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Taking Your Homeschool Winter Nature Study Indoors

Taking your winter nature studies indoors when the weather outdoors is proving to be a challenge may be just the thing you need every once in a while. We have a lovely post from the archives to inspire your homeschool nature studies indoors for those days that you can’t face getting outdoors.

Taking Your Winter Nature Studies Indoors

I knew as I posted the challenges each of the last few weeks that there were families who were buried under snow already and those that have really cold temperatures to deal with. I received a personal email from several of you letting me know that you are suspending your Outdoor Hour Challenge (OHC) participation until spring and it made me a little sad. I have been thinking hard about how to help you to keep up a system of nature study while you are living a more indoor centered life until the temperatures warm up.

Taking your winter nature study indoors

Believe it or not, although my photos are not showing it, we are experiencing cold temperatures here in Northern California. I know that in perspective that they are not as cold as some parts of the world right now but still we have had ice and frost every morning this week and yesterday on our afternoon hike it was 37 degrees. My nose and ears were cold because I took off down the trail without my knit hat. We occasionally will get snow that lasts a few days which is just enough to make it fun and not a chore. I share all this so you don’t think of me as sitting outside in my shorts in the sun under a palm tree just because I live in California.

What can you do to bring a little nature study time to a cold winter’s day?

Long lists of nature study ideas always seem to overwhelm me so I thought I would share just a few really *great* ideas that could get you started in taking your winter nature studies indoors.

  • Hang a bird feeder outside a window where you can sit inside and look out at your daily feathered visitors. A simple seed or suet feeder outside your window will bring years of enjoyment as you get to know and learn about your local birds.
  • Keep a window sill garden. One of our OHC families wrote about their window sill garden, its a great and inexpensive way to enjoy nature.
Taking Your Winter Nature Studies Indoors Keeping a Window Sill Garden

Here is her photo of their window area. Doesn’t it look inviting and make you really want to take a minute to not only look out the window but also take a peek at the plants? They would make great subjects for a nature journal as well. Thanks to Mama Stories for letting me use her photo.

  • Grow a Tabletop Garden. Last year a lot of families tried an indoor gardening project and had great success. It is something easy and inexpensive and so interesting to grow. I was thinking that it was about time to plant another dish garden using root vegetables.Here are the instructions and photos at Hearts and Trees – Tabletop Garden Instructions and Notebook page

This is a really easy project even for little ones to manage. The results are fantastic and will brighten up a winter day for sure. Here is what the tabletop garden looks like after it starts growing. Update #2

This was our tabletop garden last year and it always cheered me up to take a minute to view its progress. We had great results even in this not so very bright window, in a room where we don’t keep the temperature very warm. Things to learn about: roots, leaves, and then eventually flowers. Grow the garden and keep up the notebook pages and you will bring a little nature study into your winter.

  • Another activity that we do around here is to play nature journal catch-up when the weather is too cold or wet to go outside. Items that we have on our nature shelf can be brought to the table and sketched or painted into the nature journal on a long winter’s afternoon. Many times this activity will spark a memory or a question that we had that we never took the time to research before. This is a perfect time to dig a little deeper into subjects that interest your child. A stop at the library the next time you are out running errands can provide the opportunity to look for books on the birds, trees, and wildflowers of summer.
  • Plan next summer’s garden. Okay, I admit it. I love gardening catalogues. One favorite winter nature-related activity that we do in our home is plan next summer’s garden. Browsing and dreaming over the seed and garden catalogs warms your heart in a way that brings optimism and hope during a bitterly cold day. The promise of a garden full of green things can help pass the time as you stare at the starkness of a winter’s scene out your window. Sketch the garden out on paper with colored pencils. Ask your children to participate. Designate one catalog as the cutting catalog and let the children cut the photos of flowers and veggies out and glue them to paper.

My favorites: Burpee, Park Seed, and Pinetree Garden Seeds.

