GRETNA – With miniature binoculars slung around their necks, about 40 amateur birders counted eagles, blue jays and mallards during the first-ever Christmas Bird Count for Kids event at Schramm Education Center.
Amber Schiltz, outdoor education specialist at Schramm, welcomed the families last Friday with a slideshow describing which birds call the area home during the winter.
“Started 120 years ago by Audubon, the Christmas Bird Count is the longest running community science project in the country,” Schlitz said. “Bird lovers of all ages and skills count all the birds they can see in a 24-hour period.”
From Dec. 15 to Jan. 5, 406 nature centers around the country count nearly six million birds, she explained. The annual count helps bird conservators track population numbers of each species year after year.
Schiltz helped participants look at bird shapes, field markings, flight patterns and behavior to help the bird lovers identify each species. Little bird reference books were available to borrow along with the small binoculars.
Staffers Lauren Darnold and Jade Wawers split the participants into bird watching teams. One team took the forest walk while the other took the river walk down to the Platte River. At the river’s edge, the group spied eagles high in the trees, finches on lower branches and geese in the ponds.
If the birders had questions, resident experts Kadynn Hatfield and Bobby Walz, were happy to supply the answers.
Beckett Dunn and his mother Michaella enjoyed the educational experience, as did Matt Nelson and his daughter Leah of Omaha, and Nichole Baber and her son Chance from Papillion.
This family friendly event ended with the bird tally back in the classroom. Adults and children snacked on apples, granola bars and sipped hot chocolate, while Schlitz and her staff counted and scored the names and numbers of the birds spotted.
“This was really a fun event,” said Matt Nelson as he watched his daughter color a blue jay on a coloring sheet. “We’re so glad we came.”