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Library and Rec. Board hope to get familes to become 'Birding Buddies'

By Ken Johnston

Justin Wagner is hoping kids and their families will be going to the birds in Rainy River!
Wagner, the Youth Recreation Programmer with the Rainy River Recreation Board, is coordinating a joint program with the Rainy River Public Library, called Birding Buddies!
Librarian Michael Dawber said, “The Library Board was looking for a way to link our own children’s programming to the town’s birding efforts. We felt keenly we needed to do our part to support the municipality’s bird watching promotion.”
Working with former Rec. Director Meghan Shanks, Dawber helped write a grant application to hire Wagner and create the Birding Buddies program.
Wagner began working in September and admits he has never been a “birder” himself, that is until now. “I have been learning a great deal from Michael (Dawber) as he is an avid birder.”
The learning curve accelerated quickly for Wagner. He did not realize how many different species of bird there are here and once he started queuing in on them he was overwhelmed. “They are so interesting and it is almost addicting when you want to see a particular type of bird!” He went out to his parents farm to try and see a pileated woodpecker. “I looked for several days and could hear them pecking, but did not see one. They eluded me for a few days then just when I was least expecting it I saw one in town!”
The library has put together six birding kits. Each one features two fandexes, a pair of binoculars, a bird guide and a bird checklist. They can be signed out and Wagner is available to take groups of kids or families out on bird walks.
His first bird walk was on Oct. 19th and was with young kids from the Rainy River Playschool. “We used the new Rainy River Trails and saw eight species of birds that day! The kids were totally into it!” They saw Canadian Geese and Bald Eagles that day!
His next planned bird walk is Dec. 28th. “We are trying to get youth and families interested in birding,” said Wagner. Anyone interested in participating or setting up another date to go out bird walking should call him at 852-4446 weekdays.
Dawber said that the library plans to integrate more and more birding programs under its roof as well. “Before the kits, we had already tried working birding into some library programs, and that went well. For example, for one preschool story time we made a craft model of a Chimney Swift - Rainy is one of the few places in Northwestern Ontario where you can see Chimney Swifts. The kits will be a permanent feature of our children’s programs.”
As a birder himself, Dawber feels the program is a great addition to the community. “As a birder myself, I think the program is a great opportunity to introduce families to nature, especially when we have such an amazing variety of birds to see right on our doorstep!”
Wagner said that in addition to the interest in birds the experience also helps people develop a new respect for nature. “I personally enjoy the peacefulness of being outdoors and watching the birds.”
“Our hope is to encourage families to learn about the amazing birds you can see around Rainy River, and, to encourage families to take the library outdoors! Books and exercise actually can go together!”