I have in mind a whole new idea for a summer’s garden. It was sparked by this family’s idea and blog entry at Understanding Charlotte. Make sure to pop over to her blog and view her photos of how they brought nature study up close during the summer. This is such a great way to attract nature right up to your window. This idea could be started next spring and kept going for next winter as well. Many times if we just leave plants in the ground over the winter, creatures find a way to use them. I still have sunflowers…very dead sunflowers….in my garden but they provide food and shelter for visiting birds. I think this is such a great concept for families that have limited space or need to contain their garden in pots on a patio. You can use your imagination and plan your own window accessible garden for next spring and summer and winter.

  • Last but not least, don’t minimize the power of a quick walk outdoors if the weather cooperates. Seize a few moments each week to step outdoors even if you are bundled up and initially not excited about the thought of getting cold on purpose.

One of my favorite moments in the winter are those few minutes after the snow stops and everything is covered in whiteness. The stillness and quiet of that moment are priceless in our modern world. It is as if everything has stood still and you can capture the clean white slate that snow gives…even in the city or in a neighborhood.

The time before all the kids head out to play and enjoy the winter games of childhood is one of the gifts of winter. As an adult don’t forget the delight you had as a child when it snowed. Muster up some enthusiasm and view the winter weather from your child’s point of view. It can seem like a miracle to them.

“There is enough to see outside in winter to satisfy any poet. In fact, winter may be even better because there aren’t so many things going on in nature that they crowd each other out. It’s easier to notice what’s there.”
Charlotte Mason volume 1, page 86

If you are buried under a blanket of snow which makes getting outdoors a challenge, then consider taking your winter nature studies indoors.

Join the Homeschool Nature Study Membership For Helpful Tips Year Round

We have an exciting winter nature study program planned for the balance of our winter Outdoor Hour Challenges during January and February full of more simple ideas to spark your family’s love for nature at this very challenging time of the year. Plenty of ideas for taking your winter nature studies indoors!

These plans are available right now for our members along with a nature study calendar full of links to explore. Both these are exclusive to our membership so if you are not yet a member please do consider joining our Outdoor Hour Challenge membership…we would love to have you become part of the family.

An image showing the full collection of Nature Study courses

Connect With Our Homeschool Community On Social Media

Did you enjoy this Outdoor Hour Challenge? Be sure to tag us on Instagram @outdoorhourchallenge and use the hashtag #outdoorhourchallenge so we can see and comment!

Winter Nature Study Resources

Here are some of our favorite resources for winter nature study!

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Great Backyard Bird Count Results from Central Oregon

Great Backyard Bird Count

Results from Central Oregon

February 12-14, 2021

We had a fun time counting birds for the project even though we had snow two of the three days and temperatures down into the teens. We had far fewer birds than the last two years. 2021 has turned out to be a surprising year of crazy ups and downs as far as the weather here in Central Oregon. I think this influenced the bird count.

Eurasian collared dove   5

Mourning dove                 3

Downy woodpecker       1

Hairy woodpecker           1

Mountain chickadee       6

Pygmy nuthatch               3

House finch                        11

Dark-eyed junco               3

Northern flicker                1

Song sparrow                     1

Common raven                 1

Here’s a video sharing the GBBC’s results for 2021.

You can read the results and see more images at this link: Great Backyard Bird Count 2021 Results.

 Did you count birds? Anything exciting show up to be included in your count?

 

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Brand New! Outdoor Hour Challenge: American White Pelican Nature Study

Brand New! Outdoor Hour Challenge

American White Pelican Nature Study

Note: If you download the sample from the Bird Nature Study Set #1, you’ll have the Outdoor Hour Challenge for the pelican to use this week. See the link below.

This week we start with a brand new series of bird studies. These birds are not covered in the Handbook of Nature Study but are rather interesting birds that you may wish to share with your family. I’ll give you a few links to introduce the bird and then Members will be able to go to the ebook for a more complete lesson on the pelican.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Pelican graphic

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Choose a resource to use for the American white pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos.
  • Make sure to look at the range maps in a field guide or on All About Birds. Take note of the location of their breeding area and migration route.
  • Here are a couple YouTube videos: Pelicans and More Advanced Video for Pelicans.

An alternate study can be made of the Brown Pelican.

