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Birdwatching 101 Attracting Birds To Your Yard

Here you will find all sorts of ideas for attracting birds to your yard for homeschool nature study and birdwatching without ever leaving your backyard.

Here you will find all sorts of ideas for attracting birds to your yard for homeschool nature study and birdwatching. We love to watch birds and do so on a regular basis without ever leaving our backyard. We can watch from our window or our deck and see usually around 4-5 different kinds of birds each day. At sometimes of the year, we have a lot more than that and it is exciting to see a new kind in the feeders.

Birdwatching 101 Attracting Birds to Your Yard

Here are some ideas for attracting birds to your yard.

Here you will find all sorts of ideas for attracting birds to your yard for homeschool nature study and birdwatching without ever leaving your backyard.

Homeschool Nature Study with a Variety of Bird Feeders

  • Try a variety of bird feeders. We made most of ours from scraps around the house and my boys love to hammer a nail and saw boards so this is a great project with a little supervision.
  • We have some that are called platform feeders. The birds actually land on the feeder and eat from the seed in the tray. We have scrub jays (blue jays), tit mouses, towhees, dark eyed juncos, and house sparrows in these feeders.
  • The second kind of feeders are the hopper kind of feeders where the bird lands on the perches and eat from holes in the sides of the feeders. Birds like house finches, goldfinches, and house sparrows like these types of feeders.
Hummingbird homeschool nature study ideas.

Attracting Birds with a Homeschool Nature Garden

Now for the more “natural” way to attract birds to your yard with a garden. We have chosen some plants for our garden area that seem to attract birds…especially hummingbirds. We planted butterfly bushes and trumpet vines on our arbor to attract butterflies but they seem to attract more hummingbirds. I am not complaining because they are beautiful and I say the more the merrier.

We have several varieties of sunflowers in our garden. Both planted with seed and those that came up from our feeder spillage. The yellow finches seem to like to eat the whole leaf of the the sunflower leaving just a little skeleton for us to look at.

We also have a fig tree in our yard and the scrub jays love to sit and peck at the fruit for an evening meal. They make a big mess but I’m glad someone is eating the figs.

So hopefully that gives you at least an idea of how to attract some birds to your own yard so that you can enjoy birdwatching from your window or backyard.

You may also be interested in visiting my page on feeding birds in winter….which would also apply at other times of the year as well: How To Feed Birds

And don’t miss our Ultimate List of Birds Homeschool Nature Study Resources Using the Outdoor Hour Challenges too!

Join Our Homeschool Nature Study Membership for Year Round Support

You will find a continuing series on bird nature study, bird watching and attracting birds plus all the Outdoor Hour Challenges for nature study in our Homeschool Nature Study membership. There are 25+ continuing courses with matching Outdoor Hour curriculum that will bring the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool! In addition, there is an interactive monthly calendar with daily nature study prompt – all at your fingertips!

-First published by Barb May 2008. Updated January 2022 by Tricia.

Here you will find all sorts of ideas for attracting birds to your yard for homeschool nature study and birdwatching with bird feeders and garden plants.
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Garden Flower Nature Study Planning

Garden Flower Nature Study Planning

This is the season for planning your garden whether it’s a flower garden or a vegetable garden. Anticipating the colorful flowers, the delicious tasting fruits, and the many hours of happily tending the garden is more than half the fun in my opinion. Paging through seed catalogs or scrolling your favorite gardening sites online can fill your cold winter days with pleasant thoughts of things to come.

I’ve already started my garden planning for the year and put in my seed order to Renee’s Garden Seeds. If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you already know that I love this seed company. I always have great results from their products and they are my go to place to purchase seeds for the garden.

Because of our short growing season here in Central Oregon (less than 60 days), our garden is mostly flowers now and not veggies. But, I have decided to try a green bean and broccoli raab crop this year as an experiment. I will keep you posted on our results.

Renees Seed Packets

Want to know my list of seeds?

4th of July Heirloom Cornflowers

Lace Perfume Fragrant Dianthus

Lace Mantle Sweet Williams

Rainbow of California Poppies – We grew these last year in our garden and they are gorgeous!

Lemon Queen Sunflowers – These are the sunflowers suggested to grow as part of the Great Sunflower (bee counting) Project.

