Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Day (and some games) for the Birds

We had a terrific, relaxed day of books and reading, yesterday (thank you Beverly Cleary!). The Man of the House, and I even managed to finish listening to our audio copy of Mark Obmascik's The Big Year, A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession.

There is a little more language in it, than I normally like, but other than that I can really recommend it. The story follows the three top birders of the 1998 North American Big Year birding competition. We'd never heard of a Big Year before, but it fanned the flames of our own mini birding obsession, started this spring. Of course, we're a long way off from a Big Year - we're thinking more of Little Local Year.

We're off to a good start in that respect too, having positively identified 16 species of our feathered friends, this week - nothing like the record breaking 745 species spotted by Sandy Komito in 1998, but it's a start.

And, the excitement of my youngest three, when we not only spotted, but heard a blacked-capped chickadee, while checking out our 4th osprey nest within a five mile radius of our house, tells me we might have a family hobby in the making. Though, right now, it's still too cold to get much enthusiasm from the Man of the House, when it comes to walks by the river, or late night owl spotting expeditions, but the bulk of the birds won't arrive in our area until summer anyway.

In the meantime, we're honing our skills with Big Animal Games' made for PC, Snapshot Adventures, Secret of Bird Island. The mystery/birding game (which is kind of like Pokemon Snap meets Where in the World is Carmon Sandiego), was made in collaboration with Cornell's Lab of Ornithology, so while the graphics are not terrific, the markings, calls, and geographic locations of the 135 North American species found in the game, are all scientifically correct.

I picked it up hoping to pique my 13 year old's interest in the hobby, too. Unfortunately, he declared it an "educational game", after a few minutes of play, and wanted nothing more to do with it. But, the rest of the children love it (almost as much as I do), the only draw back being, that it requires a large amount of quick reading, making it necessary for the younger girls to have someone help them play.

All of the children, including T, have enjoyed the bird themed card game, Birds and Binoculars, by Vida Games though, which admittedly is more of a "go fish", than a birding game. The cards do have the birds' names printed on them, as well as the cartoonish likeness of the birds, so it is useful for spelling, and sight word practice for the younger children. And, the addition of "dirty bird" cards, which let you switch match piles with other players, and "binocular" cards, which let you look at everyone else's cards, add a level of strategy not normally found in a game of Go Fish.

Oh, and as to Obmascik's book, it's being made into a movie, set to come out this fall, starring Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson as the competitive trio of birders from the 1998 Big Year, which might be worth spotting at the theater. By then, most of the birds will have left us for warmer climates anyway.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


Brimful Curiosities said...

Can my daughter join your family in your bird watching adventures? Just this week she announced that she wants to be an ornithologist. The Birds and Binoculars game sounds like a good one.

Christy Killoran said...

Your T and my T would get along well.

Everything you found sounds so interesting. I think we would really enjoy that card game!

You have really inspired me to pay more attention to the birds in our area.

Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

It's awesome that the kids are so interested in bird watching. I wonder how many we could spot here in urban setting. We might join your bird hobby in a couple of years when daughter is a bit older.

Phyllis said...

That last game sounds neat! I will have to look for it. Thanks for the tip.