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Parents, be on guard!

Kramer has been busy working for his dad this past month, so I thought I would sneak in and steal his space this month.It all began innocently enough, about seven years ago. You would have never thought things could get so out of control.My mother-in-law had given me a little book for my birthday.” Peterson’s Field Guide of Western Birds,” I think was the title. I was more of a wild plants person, so I stuck the book on the shelf, intending to look at it now and then to identify the birds I saw when out on hikes, looking at wild plants. Little did I know or could have predicted what would be let loose in my own home!Kramer found the book one day and began perusing the pages, enamored by the brightly colored birds. He was keenly interested in even the normal, average, run-of-the-mill birds. He began studying the pages, making mental notes that he would store up and bring back out at a moment’s notice. We would be driving down the road and his “bird radar” would flash, and he’d announce, “Oh look! A rufous-sided towhee!” (or you can fill in the blank with whatever kind of bird name you can think of). I’d say, “How in the world do you know that?” “I saw it in the field guide,” was the common answer.Soon, he was keeping track, in the field guide, of the different birds he had seen. Ignorant of the label he had adopted, he had become a “lister.” A lister is someone – a birder in technical terms – who compiles a “life-list” of birds he has seen in his life. Our family hikes in the mountains became more time-consuming because we had to wait for Kramer to sketch this and that bird (did I mention he’s also a bird artist?). Or, we had to wait for him to consult the field guide to find out what kind of bird it was he had just seen.Now, he has birders from every walk of life who call him and talk about birds: other kids his age, adults, members of the American Birding Association, even birding scientists. He has led field trips for members of the ABA and Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory to show them a rare occurrence of a breeding flock of Townsend’s Longspurs in Falcon (in a pasture that is soon to be developed, as a matter of fact). He discovered a rare pair of Eastern Bluebirds out here by our house that brought people from other states.So, why am I warning other parents? If your kids get interested in birds, beware! It may become an obsession! You may find yourself shuttling them all around town to look at this or that bird or to attend one of the many bird-counts in the area or even one of the bird-camps (yes, there are bird camps).But, come to think of it, I’d rather have that than all the mischief that seems to find today’s youth. So parents, consider introducing your kids to birding. It’s a great thing. I even find myself eagerly trying to identify birds so I can report back to him what I saw. It’s come full circle, I guess.

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