Bird watching is a great activity for children, and in fact all the family to get outdoors and be entertained throughout the year.

It may for many conjure an image of lots of middle aged men in anoraks but it can be really good fun and a good excuse for a walk or gentle meander in the countryside. It can give that sense of purpose and adventure that is sometimes needed as an incentive for little people to get outside and walk.

We started our bird watching with the yearly RSPB Big Bird watch which we started when they were very young and this didn’t even involve leaving the house. We watched for an hour the garden birds that came and went and recorded them to much delight and excitement and that got them hooked.

We have found our holidays often end up with rather a lot of bird watching which we are all naturally drawn to. We usually go to Norfolk for a week in the summer or spring and have found Titchwell RSPB Reserve a wonderful place for children and adults to potter around along the wooden walkways and marsh areas, in the hushed hides (always a challenge with boisterous offspring although everyone is generally very understanding) and out to the different lakes and eventually to the beach beyond.

It gives purpose to a walk with lots of stops, opportunities for snacks and drinks along the way and lots of sitting down and recording sightings. All children (well mine anyway) love a bit of equipment and give them a rucksack, a pair of binoculars a pad (or a proper recording book available very cheaply at any RSPB reserve) and they are very happy.  They can observe and record what they see and tick satisfyingly all their finds.

The challenge of seeing rare birds is very exciting and creates a sense of anticipation and competition. The highlight of one of our holidays was seeing a bittern flying past the hides having heard that they were very rare and difficult to see. They were soooo excited they almost burst with pleasure and kept telling everyone we saw about their sighting!

Nearer to home Rutland Water offers great bird watching opportunities and beautiful walks around the reservoir. It also has the benefit of several visiting ospreys that make their yearly visit back to Rutland from Africa and draw large crowds every year. We also, as a family, attend the Wildlife Watch Groups at Rutland Water as members of The Wildlife Trust and they have monthly meetings with different activities; bug hunting, pond dipping, tree identification and many other topics. There is lots of emphasis on crafts, practical hands on activities and having fun.

We all need ways to encourage our children away from the TV or computer and sometimes it is just simple things which can be the best fun. It is free and can be done anywhere. It encourages an awareness of their surroundings and appreciation of nature which is a wonderful gift to give to your children which they can enjoy throughout their life and hopefully pass onto their children too. My daughter obviously inherited my love of birds when she was tiny, we were on a walk and she pointed up to the sky and uttered her first word “birdie”. That was just the beginning of, hopefully, a lifelong pleasure!

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