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Hummingbird and Bleeding Hearts

What a treat! This hummingbird was having a meal right next to me when we were at the nursery this afternoon. He didn’t seem to care that I pulled out my camera to capture his pretty green feathers and his long black beak. He came back several times as I was browsing but he always came back to this particular plant, the bleeding heart. (make sure to click the photos to enlarge them)

“The hummingbird’s beak is exactly fitted to probe those flowers where the bird finds its food. The tongue has the outer edges curved over, making a tube on each side.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 115

The Handbook of Nature Study has a whole section on hummingbirds, pages 115-117.

There is also section on the bleeding heart, pages 558-560.

We had a very enjoyable afternoon picking out a few new plants for our garden. I will have to share about those after I get them planted in the ground. 🙂

https://naturestudyhomeschool.com/2009/04/outdoor-hour-challenge-birds_24.html

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Red-Winged Blackbird on a Spring Day

Red-winged blackbird
You can click the link above and read about this bird and also there is a link to hear his song.


If you click this photo to make it larger, you will notice his little beak is open. He was singing up a storm for us.


Here he is landing in the rushes alongside the pond area at the nursery.

We were out at the nursery on Saturday and the meadow and pond area were full of these beautiful blackbirds. I was able to capture this particular bird by creeping as close as I could and then taking lots of photos. 🙂

The Handbook of Nature Study has a whole section on red-winged blackbirds so I was able to learn a lot about them from Anna Comstock’s easy to read narrative. The section starts on page 117.

“The red-winged blackbird lives in the marshes where it builds its nest. However, it comes over to our plowed lands and pastures and helps the farmer by destroying many insects which injure the meadows, crops, and trees.” Handbook of Nature Study, page 119

https://naturestudyhomeschool.com/2009/05/outdoor-hour-challenge-birds-crow-red.html

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Outdoor Hour Challenge #7 Your Own Field Guide

Field Guide-Cards on a Ring

 

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he or she needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” Rachel Carson

One nature activity that our family has worked on together is to start and maintain a personalized field guide to birds that frequent our birdfeeder and backyard. We started a few years ago and have added each new kind of bird as we come across it. The instructions are for bird cards but you could easily adapt the idea for trees, wildflowers, insects, flowerless plants, or garden flowers.

How to Make Field Guide Cards

Materials:

5 x 8 index card

Bird photograph

glue stick

Optional: Blank bird information form,lamination, binder ring

supplies for card

1. We take a photo of the bird we want to add to our field guide or if we can’t take a decent photo, we find one on the internet and print it out on our color printer.

front card

2. Glue the photo on one side of the 5 x 8 card.

back card

3. We fill in the blank bird information form with information from our field guide.

4. Glue the information onto the back of the card.

cards ready to cut

5. Optional: Laminate the card.

finished cards on ring

6. Optional: We hole punch the corner of each card and attach it to a binder ring.

Here is a copy of the blank information form we use.

PDF of bird field guide blank

Please note:
I want to clarify the idea of picking a focus area. The focus area is a topic in the Handbook of Nature Study that your family is choosing to learn about in more depth. Challenge #5 suggested making a list of things you found within your focus area that you might come into contact with in your local area. I suggested that you work in a specific focus area for six to eight weeks so you could really get to know a certain aspect of nature. Each week I am suggesting that you read about one item from your list in the Handbook of Nature Study. This gives you some ideas for observations when you go outside with your children. If on your nature walk you find something else to be interested in, please feel free to go with that interest. I am not trying to limit you but to have some sort of way to direct your nature study. In my experience, as I change our family’s focus, we are hyper-sensitive to finding things in that focus area to learn about because we are more aware. It narrows down our vision a little so we can really get to know our own backyards. I hope that clears up any misunderstanding.

