Los Angeles native Benny Jacobs-Schwartz will admit his personal interest in bird watching took shape around 2011 while he was in Costa Rica on a study abroad program to support his university coursework in Tropical Rainforest Biology. “I started to see birds through high-powered binoculars and was wowed by colorful tropical birds I never knew existed,” he said on that discovery bringing out childlike wonder. “Earlier, I was into insects, and then tropical fish. However, the bird surveys I did with my instructors instilled my passion for birding.”
As he got deeper into his post-graduate life in the natural sciences, he realized bird watching was not only a great outdoor activity for families on vacations and staycations, but also an exciting tool to get kids of any age excited about putting down gaming consoles and iPads to explore nature. His BIRDS by BIJS is dedicated to igniting that passion for the great outdoors through a variety of activities, including a new wellness program combining bird watching with native plant gardening, and instruction on ways to reduce one’s carbon footprint and improve his or her sustainability habits.
“Birds come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, and as they move quickly, they manage to grab and hold on to one’s attention,” said Jacobs-Schwartz. “They can be seen as keys to unlock nature consciousness in kids. With younger kids, bird watching does not need to be done at a super high level. It can be as simple as teaching them to look for and identify simple common birds in one’s area. This in turn, will help attune them to looking for and spotting birds in places one may not expect.”
To get started, Schwartz says all that’s needed is a good pair of binoculars, a birding field guide and a notepad and pencil or pen for note taking. “When parents can get involved, a good strategy to get kids interested is to encourage them see bird watching as a real life, real time ‘Pokémon Go,’” he added. “When you consider that there are over 800 species of birds [in] North America, it becomes a game to see how many species you can spot, driving excitement and curiosity.”
The “game” can be taken to the next level when you and your kids take what you observe and record it on iNaturalist.com or eBird.org. Data is then sent over to scientists regularly monitoring changes in bird populations over time, such as the effects of global warming in different populations. “You can start kids out as citizen scientists, and that spark can make them want to learn more about the world around them,” he said.
Other positive effects of birding, according to Schwartz, include an improved attention span and test scores, and ensuring what is taught in school science classes makes more sense. “Caring about living things like birds can also help them care more about the environment and issues like global warming, as well as how water science and the lifespan of trees play into birding,” he said.
Families living in the New York City metro can begin at The Brambles within Central Park or the Brooklyn Audubon Society, while in Southern California, families can head to the Bolsa Chica ecological reserve or Los Angeles’ Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Preserve. Elsewhere in the United States, he suggests several parks, public forests and reserves crackling with exciting biodiversity.
- Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge
- Smith and Bybee Lakes Wetlands Natural Area
- Tulatin National Wildlife Refuge
Michigan and nearby:
The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands, opening June 1, introduces a collection of immersive ocean experiences through Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment Program and Fari Islands Collaboration. The property is situated on the northeastern rim of the North Malé Atoll of the Fari Islands.
The Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Card recently launched BoldFamilyTravel.Chase.com, an interactive, online resource allowing families to plan future travel together. The launch followed the Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Card Survey of parents and grandparents that revealed most parents believe children are important resources for planning family vacations and that one-third of parents don’t currently involve their children in planning but would like to.
Travelers are ready for some rest and relaxation this spring break. Travel insurance company Allianz Partners surveyed travelers on their upcoming spring break travel plans. The study found Florida to be the top domestic destination. Mexico took the top spot among international destinations.
Everyone is itching to get back to travel. Travelocity is making that step back into exploring easier with its Early Bird giveaway, offering winners of an online contest a chance to win a $1,000 vacation package voucher.
While there are multiple LEGOLAND theme parks around the United States, a brand-new one is coming to Goshen, Orange County, New York — just 60 miles northwest of New York City. Shrink down to the size of toys and explore the new LEGOLAND Resort with your family.