Much to my delight, a bit of encouragement seems to have taken hold and my oldest grandson has developed an interest in birding (see Introducing Grandkids to Eagles). This morning, a quick trip through Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area was our fourth excursion.
When dealing with an eight-year old, it is generally best not to test their attention span; an hour or so seems to be the limit. Also, like other beginning birders, children can be overwhelmed by the variety of species in their home area and, in my experience, it is best to concentrate on easily recognized birds; larger and brightly colored species generally fit the bill. Approaching a list of 50 species during his brief birding career, my grandson added four more this morning: American kestrels, yellow warblers, great egrets and killdeer. I make no attempt to introduce him to small, drab birds at this point, hesitant to disrupt his enthusiasm; any bird that cannot be easily recognized at a distance (with the aid of binoculars, of course) can wait until he is older and more patient.
For my part, it was a pleasant though not terribly productive visit to Eagle Bluffs; for the first time in years, I did not see a bald eagle at its namesake refuge. About 35 species were encountered, dominated by red-winged blackbirds, indigo buntings, mourning doves and great blue herons; the highlight was again provided by a lone broad-winged hawk that always attracts the attention of vigilant blue jays and fish crows.