Outdoor Hour Challenge #7
Your Own Field Guide

1. In your focus area, turn to the table of contents and pick a new subject in your section to read about before your nature walk. Make sure to read the observation suggestions to have them in mind before your time outdoors. Take your 10-15 minute walk, looking for things to add to your list of focus area items in your nature journal. Spend some of your time quietly observing and try to encourage your child to look closely at something they have seen before to recognize any changes or new aspects of the item. For example, if you are focusing on flowerless plants, see if you can find some differences between flowerless plants and garden plants. [lack of leaves, petals, or roots]

 

“Children should know the correct name for parts of things, such as petals, sepals, etc, to help them describe what they see. They should be encouraged to group things together by leaf shape, or leaf vein pattern, or number of flower petals, or whether they keep their leaves all year, or animals that have a backbone, or animals that eat grass or eat meat, etc. Collecting and sorting plant specimens is fun and good practice.” Charlotte Mason, volume 1, page 63

2. After your outdoor time, take time to discuss the outing with your child, helping them to find words to describe their experience. Add anything new to your list of items observed in your focus area that you are keeping in your nature journal. Make note of any additional research that needs to be done for things your child is interested in.

 

“The ability to group things together by type and find differences is one of the higher orders of intellect, and every opportunity to use it first-hand should be encouraged.” Charlotte Mason, volume 1, page 64

3. Give an opportunity for a nature journal entry. Remember this can be a simple drawing, a label, and a date. Challenges 2 and 3 have ideas for alternatives to drawing in the nature journal.

4. Add any items to your collection that you discovered during your nature time. If you need more information on making a collection, see Challenge #6. Or if you are choosing to start making a field guide with your children, gather the materials and make your first card.

Getting Started Outdoor Hour Challenge ebook

You can see and download a sample challenge and notebook pages: OHC Getting Started Ebook Sample.


Please note that this ebook is included in every level of membership here on the Handbook of Nature Study.

 

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California Quail Story with Video

Last night I was sitting at the table when I heard an unusual bird call just outside my window. It was something so distinct that I was alert right away. I called my husband over and we cracked the window and listened…he heard it too.

We were peeking out the window but couldn’t see anything out there. It called again. This time I recognized the call from the other day. Chi-CA-Go, Chi-CA-Go. It is sounds so clear once you recognize it.

California Quail.

This morning I heard it again and was determined to go outside and find the bird to confirm my identification. I quietly stepped out onto the deck. Quiet. Then I decided to head down the stairs to look around the yard. Quiet. Next thing I know, a bird flies right over my head and lands on the deck railing. It was a quail! Big, beautiful, gorgeous California quail. He sat there for maybe 30 seconds and then he flew up into our tree. I decided to go inside and get my video camera to try to capture him on film.

Of course he wouldn’t come out of hiding again for me but he did sing me his song. Here is a very short edited video of his call. Listen for the Chi-ca-go call and that is him among the chorus of other morning birds in my yard. You might need to turn your speakers up. 

California Quail Video


So that is my very exciting new bird to our yard story. We have lived here for over 21 years and this is the first time I have seen a quail in our yard. Wahoo!

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Evening Grosbeak in My Feeder and How We Identify a Bird

Very little compares to identifying a new bird in your feeder. This one was so unusual that we just couldn’t stop looking at it.

The photo does not do it justice. It is bright yellow, with distinct markings of black and white. It was fairly good size so we got a pretty good look at it.

Although the photo didn’t turn out well, the memory will be forever with us.

We identified this bird as an Evening Grosbeak.

Yesterday we saw a bunch of blue birds that we had never seen before. We were out driving in the car when we saw nesting boxes all along a fence. We saw flashes of blue and realized that they were birds fighting, not only in the air but on the ground. The birds were very aggressive. When we got home we pulled out our field guide and identified the birds as Western bluebirds.

I shared the following information with a friend about how I identify a bird by explaining how I identified the Evening grosbeak. I personally like using the Audubon Society’s Field Guide to Birds.