Classic Slenderette Green Beans – We’re going to try this variety because of its short growing to harvest time.

Early Rapini Heirloom Broccoli Raab – This is another crop we hope we can grow here in our cooler climate.

Astia Container Zucchini – I grew this in California in a big pot on my back deck. I’m hoping to have some success with it here in Oregon.

Sweet Greens and Reds lettuce mix – This is another variety of a lettuce we grew last year from Renee’s.

Garden Babies Butterhead container lettuce – This is a new lettuce for us and I’m hoping it produces a few heads for us to enjoy.

Cinnamon Sun Sunflowers – I’m excited to try a new color of sunflowers in this year’s garden.

Chocolate Daisy – This is an old favorite that I want to try this year in our new garden box. (It does have the fragrance of chocolate!)

I am eagerly awaiting their arrival! It will be a while before I can actually plant them, but I can dream about the warm summer afternoons in the garden while I wait.

Handbook of Nature Study Flowers chart with Outdoor Hour Challenges

Maybe you would like to start dreaming and planning for your summer flower garden nature studies. I have completely updated my chart of garden flower topics from the Handbook of Nature Study. Each flower has an Outdoor Hour Challenge associated with it on the website and an ebook with notebook pages to use for your study. Use the links in the chart to decide on which flowers you will study this summer!

Download a copy here: Handbook of Nature Study List of Garden Flowers with the Outdoor Hour Challenge.

Ultimate Naturalist Library members have access to all the ebooks required. If you’d like to purchase an annual membership, click the link above and then use the discount code NATURE5 to receive $5 off your membership.

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

All memberships are valid for one year after your purchase. The library of ebooks, the newsletters, and all the printables will be only a few clicks away.

Ambleside Online Approved @handbookofnaturestudy

For those of you following the Ambleside Online nature schedule, the spring topic is garden flowers and weeds. Please feel free to combine your nature study with the Outdoor Hour Challenges found in the archives.




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Ant Nature Study- Right in Our Own Backyard

I finally remembered where I had seen lots of ants….on our backyard trumpet vines. This morning I had a chance to go out with Mr. A and take a closer look armed with our cameras and a desire to learn more.

After watching the ants for a few minutes, I realized they were not the only insect enjoying this colorful vine. The honeybees were buzzing right at ear level and even though I knew they were not interested much in me, I felt the need to keep getting out of their way.  They were very active and in the photo above you can see there would be multiple bees in one flower. This one had four!

After coming back inside, we did some research online to reveal why the ants are on the trumpet vine. There seems to be two lines of thinking:
1. The ants are farming aphids that also live on the trumpet vine.
2. The ants are actually partaking of the nectar found in the trumpet vine blossom.

This led to more outdoor time trying to discover which it was in our case.They definitely were interested in the flowers so I think our ants were after the nectar of the flowers.

According to the USDA, the trumpet vine is a habitat to the hummingbird, the butterfly, and the ant.  I thought it was interesting that the USDA also considers the trumpet vine to be an “invasive weed”. We have had trouble with it sending out its sucker roots and coming up in the lawn but we just keep mowing them down.

Of course, Kona needed a little attention when we were out looking for ants. Smile Kona!

We ended up walking around the garden and ticking off a few of our insect grid tasks…and finding two surprising insects which I will save for my grid study entry next week. I love the way we start off looking for something as simple as an ant, find ourselves asking a question that we answer with more research, investigate some more about a plant we have in our backyard, and end up really enjoy our time together. Although we had a focus in mind when we went outside, the nature study part was very relaxed and natural.

Right in our own backyard.

I am going to record the insects we saw on my insect list from the monthly newsletter, make a nature journal entry for the trumpet vine since we did all the research, and mark off several of the squares on our insect grid.

OHC Blog Carnival
Hope you are enjoying your monthly focus on insects this month and don’t forget to send in your blog entries for the carnival.

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You Build It and They Will Come – Butterfly Garden

Painted lady
This is the summer of the butterfly! We have been observing many kinds in our front yard garden…it is amazing to watch as several flutter around from flower to flower. The American Lady butterflies are smaller than we expected but they are daily visitors to the butterfly bushes.

