’s a sandpaper over there and they are in the parking lot during the quarantine was, you know, the Sandpiper because nobody was out and about and it just decided, hey, this is a good natural spot for me to look around. And so you know, we put that Sandpiper on her life list and now she’ll always have when she looks back, you know, there was that day when I spotted it was actually a type of Sandpiper known as a kill deer. That was the day that I spotted that killed deer in the parking lot when I was you know getting To drive my dad’s car down the driveway, so those types of memories can be really cool. And I think kids love to have those kinds of stories, especially if they’ve got a friend who’s interested too. Then you get the competition aspect. You know, it’s like, Hey, I saw a white crowned Sparrow yesterday at my house. Oh, yeah. Well, I saw cedar wack swing at my house, you know, and, and now, obviously, once we go back to the point where people can actually get together in as in real life, and kids can be like, Hey, I saw this thing come over and see it, and they can go over and instead of, you know, hey, I caught a Pikachu. They can be you know, hey, I saw your rock swing, and they can absolutely relate on that level to
that is so beautiful. I mean, truly, and just letting them realize how living things are connected and how they all affect each other. And I mean, I’m sure all of this data that amateurs and pros are submitting, you know, is that going anywhere to help silence
for sure, for sure. That’s the point of it all. It’s one of the few hobbies like you You go bowling at the end of the day you bowled 300. That doesn’t affect the world, right? If you go skiing and you go on a black diamond for the first time, that doesn’t make the world a better place, but the data that you record when you’re, as far as you know, just keeping track of your life list, and building little something for yourself to look back on years later, where that data goes is it actually enters a database that can be analyzed by real scientists at Cornell. And they can tell from, you know, the fact that you’re standing in Los Angeles seeing certain kinds of birds and I’m standing in San Diego seeing other kinds of birds. They can compare those to previous years and see what’s changed. And you know, since we’ve all been talking about Coronavirus, we haven’t had our conversations about climate change like we’ve been having lately. But a big part of the way that we know climate change is really happening is because birds aren’t going to the places they used to go to, at least not in the same numbers. You know, birds that used to fly all the way up to Alaska to get to, you know, they’re mating grounds. Now they’re flying farther and farther north to get to the same kind of climate. They used to birds they used to play all the way down to Mexico in summer. Now they’re just flying down to, you know, the San Francisco Bay Area, because they’re getting to that warm part of where they recognize that the weather is familiar. And then they’re not going any farther south. And so we can tell exactly what’s happening in the natural world by monitoring the movements of birds. You know, you’ve heard the saying that there’s a canary in the coal mine. Well, this is literally the canary in the coal mine. Well, it’s literally a canary. It’s not literally in a coal mine. But but we can remember the story of how in the 1970s there was a pesticide known as DDT. And the way people became aware that DDT was dangerous was they started noticing that there are a few pelicans around. And birding is actually the oldest form of citizen science. And we’ve got a thing known as the Audubon Society. And they do what they call the Christmas bird count every year. It’s not at Christmas, it’s around Christmas time. But they’ve been doing that since the late 19th century. We’ve got over 100 years worth of data from the autobahn Christmas bird counts. So it’s a very, very good record to compare to when things are starting to change. And it was those Christmas bird counts that noticed in the 1970s that the pelicans weren’t just, you know, not in my area anymore. It wasn’t like, oh, the pelicans used to be here in San Diego. Well, they must be somewhere else by staying at a high level and looking at all the Christmas bird counts all over the country. people realize the pelicans aren’t just going from here to there. The pelicans aren’t anywhere. There’s just millions of fewer pelicans than there used to be, where are they going? What’s happening to them? And it was through that early warning signal that the pelicans weren’t where they used to be. And in fact, they weren’t anywhere. That was how they recognize the DDT was dangerous. And by eliminating it from the environment, yes, the pelicans were able to recover, but who knows what other species would have been lost? If we allow that to continue building up in the natural environment. But because we were paying attention to where birds are, we were able to catch it in time, and we were able to make a change. So yes, it’s very important that you know, These kinds of observations be able to be analyzed and be able to be our ongoing early warning system. And like I say, birds will respond to environmental factors a lot quicker than people will, that’s for sure. And so by keeping an eye on them, we can really know things that are happening that might, if allowed to continue on check might start to affect us someday to
what a very cool thing I mean, just the thought of empowering our children to be a part of the world around them and and their Earth and how it ebbs and flows. That is just huge. Amazing. Yeah, go ahead, Chip.