 

brown pelican bird outdoor hour challenge

Please note that I will not be posting the complete challenge here on the blog, but you will find the detailed challenge in the Bird Nature Study Set #1 ebook that’s available both in the Ultimate Naturalist and Journey level memberships. Sign into your account and download the ebook for the details, more links, and notebook pages.

Bird Set ebook cover image

Birds included in this ebook include the pelican, sandhill crane, Clark’s nutcracker, egret, American dipper, horned lark, magpie, swan, and snipe.

Download a sample of the book here: Bird Nature Study Set #1 Sample

To purchase an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership, you can click on over to the Join Us page at any time.

Learning About Birds 3D cover

You may wish to also download and use the Learning About Birds ebook available in the Ultimate Naturalist Library.

Learning About Birds ebook Bird List @handbookofnaturestudy

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April Nature Study Plans and Printable

April Nature Study Plans – Outdoor Hour Challenge

This month we’ll be starting to use the new Outdoor Hour Challenge Bird Set #1 ebook available in the Ultimate Naturalist Library. I’m anxious to get started with this set of bird nature study challenges right alongside you and your family. I birdwatch just about every day but slowing down to take in information about one particular bird is very rewarding. Even if I’m not able to observe the bird in person, learning all about a bird ahead of time prepares me for the time when the opportunity does arise.

Just last week we spotted four killdeer in our back pasture. I easily identified this pretty bird from the details I had read in a field guide and online.

Spotting a new bird is always a thrill!

Please note that all of the birds in this series are ones not found in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock. Instead, the challenges will be providing field notes for each bird, as well as online links and videos. If you have access to the ebook, you’ll also have notebooking pages and coloring pages to print and use as desired.

Bird Set ebook cover image

4/2/2021 – Pelican Nature Study

4/9/2021 – Swan Nature Study

4/16/2021 – Snipe Nature Study

4/23/2021 – Sandhill Crane Nature Study

4/30/2021 – Clark’s Nutcracker Nature Study

Bird Egg Nature Study notebook page.pub

New Printables in the Members Library

Bird’s Egg Study notebook page: One aspect of learning about birds is to learn that each bird has a unique egg. Learning the size, color, and other distinguishing features of a bird’s egg can be followed up with this notebook page.

Printables for Members Button

Click the graphic above to view the complete list of printables available as part of an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership.

 

April 2021 nature planner page

Members also have access to the Nature Planner pages in their library. Print out this month’s page and use it to stimulate your weekly nature study time.

 

Join us graphic

If you’d like to have access to the member’s printables and the newsletter archive, I invite you to join with an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership. Your membership will be valid for one year from the date of purchase. Click the graphic above to see the many benefits of an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership.

 

Bird Set ebook cover image

I highly recommend using the ebook for these challenges. I’ll be sharing just a small portion of the challenge each week here on the blog but members will have access to all of the resources for each bird.

 

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

 

Please note that you can opt to use the Learning About Birds ebook with your family if you feel it’s more practical. I realize not everyone will have access to the birds we study each week and the Learning About Birds ebook could supplement your bird study with information from the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.

Learning About Birds 3D cover

 

 

 

 

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Outdoor Mom: March 2021 – Spring is Coming!

Outdoor Mom

March 2021 – Spring is Coming!

My last update was back in January and since then we’ve had snow, and then snow, and then snow. We haven’t had any major snows as far as number of inches, but it will snow and then melt and then snow again. We have parts of our yard that are just now starting to thaw from all the freezing temperatures and the ice layer. I sort of feel the same way…just now starting to thaw from winter.

snowy yard march 2021

Now is the very unpredictable time of year when we can have just about any kind of weather all in the span of a week! I’m dreaming of warmer days where I can really get outside and work in the yard.

In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting…

flicker nesting box march 2021

We’ve kept busy with garden planning and building new nesting boxes before the migrant birds show up. We are putting up the last boxes this week. I had my husband build me two Northern flicker nesting boxes. I had no idea they would be so large!