We planned this garden for bees, butterflies, and birds and they are now moving in and taking advantage of our neighborhood oasis that we have created. Our neighbors all stop by to tell us how much they enjoy seeing our yard as they walk and drive up the street. It makes me smile.

Creating this wildlife habitat has been a dream realized. I can honestly say that we have spent time every single day enjoying the wonderful things in this space.

Western Tiger Swallowtail
The Western Tiger Swallowtails are the most frequent of the larger butterflies to visit every day. They spend lots of time on the butterfly bushes but they also land on the lavender from time to time. I think they are my favorite butterfly.

Butterfly garden June 2012
The white butterfly bush is the color that attracts the most butterflies from our casual observation. It has larger amounts of flowers so I think they may be the attraction.

Monarch butterfly garden
We have had a few Monarch butterflies in the past week. This one looks a little tattered. It is exciting to see a Monarch though…this is exactly why we created this habitat. We looked forward to having our nature study subjects come to us…and they have.

Butterfly garden June 2012 (21)
This long thin purple flower cluster is my favorite shape and color. This could be called my purple section since I have purple lavender, sage, and butterfly bushes literally bursting out all over. The bees have found this space and they are here all day long.
The deep purple bushes line the front street and there are hummingbirds that can be seen landing on the blossoms as they take a break from collecting the nectar. The blooms don’t even dip down…those hummers must be super lightweight.

There are a few more butterfly varieties that have come to visit but I haven’t caught them with my camera….yet. I will share when I do.

Just for the record, the bee balm and nasturtiums started blooming this week in the back yard. Beautiful!

Jami’s Tuesday Garden Party meme is open from Tuesday to Thursday so there is still time for you to jump in and participate!

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Updated Wildside-New Garden Arch-Delighted Nature Mama

Arch frontyard - frame
This was a big week in the garden.

My dear sweet husband surprised me by making a new garden arch for my front yard. We had talked about adding a decorative arch, kicked around a few ideas, and then he added his creative touch. I love the way it makes a sort of  “window frame” to the lower part of the garden. He is going to fill in the bare spot with another sage. The poppies are filling in naturally and I think by next year they will be to this lowest part of the yard.

Arch frontyard closeup
He added a few of my favorite things….birds, butterflies, vines. (Maybe all this garden beauty will distract me from my neighbor’s falling down fence.)

Tilled Wildside
He didn’t stop there. He finished up the top terrace of the front yard….he eliminated much of my wildside garden but now it is going to be filled with more wonderful color. Just a note: He used the idea I found on Pinterest to spray a solution of vinegar and water on the weeds before trying to remove them. He sprayed last weekend and let it sit for a week. It was awesome how easy those weeds just hoed out of the ground. He was able to do this entire area in less than an hour! I didn’t get a “finished” shot….I will soon.

Yarrow in the Garden
We are adding more yarrow…a different color this time. The yarrow in our front yard is amazing right now…what a great performer with no water and lots of sunshine.

Yarrow Lavender and Poppies
Maybe someday this new section will be as colorful as the established part of the garden. Here is an image from the top terrace looking down onto the yarrow, lavender, butterfly bush, poppies, and dogwoods. We also added some lamb’s ear among the rock garden. I am going to see if spreads too much but it has added a new texture to the yard.

Switch gears now and head to the back butterfly garden.

Columbine red yellow beauty
The columbine is starting to bloom! This is such a wonderfully happy flower that loves my semi shady spot in the butterfly garden. Look at those colors!

Columbine red yellow
How about the shape? Isn’t it interesting to see how different the back of the flower looks from the front? I am adding this image to my nature journal…I think watercolors.

Swallowtail in the garden
Last but not least, I wanted to share another one of my swallowtail visitors to my back garden. This magnificent butterfly spent quite a bit of time yesterday fluttering among my potted plants. He seemed to like the bright pink dianthus the best.

So now you know what I am one delighted nature mama. I love this time of year!

Jami’s Tuesday Garden Party meme is open from Tuesday to Thursday so there is still time for you to jump in and participate!

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Growing An Artist Garden Takes Patience – Weekly Update

7 4 and 5 11 First Sunflower

It looks like it is almost time! As I tour my garden this week I notice that all the blooming plants have buds just waiting to burst out in color. This is the first of our sunflowers….sprouted up under the birdfeeder all on its own. What joy to find this waiting for me this morning! Promises of more are all over the garden and I will soon be using THIS tutorial to make some oil pastel artwork. I am thinking of inviting some friends over to join me and to spend an afternoon creating sunflower art.

