(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — Within about a week of receiving donated bird watching kits, Erie County Public Libraries said all six of the kits have been checked out.
Each of the libraries and the mobile library have a kit. The kits are backpacks containing two pairs of binoculars (one for an adult, and one for a child), and two bird identification books.
“People can check them out at any of the Erie County Public Library locations, and if they’re checked out already, you can put a hold on them,” said Sheryl Thomas, assistant director of the Erie County Public Library. “We definitely encourage folks to place a hold and we’ll get them to them as soon as we can.”
The backpacks were donated by the Presque Isle Audubon Society.
“They provided all of the materials, so all the library did was process the bags, add RF tags, and catalog them,” Thomas said.
According to a Facebook post by the local Audubon Society on June 16, Kowa Sporting Optics donated six pairs of binoculars and Vortex Optics offered a 50% discount.
The kits, Thomas said, are a fitting addition to the Idea Lab efforts at Raymond M. Blasco, MD Memorial Library (Blasco Library). Through the Idea Lab program, several Maker Kits are available for various interests: Sons of Lake Erie donated fishing poles and tackleboxes, a podcast kit (with a microphone, hardware, and instructions), a weaving kit (with a loom and instructions), a coding kit (with a rollout keyboard), a drawing kit, and an instrument kit.
“They’re fun things you can take home and do on your own time — there are lots of programs at the library, but this makes it accessible for people who can’t get to the library,” Thomas said.
And the birding kits will help people engage in learning beyond the library. Erie County (specifically Presque Isle State Park) is a celebrated birding location. The best times for birding are in the spring and fall when migrating birds are traveling through the area. But the weather in the summer is agreeable to exploring.
“It’s the perfect time of year to get outside and enjoy everything that Erie has to offer,” Thomas said. “It’s a good time for getting people introduced to it and how to use the binoculars so when the big season comes, they’ll be a little bit more prepared.”
Passive birding doesn’t take much of an investment — a pair of eyes and a notepad, if you want to keep a life list (an ongoing list of birds catalogued by a birder). Binoculars sell for as little as about $20 or for more than $2,000, depending on the brand and quality. Birding at Presque Isle State Park means public land and free access. Birding can be inexpensive or it can cost more than $2,000 depending on the type of investment someone wants to make. But, even $20 is a bit much for someone who isn’t sure if they’ll enjoy the activity.
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“Our tagline is ‘Ignite, excite, inspire’ — It’s about creating a low- or no-barrier entry to something,” Thomas said. “It’s like the books: If you have a passion for reading and can’t afford them, you go to the library and check out as many as you want.”