kids want to save the world, right? When I was when I was in high school, and you know, a lot of my friends organized various clubs and so on that they wanted to make a change in the world for the better. This is one way that you can take direct action yourself, do something that’s kind of fun for you and contribute to actually doing what you say you want to do actually making the world a better place. It’s It’s It’s the most obvious sort of direct action we can take. And so it’s Yeah, it’s a great thing to, to know that my particular hobby is not just something I do for me, it’s something that I do for the greater good.
Well, that was even a great advertisement for built by kids, because that’s our motto that the future will be built by kids. So let’s give them the tools they’ll need to make it extraordinary. I love it. So on that note, what tools do you actually need to get started?
It’s so easy. Like I say, if you’ve got a phone, which almost everybody does, nowadays, that’s overwhelmingly the way that people are getting their bird information. Now, the, you know, kind of the practice that was common even 10 years ago, of going into the field with a book like I said, My mom had that dorky book with just pictures of birds in it by the way, I now have the exact same
course you do. And
you know, and it does, it has pictures of birds in it and I can flip through and show you all the different ones, you know, and I’d be like, Oh, well, let’s flip right down here to the black birds. And as you can see, this is a red winged Blackbird because it has you know, I can do Now, but I don’t have to because I’ve got my phone. And those two apps that I mentioned are really all you need to get started as far as information. If you’ve got Merlin, if you’ve got a bird 90% of your bird identifications can be made, just that way you don’t need a field guide anymore, although you can still buy a field guide. And in fact, a lot of people buy a field guide on their phone, and they carry that around instead of having a book. Same information just a little easier to carry around with you. But the only other piece of equipment that you really need, like I say, are some binoculars and you want to get a decent pair of binoculars. If you have crummy binoculars, it’s gonna be a lot less fun. So decent binoculars you can get them for under $100 you can even get a semi decent pair for you know the range of 50 to $70. And you want them so that they’re not too narrow a field of view you want it not too wide a field of view and you know the ones you take to a sporting events or whatever, those are too narrow. Those are going to be able to make you see what’s going on on a football field. hundred yards away. But if you try to look for a bird that’s 15 yards away with those, you’ll never find him in the bushes. So you need something a little bit wider than that I think about an eight power binocular is just about perfect for birding. And like I say, you can get those pretty cheaply. The other thing that I have once you become a serious birder, you have your you know, your real birding binoculars, and then you have your emergency binoculars, and you want a pair of, you know, like lightweight, compact folding binoculars. So that when you’re out and about, and you unexpectedly see something that you know, is cool, but you can’t quite tell what it is. In my area, we have parrots flying around wild parrots, and you never know when you’re going to run into a parrot and have to get a close look at it. So I have a pair of folding binoculars that I just keep in my bag. And, and I have those with me at all times. Because, you know, I want to be prepared if I cross paths with an interesting bird, and I want to figure out what it is. But that’s also nice because that way if I go hiking or something, I have a spare pair that I can lend to somebody else who’s interested. But that’s a little you all You need once you’ve got your phone once you’ve got your apps, once you’ve got your binoculars, you are off and running. And if you think about it, you know, I mean the hundred dollars that you spend on your binoculars that’s less than the price of a one day ski ticket. So it’s actually quite an expensive hobby. I’ve had my same binoculars for over five years now. So what is that 20 bucks a year so it really really does become quite economical. Once you’ve gotten a little bit of initial investment, then all you have to do is go to a public park or something and those are always free to get in. So yeah, it’s it’s a great
low entry type of activity. It’s great that you know, you can keep those binoculars for years you can pass them down to other friends and family once you feel like you’ve used them and you want to upgrade later but you know, how do you one of the things photography obviously seems like a big part of this as well is that for more advanced birding and I sounds like the investment in lenses Sounds Sounds like a lot. So obviously you can do it without photography, but that sounds like another big time
to admit that. I have been that guy. Who is standing out there in the field and see something really cool. And I have actually held up my phone camera to the binoculars to get a photo through the binoculars of a cool bird.