7 4 and 5 11 Bee Balm

The Bee Balm has filled an area in the butterfly garden and can see this going on a canvas as well. Wait until you see it in full bloom! The reds and the fluffiness remind me of butterfly’s wings.

7 4 and 5 11 Sunflower Garden
Here is my sunflower box….it is bursting with tall healthy plants and since I mixed the seed varieties it will be interesting to see the color palette once it starts to show its blooms.

7 4 and 5 11 Zinnias in the Bud
The zinnias are going to be amazing soon! I love zinnias and we will fill up vase after vase of them to put on the kitchen table. This year we will capture them with paints too!

7 6 11 Daisies
Daisies are a new addition to our flower garden. I have visions of a whole box filled with them as the years go by….just like in Pride and Prejudice where Jane and Elizabeth are out in the garden cutting baskets of flowers. I can dream can’t I?

7 6 11 Coneflowers
Coneflowers at last! This the first real flower blooming but there are about a hundred ready to bloom. I will cut some for vases and use some in a still life just as soon as I get my self motivated.

7 6 11 Trumpet Vine
Our trumpet vines are blooming around the edges and the hummingbirds have moved from the feeders to the flowers….they must taste good because there are a number of birds that stop by each day to buzz in and out of the blossoms. It is so fascinating to watch as they hover over the vines and sip the nectar.

7 6 11 Three Sisters Garden in the Early Morning

Couldn’t resist including an image of the Three Sisters Garden in the early morning light…delightful. Pretty soon I will not be able to walk between the rows because the plants are growing so much. I will keep you posted on the progress of the section of the garden….right now the most striking part of the garden is the HUGE leaves on the pumpkins.

There you have our garden update for the week….mostly about the Artist Garden and my plans for using the plants and flowers as subjects for my artwork. Soon…..stay tuned.

Jami’s Tuesday Garden Party meme is open from Tuesday to Thursday so there is still time for you to jump in and participate!

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Making a Garden a Place of Joy – Give Yourself Permission

Garden 6 20 11 Cantebury Bells

Sunny hot weather this week in Northern California has given our garden just the breath of life that it needed after our cool rainy weather in May and the beginning of June.

Garden 6 20 11 Sunflowers

The sunflowers actually look like sunflowers all neatly growing in rows, just waiting for each day’s sunshine. If you remember I planted three varieties in this section of the garden…my artist garden. I am envisioning a lawn chair in the shade of the maple tree, paints and colored pencils sitting at my side and a sketch book in my hand just across the yard from these beauties.

Garden 6 20 11Corn and Beans
My three sisters garden is all planted and growing! We added the beans and pumpkins and most of the seeds have spouted and are growing right as they should. This has been a fun project….one that has captured my interest, renewing my gardening zeal.

Garden 6 20 11 Strawberries
We have had several quarts of strawberries already…big and juicy red ones!

Garden 6 20 11 Pink Cantebury Bells
Now this is another of my “mystery” plants. I was waiting to see what was going to bloom and this week it has come alive with color! Here they are…Cantebury Bells. I vaguely remember planting them last year and since they are a biennial, they are blooming this year. Amazing color….which you know will make its way into my nature journal.

Garden 6 20 11 Rose garden spot
We had two birdbaths in the backyard so I decided to move one to the front yard…perfect fit. The empty spot in the garden is really needing some attention and I don’t know what to put here. In the spring there are tulips and allium that bloom but in the summer there isn’t much to fill in the spot. I think those are old gladiola bulbs that didn’t bloom last year coming up. I am not a big fan of gladiolas. This spot gets sun most of the day so the roses love it and I let the allysum grow where it wants. Any suggestions for plants for this middle spot would be appreciated…I’m thinking something taller than the roses.

Garden 6 20 11 Tickseed
The tickseed is in full bloom and it makes such a great little bouquet for the table….nothing makes you smile more than having breakfast with a vase of sunshiney tickseed in front of you.