Steps I Use To Identify a Bird
1. When I am trying to identify a bird, I rely heavily on color. The bird we saw in our feeder was a bright yellow so that narrowed it down as far as identifying it. The Audubon guide that I suggested for birds is organized by type of bird (clinging, perching, duck-like, etc) and then by predominant color. This makes it fast to skim through a lot of birds visually.
2. After I look at color and general type, I look at size. (sparrow-size, robin-sized, goose-size, etc) The Aububon guide does group from smallest to largest.
3. After color, type, and size, I look at beaks. This is really easy in the Aububon guide because on the photo pages there are three bird photos on a page so there are less pages to look through.
4. If I hit on the right bird by doing that method, I usually do a Google image search on the internet to confirm my findings. If I missed and didn’t get the right bird but I am in the right ball park, I go to whatbird.com and do a search there.

That pretty much sums it up. I know that others have different methods for identifying birds with a field guide but this works for our family.

It was a big bird weekend around here. I love it.

https://naturestudyhomeschool.com/2009/04/outdoor-hour-challenge-birds.html

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Counting Birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count

 

http://gbbc.birdcount.org/

 

We have been counting birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count. It started on Friday and will continue through today. We have had all the usual customers at the feeders and a few surprises too!

The white-crowned sparrow usually feeds in our front yard in the forsythia bush which has a blackberry vine tangled in it with some of last summers berries all dried up and ready for eating.


The dark-eyed juncos are a frequent visitor to our feeders and they enjoy both the platform feeder and eating from the ground beneath it.

The hanging feeders were filled with sparrows, finches, and the occasional nuthatch.

Here is our official bird count for Friday:

  • 5 Western scrub jays
  • 2 titmouses
  • 1 red-breasted nuthatch
  • 1 spotted towhee
  • 2 California towhees
  • 6 white-crowned sparrows
  • 12 dark-eyed juncos
  • 1 house finch….probably more we just didn’t catch them when we were counting
  • 7 house sparrows


Those were in the feeders but we also saw in our yard:
1 American crow
2 American robins

In our travels yesterday, we saw:
3 turkey vultures
40+ Canadian geese
6 wild turkeys

This is a great family project that we have participated in for the past three years. If you miss it this year, mark your calendars for next February so you won’t forget!

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Bird’s Nests in Winter: We Found One!


(click to make the photos larger)


Here is the whole nest that we found under a tree in our front yard. It is amazingly made with small little twigs and hair. Here is a close-up.

I have no idea what kind of bird made this nest. We do know we have a scrub jay that nests in this tree but this is so small it can’t possibly be the jay’s.

On page 46 of the Handbook of Nature Study under the sub-heading:The Study of Birds’ Nests in Winter:
“But after the birds have gone to sunnier climes and the empty nests are the only mementos we have of them, then we may study these habitations carefully and learn how to appreciate properly the small architects which made them. I think that every one of us who carefully examines the way that a nest is made must have a feeling of respect for its clever little builder.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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Eagle Watching at Taylor Creek


Yesterday we took another shot at finding some eagles to watch. We have an eagle habitat about 45 minutes from our house, near a salmon spawning creek. We went up there a few weeks ago to watch the salmon and we thought we saw an eagle circling overhead, up over the pines. Of course we hadn’t brought our binoculars along on that trip so we weren’t sure if it was eagle.


The dead tree in the distance along with the green trees has a nest in the top. Click the photo to make it larger and then you will see in the tree that looks dead a sort of platform nest on the top of it. Eagles nests are huge when they are being used.

This time we went back with binoculars in hand to see if we could spot him again. We didn’t. We did see a nest in the distance. We did see an snowy egret or egretta thula, some Canadian Geese, and several varieties of ducks.


This is really a hard photo to see the snowy egret but he is the white dot in the brown tree in the middle of the photo…..click the photo to make it larger. They are normally down by the water but this one kept flying up into the trees.


Spawning salmon-click the photo to make it larger and you will see the beautiful color of the spawning Kokanee salmon

Thousands of salmon all trying to get upstream to spawn…so colorful.

The highlight of the day was watching the Kokanee salmon spawning in Taylor Creek. There were hundreds and hundreds of these brightly colored salmon, all making there way up the creek to spawn and die at the end of their life cycle.

There was nothing in the Handbook of Nature Study about eagles…not a common bird for most. I will look further into the bird section of the book in the spring when we are focusing on birds.