While other kids are indoors, in a zombie-like state with eyes glued to video screens, Ivan Richardson is enjoying the outdoors with eyes alert for any movement. He's looking for birds, hoping to add a new one to his list of spotted species.
"For the year, I've spotted around 80," the 8-year-old said.
And while other kids are playing video games this weekend, Ivan will be leading a workshop at the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival. His session, "I'm a Kid and I'm a Birder," starts at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 19, at the Davis County Legacy Events Center, 151 S. 1100 West, Farmington. Admission is free.
There are more than 30 workshops and presentations scheduled during the festival, covering everything from endangered birds and habitats to species identification and the funny names of bird flocks. Most of the presenters are experts and enthusiasts with years of experience. Only one workshop is being led by a second grader.
"I want to say some bird jokes, and I'm also going to talk a little about birding as families," Ivan said.
Because he is talking about birding as a family, Ivan is going to present as a team with his father.
"He has a PowerPoint presentation," Ivan said of his dad, Tom Richardson.
Ivan's bird-watching hobby started as family fun.
"When he was 5, we were looking for something fun we could do together," Tom Richardson said.
They live in St. George, and decided to attend the St. George Winter Bird Festival.
"Both of us were never really into birds," Richardson said. "We went on one field trip, and the guide told us all about the birds we were seeing, and different facts. Ivan became fascinated by birds, and when we'd go to the library he'd get books on birds and study them for hours and hours."
They joined the Red Cliffs Audubon, participating in meetings and field trips. Last year, Ivan was invited to attend an ornithology course at Dixie State College, and his dad went along as a lab partner.
"He did great," Richardson said. "He loved the environment."
He even loved the tests.
"I liked taking the tests and trying to beat my dad at the test," Ivan said. "I did it one time."
He also likes to draw birds, and took third place in last year's Great Salt Lake Bird Festival art contest.
Ivan's latest interest is learning to identify birds by their song.
Ivan and his family are sharing tips based on their own experiences, supplemented by packets of helpful ideas courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, at Cornell University in New York.
"It's been a fun little hobby of ours together, and we don't have to spend too much money to do it," Richardson said.
He suggests starting out by taking the family on nature walks, or using binoculars to find birds.
"You might want to buy a field guide," he said. "You can write down the names of some of the birds you saw, or go to http://utahbirds.org/ and check them off."
One of the places Ivan spots birds is the golf course, where he sees his favorites -- Canada geese.
"It's one of the only birds I've seen raise their kids," he said.
Tom Richardson also recommends visiting places that keep birds, like Tracy Aviary and Hogle Zoo, but says you don't even need to leave your own yard to experience birding.
"Set up a little birdhouse in your back yard, or a bird feeder," he said. "You can learn about the different birds attracted to different types of feed."
He also suggests checking out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, www.birds.cornell.edu.
"They stream live from an actual nest," Richardson said. "Now they have one focused on a great blue heron that recently laid five eggs. ... I think a week or two ago they hatched, and it's fun to see the daddy come in with little bits of food, and the mom protecting the babies."
The Richardsons will have more tips and ideas for families attending their workshop.
The workshop is also the place to hear the punch line of one of Ivan's favorite jokes: "Why do sea gulls live by the sea?"
Bill Fenimore will teach a “Birding for Families” workshop at the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival. Fenimore, owner of the Wild Bird Center in Layton, will make his presentation starting at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 19, at Farmington’s Davis County Legacy Events Center.
Here are a few extra tips from Fenimore on bird-watching with children:
• Point out birds you see out your kitchen window, or walking in the park.
• Put up a bird feeder where you can see it from the house. An inexpensive feeder can be made by smearing a pine cone in peanut butter, then rolling it in bird seed and hanging it by a string. You can also put orange halves and grape jelly out for birds.
• Put a bird bath in your yard — a fancy one or just a clean garbage can lid filled with water.
• Participate, as a family, in a bird count event.
• Keep a bird journal, noting when you see a bird species for the first time ever, or when you see it for the first time in a season.
• Make and place a birdhouse together. Peek in once in a while to see if there are nests, eggs or babies.
• Use the name of the bird when looking at pictures of birds with young children. Fenimore did this with his granddaughter.
“The first time I sat her on my knee and we looked at the pictures, I kept saying, ‘Look at this bird, look at that bird,’ ” he remembered, adding that he soon realized that was dull. “I started saying, ‘Look at the great horned owl, look at the bluebird,’ never knowing if it registered.”
The next summer, his granddaughter told a friend that the bird they were looking at was a magpie.
“It works — she knew the name of the bird,” Fenimore said.