As a side note, if you’re looking for printable bird nesting box patterns, I highly recommend going to the Nestwatch website and looking up the birds you are interested in attracting to your yard.

All About Birdhouses on Nestwatch.org

 

The most inspiring thing we experienced was…

killdder 3 25 2021 (8)

March has been a busy month of birdwatching! We’ve had so many early arriving birds to add to our list. The most exciting observation we’ve made is the nesting of killdeer in the back pasture. I use my binoculars to watch them work on the nest in the short grass. This is something new to us and I’m eager to see how things turn out for them.

 

Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about) …

chipmunk close up march 2021

The emergence of the rodents from their winter homes has been fun to watch too. First, we saw the Belding’s ground squirrels poking their heads out from their holes. Now we have least chipmunks under the bird feeder just about every day. They are so tiny! We always have gray squirrels in our yard but right now we will regularly have 5-6 of them scurrying around to find food and playing chase up and down the tree trunks.

One last image…

steelhead falls march 2021
Steelhead Falls on the Deschutes River

 

We’ve been hiking quite a bit in the past month as the sun has warmed up and the days are longer. We found a couple new waterfalls not too far from us and now they’re on the list of regular places to hike and take out of town guests. The hikes are not too difficult or too far which is fun for a day trip and a picnic.

I am so looking forward to more hikes as the spring season progresses. I felt like we missed out on a lot of things last year with the pandemic and I’m eager to get back into the hiking, biking, and kayaking routine.

Instagram OutdoorHourChallenge small

You can follow me on Instagram to see more of our outdoor life here in gorgeous Central Oregon.

Want to join in the Outdoor Mom post?

Answer all or just one of the prompts in a blog entry on your own blog or right here on my blog in a comment. If you answer on your blog, make sure to leave me a link in a comment so that I can pop over and read your responses.

  • During our outdoor time this month we went…
  • The most inspiring thing we experienced was…
  • Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about) …
  • In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting…
  • I added nature journal pages about…
  • One last image…

 

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Great Backyard Bird Count 2021 Coming Soon!

What? The Great Backyard Bird Count
When? February 12-15, 2021.
Who? Anyone around the world!
How? Count birds in your yard and at your feeders. Report the data to the Great Backyard Bird Count.

GBBC_Email_r24

Need some more information?
Great Backyard Bird Count

Video: Great Backyard Bird Count

Get prepared with printable checklists for your area…by zip code or town name.

The list below includes the top ten birds counted in the Great Backyard Bird Count in 2020. I would suggest taking a look at the list and use the links to decide if you have any of these particular birds in your local area.

Several of the birds are found on the east coast so make sure to scroll down to “similar species” if you live in other areas to determine if there is a similar bird for you to watch out for in your backyard count.

Top Ten Birds Reported in the Great Backyard Bird Count 2020

1. Northern Cardinal

2. Dark Eyed Junco

3.  Mourning Dove

4.  Downy Woodpecker

5.  Blue Jay

6.  House Sparrow

7. House Finch

8. American Crow

9. Black Capped Chickadee

10. Red-bellied Woodpecker

If you want to start keeping a list of birds you observe, you may wish to visit this entry on:

10 Ideas for a Bird Life List.

Cornell Bird Coloring Book Dove
Download the Cornell Feeder Bird coloring book. The image above is an example that I completed for the mourning dove.

Download and save the Cornell Feeder Bird coloring book. This book has many of the most common birds you’ll see in your backyard and it makes a perfect complement to your family’s bird nature study.

Learning About Birds 3D cover

Learning About Birds ebook Bird List @handbookofnaturestudyDon‘t forget about the Learning About Birds ebook in the Member’s Library.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge: Flicker Bird Nature Study

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Flicker Bird Nature Study

Since writing this challenge years ago, we’ve moved to Central Oregon where we have an abundance of Norther flickers. I observe them every day at my bird feeder right outside my window. They’re such beautifully colored birds and I never get tired of watching them cling to our tree and then swoop down to the suet feeder. Their large size makes them easy to identify but we often hear them long before we see them. You may also see them land on the ground so don’t be surprised about that behavior.

