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© Lora Denis
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.
Many youth want to learn about birding but aren’t sure where to start. With this in mind, Ontario Nature, in collaboration with For Youth Initiative, have launched a Birding Backpack program designed to reduce barriers youth face to birding and promote engagement with community science initiatives, like the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas-3.
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.
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.
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.
I want to know why so many boats line the shore of what appers to be Lake Ontario (with the all too lovely skyline of Hogtown in the background). No place to put those beasts closer to a landfill?
On the horizon, we can see the Toronto skyline with its iconic CN Tower in the far background, midway as you point out we can see the Outer Harbour Marina, visible from Tommy Thompson Park. This particular lookout offers the opportunity to see many ducks, swans and other wildlife from the location, as well as a panoramic view of Tommy Thompson Park and a northwards view overlooking Toronto and Lake Ontario. Tommy Thompson Park is otherwise a biodiverse protected natural area that continues to offer notable habitat restoration and a natural oasis in a near urban environment.
It is nice to have more support for younger people to become involved in Birding & Nature.
This is a good idea. Thanks for sharing the news.
Super idea–these birding backpacks.
Have fun, everybody–welcoming back our Spring migrants!