Hearing the distinct calls of red-winged blackbirds and spotting turkey vultures teetering on the wind reminds us that spring bird migration in Ontario is happening now. With one of the most eventful seasons for birding upon us, there is no better time to encourage young people to get involved in bird conservation.
The Birding Backpack program is centered around making birding accessible and appealing to youth. Barriers such as lack of equipment, educational resources, and mentors, are often overlooked. Yet, these challenges stand in the way of accessing the outdoors for many young people.
As well as in Toronto, the Birding Backpack program has been put in motion in Thunder Bay as part of Ontario Nature’s Northern Community Science Program to promote birding access to youth in Northern Ontario.
Birding Backpacks are designed to be useful for birders of all skill levels and to be integrated into a wide variety of birding-related programming.
Sibley Eastern North America guidebook
Guides to using mobile apps eBird and Merlin
Folding field guide to Ontario birds
Rite in the Rain weatherproof notebook
Birding Backpacks in Action
The backpacks have been used by birders of all ages at different events hosted by Ontario Nature. Most recently, members of Ontario Nature’s Youth Council used materials from the backpacks with them on a March break birding hike in High Park, Toronto. By giving youth the necessary tools to experience hands-on birding, the program helps young people create connections to birds and inspire curiosity about the natural world.
“I had never used binoculars before, so using them made a big difference for me as a beginner birder,” said Danielle Banks, a youth who participated in a guided hike at Cawthra Mulock Nature Reserve and used materials from the Birding Backpacks this February.
Interested in Borrowing Birding Backpacks?
Birding Backpacks are available for loan to educators and youth-serving groups free of cost, in Toronto and Thunder Bay. In Toronto, contact Christine Ambre, Ontario Nature Education Manager, at email@example.com or 416-444-8149 ext. 244. In Thunder Bay, contact Rachael Zacharias Bezanson, Education Coordinator, Lakehead Region Conservation Authority, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 807-344-5857 ext. 233.
The Birding Backpack program is generously supported by TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, Toronto Ornithological Club, and Wild Birds Unlimited.
Starting at Ontario Nature as a Communications intern for ON Magazine, Maya is a lifelong naturalist and birder. She is now the Education Coordinator and is responsible for organizing and supporting the Nature Guardians Youth Programs. Maya holds a B.A. in Media, Information and Technoculture from Western University and is an environmental writer, photographer, and educator who is driven by her passion for biodiversity conservation. You can find her skiing, cycling, planning her next backcountry canoe trip, or posting on her nature blog.