I hope that you can use the links in the original challenge to look at and hear the sounds of the Northern flicker. If you would rather study another tree clinging bird, you’ll find several links in the challenge to get you started.

Flicker Bird Study @handbookofnaturestudy

View the original challenge here: Outdoor Hour Challenge – Flicker.

Flicker page 1

flicker 2

If you have access to the Winter Nature Study Continues ebook, there are two notebook pages to choose from for your nature journal.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Winter Nature Study Continues ebook

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

To purchase an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership, click on over to the Join Us page at any time.

You can use the discount code NATURE5 to receive $5 off your Ultimate Naturalist Library membership.

Learning About Birds 3D cover

You may wish to download and use the Learning About Birds ebook available in the Ultimate Naturalist Library. There are lots of birds included in this ebook, including tree clinging birds like the woodpecker and the nuthatch.

Learning About Birds ebook Bird List @handbookofnaturestudy

 

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Outdoor Hour Challenge- Intro to Birds – Chicken Nature Study

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Chicken Nature Study

“The purpose of all these lessons on the hen are: (a) To induce the child to make continued and sympathetic observations on the habits of the domestic birds. (b) To cause him involuntarily to compare the domestic with the wild birds. (c) To induce him to think for himself how the shape of the body, wings, head, beak, feet, legs, and feathers are adapted in each species to protect the bird and assist it in getting its living.”  Handbook of Nature Study

Do you raise backyard chickens? Do you have friends or neighbors that have chickens? Use the ideas in this week’s Outdoor Hour Challenge to learn more about these interesting birds! The lessons in the Handbook of Nature Study can apply to all sorts of birds as well as chickens, so read through the lesson suggestions to find something to observe up close and then create a nature journal.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Bird Study Chickens @handbookofnaturestudy

View the original challenge here:

Outdoor Hour Challenge – Chicken.  

Chicken Notebook Page 1\Chicken Notebook Page 2

If you have access to the ebook, there are two notebook pages to choose from for your nature journal.

Handbook of Nature Study Autumn Nature Study 2015 Cover Image

Sample to view: Outdoor Hour Challenge Autumn Nature Study 2015 Sample Pages

If you don’t have a membership yet, click the graphic above and join today for immediate access to the 26 ebooks and so much more! Remember that all levels, even the Discovery level membership, include access to all of the archived newsletters!

 

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

 

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Creating a Wildlife Habitat in Your Own Backyard Part 1

Creating a Wildlife Habitat in Your Own Backyard

Part 1 – Make an Assessment

Creating a Wildlife Garden in your Own Backyard

The story of how I decided to create a more wildlife friendly backyard started a long time ago.

growing up with a manicured yard
Our Backyard – 1967

I grew up in a world of manicured lawns and formal flower beds that required a lot of care and attention.

california plot of land
Our First Home in California – 1987

Purchasing our first home back in California, we were happy to be able to afford a plot of land that had a large yard with front yard and backyard lawns and bare ground that had potential for flowers and vegetables in the garden. But in those days, I hadn’t awakened my desire to garden for wildlife, only human needs.

garden beginnings california

Fast forward a few years, we started to homeschool and to spend lots more time in our own yard. Homeschooling introduced us to nature study and I was drawn to Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of encouraging lots of outdoor time for children. While my boys played outside in our backyard, I haphazardly planted more pollinator friendly plants and trees as a way to create a space where we had some things to observe and learn about together.

front yard remodel california

Then we made more radical changes by completely removing our front yard lawn and replacing it with native plants and adding additional food and water sources for the birds and other animal visitors. We were creating a more wildlife friendly habitat.

backyard before dry landscape oregon

Then we moved to Central Oregon and its harsher environment. We experienced the truly cold and snowy winter climate and the dry, dry, dry high desert climate in the summer. It was a bit of an adjustment to learn what would thrive in our new yard and what sorts of wildlife we needed to accommodate.

wildflower meadow oregon 2019 (2)

The process has been enjoyable and interesting. It takes patience and a little effort but creating a wildlife friendly habitat is worth all the energy.

Wildlife will come to you!