Pack. I like it.
It is a life hack. It is for sure a life hack. But you know, that’s how you get those pictures. Otherwise, right? Because I don’t want to carry around a big lens. I like to be lightweight when I’m out birding. And I do want to get pictures. I mean, like I said about the tri colored Heron earlier. That’s an actual cool bird that I saw. In fact, when I saw that one was I was driving home and there’s this wetlands right near our house and I was driving past and I saw a couple of groups birders down there. And usually there’s maybe one or two birders, but this was like a serious group. And I was like, oh, something cool is going on with the wetlands. So I pulled over my car. I hopped out, I walked over, I was like, Hey, what do you guys see? And they’re like, there’s a tri colored Heron right over there. And so I you know, got out my I had my emergency binoculars with me, of course, and so I got them out. And yes, there was the tri colored Heron and I got a good look at it. And on my cell phone I called my wife and I said, Get the binoculars and get down here and so she rushed down because who knows how long that bird is gonna stick her out. And she pulls up she’s like, honey, there’s no place to park and I’m like, double Park, get out. Go see the Heron. And so she she did and we both got to see the hair on that day. But that was absolutely one where I unapologetically held up my binoculars and took a picture of it because I wanted to be able to remember that cool bird that I saw you know, it’s kind of like going to see you know, the White House or the Lincoln Memorial or something you know, you want to get a picture just to remember that you were there and and I wanted a picture to remember the day that I saw the tri colored hair and by God I got one so but yes, there are, there’s a lot more spending that you can do. If you really want to go high end with this. You know, a lot of people have what they call a spotting scope, which is like a miniature telescope carry around lightweight miniature telescope. A lot of people have ridiculously expensive camera lenses up to you know, like the five figures for a camera lens kind of thing. I don’t think I’ve ever We’re going to get to that level. But, but you don’t have to, right. Like I say, holding up the camera to the binoculars. It’s tricky once you get the hang of it, though, you know it’s workable and, and then you can have a little momentum, which is all I really want. I’m not looking to publish my photos of birds and you know, have a framed print hanging on my wall or anything. I just want to be able to remember the day
your life journal. It’s beautiful through birds through birding. Yep, I love it. Well, Robert, really thank you for sharing your passion and enthusiasm for this very cool hobby that it seems like almost anybody could pick up or anybody could pick up and what a wonderful way to spend time with family out in nature. And especially during this time when we’re on social distancing. I can’t think of a better way.
It’s actually a hobby that works much better when there’s social distancing going on because like, for example, we were down to the beach yesterday now that the beaches are open. Thank you Governor Newsome, but the seawall that we live near, we saw this little group of Some kind of miniature, they’re called peeps, there’s three different pieces of sandpipers that are tiny and cute and they’re all just called collectively peeps. It’s a Western Sandpiper, semi pomade at Sandpiper and I forget what the other one is. And so we wanted to get over close and see which kind of peep it was. And before we could get there, another couple have walked by and the Peeps all spooked and flew away and so we never did get to find out exactly what time they were. So yes, social distancing is a great thing for your birding because it means that you can get close to your bird without other people coming along and scaring them away.
And I just learned that the traditional Easter candy peep is actually named after a real bird or a whole group of birds apparently, huh.
Yeah, well, that’s news to me. I thought they were unrelated terms. Okay. Well,
there you go. Oh, my gosh. Well, I mean, if this doesn’t get our listeners, at least a little bit interested in ornithology and birding, I don’t really know what will and just remember, we’re going to put everything up on built by kids.com slash burdine we’ll put up Robert recommendations. We’ll we’ll add in some binocular recommendations and tips some ways to maybe gamifying. Get your kids to catch the birding bug with you, and all of the good show notes there. So please and while that while you’re there, check out our video series today I made where we take your kids step by step through some impressive but approachable projects they can accomplish by themselves in one afternoon, with materials you can find around the house and, most importantly, with minimal parental involvement. projects include everything from how to make scrambled egg brunch for the family, to creating a spray paint mural masterpiece and a handmade wooden clock. So we’ll see you there. And Robert, thank you for sharing your passion again. We hope it leads to many more families appreciating the beauty and adventure this unique hobby brings so much that they to catch the bug for birding.