IMG_0835

My husband says it’s a case of “if you build it, they will come”. This truly has been our experience.

There have been doubters in our circle of friends. We’ve had people question our choices from time to time, but once we explain why we plant certain things or leave certain plants/weeds to grow, they better understand that we really do have a plan.

My hope is that you will consider creating a wildlife garden of your own. I assure you that you don’t need a lot of land, a lot of money, or any special knowledge in order to be successful.

Think of the process as a way to invite nature right up to your doorstep.

Assess Your Yard and Make a Plan (make a headline)

Make an assessment of what you already have available in your yard. You can use either of the printables below to get started. Ask your children to help you make an inventory of what may already be working for wildlife.

Wildlife Habitat Plan

Would you like a free printable plan for creating your own wildlife habitat? I created one for you to use as you assess your yard for the four elements you’ll need to become certified.

Download and print yours here: Wildlife Habitat Plan

checklist wildlife garden

Here’s another printable from the National Wildlife Federation that has a detailed checklist for you to use: Garden Certification Walk-through Checklist.

nesting box

Brainstorm Ideas About Who You Would Like to Visit Your Yard

After you assess your yard, create a list of what you’d like to invite into your habitat. Your children may need some guidance in making a reasonable list of things that may come to visit.

collage wildlife garden

Here are some ideas: butterflies, birds, ladybugs, bees, frogs and toads, squirrels.

My next post will help you create a plan to attract wildlife to your yard by planting and creating the habitat that will entice them to visit and stay awhile.

For now, print one of the suggested printables above and make it a family project to gather information about your current backyard habitat. I don’t want you to worry if you think your yard is a barren wasteland to start with. In my next post, I’ll help you to make a start and I guarantee you that anything you do to create a wildlife habitat will be rewarded if you’re patient.

If you want to look for a good book at your public library that will help stimulate interest in this project, I highly recommend this book that I have in my personal library.

Please note that the link above is an Amazon affiliate link to a book I purchased and value as a resource on this topic.

I will be continuing this series in the months to come. I hope it will help you begin to think about your own backyard space as a possible wildlife habitat that will bring some wild things right to you.

Leave me a comment or send me an email if you have any questions or comments.

harmonyfinearts@yahoo.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Outdoor Hour Challenge Sapsucker Bird Nature Study

Did you hear that? Rattle, tat, tat, tat! Run, look out the window, there’s a sapsucker visiting again. I hear their tap or their call and I try to sneak a peek. There is such joy in seeing this colorful woodpecker each year, a reward for the effort put into learning about him and all the other birds that come to visit.

sapsucker in yard april 2020
Sapsucker in our yard this past April 2020.

Your family can learn about this interesting and beautiful woodpecker with this Outdoor Hour Challenge.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Sapsucker Bird Study @handbookofnaturestudyView the original challenge here: Outdoor Hour Challenge – Sapsucker.

sapsucker notebook page 1sapsucker notebook page 2

If you have access to the ebook, there are two notebook pages to choose from for your nature journal.

Alternate study: Take a bird walk and look especially for birds you observe in trees.

Handbook of Nature Study Autumn Nature Study 2015 Cover Image

Sample to view: Outdoor Hour Challenge Autumn Nature Study 2015 Sample Pages

If you don’t have a membership yet, click the graphic above and join today for immediate access to the 26 ebooks and so much more! Remember that all levels, even the Discovery level membership, include access to all of the archived newsletters!

Topics in this ebook include:

  • Swallows and swifts
  • Catfish
  • Jewelweed
  • Prickly lettuce
  • Cockroach
  • Field horsetail
  • Catbird
  • Calcite, limestone, marble
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Hedgehog fungi
  • Sapsucker
  • Brooks

 

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

You may want to look at the Learning about Birds ebooks for additional bird study ideas using the Outdoor Hour Challenge. There are two other woodpeckers featured in this book: downy woodpecker and hairy woodpecker.

Learning About Birds 3D cover

You’ll find this ebook in the Member’s Library.

Learning About Birds ebook Bird List @handbookofnaturestudy