The chore list for the garden this week includes quite a bit of weeding, including the hedge bindweed that I wrote about recently. I try to spend 15-20 minutes in the morning each day just pulling weeds. The whole garden never is weeded at one time but it doesn’t get too crazy with daily attention. I have one tomato that doesn’t look so great so I will try to figure out how to perk it up. I also have one garden box that looks like it has some insect eating the leaves on the plants…..time for some private eye time to see if I can figure out who is the culprit.

In the past, I worried about having the garden “just right”. I spent way too much time worrying about the weeds and the organization and the practicality of it all. I realized this week that I have come to a new understanding about my garden. The garden is what I make of it and if I want to grow pumpkins in the middle of my grass…I can give myself permission to do so. If I want to try something new, I can because it is MY garden.

This year I am just going to enjoy the gardening experience…take the ups and downs as they come. I will put in the effort that I can and see what happens.

Jami’s Tuesday Garden Party meme is open from Tuesday to Thursday so there is still time for you to jump in and participate!

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Our Crop Plant Study: Corn!

Our crop plant study as part of the June Newsletter suggestions focused on corn. Yes, corn. We haven’t had much luck in the past growing corn but we wanted to try again this year as part of our Three Sisters Garden where we plant corn, beans, and squash as companions. (There is an official Corn Crop Plants Challenge on my sidebar. You can just observe an ear of corn and make an entry if you wish.)

6 12 11 Garden - Three Sisters
We did some reading beforehand and realized that we needed to plant more corn than we usually do so it will have a better chance of pollinating. We planted the corn in mounds and have let it grow to around six inches high before planting the beans around the corn and then pumpkins in alternating mounds between the corn. You can find complete directions HERE on Renee’s Garden website (love this website).

6 12 11 Garden Corn in cages
Here are our young corn plants. We have been using homemade compost to enrich our soil and every time I dig around to weed the mounds I find oodles of earthworms. I am hoping that is a good sign for our corn and its health.

We had to put tomato cages around each mound for now to keep the critters out…..human kind and canine kind as well.

6 12 11 Garden Potato
I noticed that there is a potato growing in the row so we decided to leave it and see what happens with it. We have never grown potatoes but there must have been one left in the compost when it was dumped in this section of the garden.

We read in the Handbook of Nature Study that corn study can take place in the spring as soon as the leaves appear and that because the corn plant grows so fast that it is a great season long study. We will be watching anxiously as our corn grows and in Lesson 168 in the Handbook of Nature Study there are many interesting observations to make as the plant grows.

6 12 11 Garden Corn

You can purchase a set of notebook pages to go along with all the Crop Plants studies in the Handbook of Nature Study HERE. There are also challenges listed on the right sidebar of my blog to go along with them.

6 12 11 Garden Beans

We are also anxious for our green beans to start their vines…our poles are ready!

Don’t forget to post and then share your crop plant study with the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival. Here is the link to ENTER.
Crop Plants Notebook Page Cover Button

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Honeybees and the Great Sunflower Project – Nature Study Using the Handbook of Nature Study

Bees on the Lavender

Our choice for the Garden Critter study this month is the honeybee. We have been building a bee, butterfly, and bird habitat in our yard this year and it seemed fitting that we take a few minutes to read in the Handbook of Nature Study (Lesson 99) about this welcome guest to our garden.

We have planted many bee attractive plants and every day, rain or shine, they come to visit. Their favorite spot in the yard is the center square filled with lavender. If you sit close by, you can hear the buzzing of wings and you can watch their activity among the flowers.

Bee Garden - Water Source
Water for the Bees – Lavender and Baby Lemon Queen Sunflowers

We read recently online that bees need water as part of their habitat. We found a shallow pie pan, filled it with an assortment of local rocks we had on hand, and then filled it with water. The rain has kept it filled but now that the weather is looking like it will remain dry, I will just replenish the water when I water the garden. Here is a really informative article about Planting a Bee Garden.

Honeybee entry (3)
We found this webpage very helpful: California Habitat Gardening and this one too: Bee Friendly Gardens.

bee with pollen on sunflower

This is what we are aiming for…image from two summers ago in our sunflowers. Can you believe that pollen?

We will be taking part in the Great Sunflower Project later in the summer. I highly recommend this nature activity which is fun and simple to do as a family. Click below for more information.

Great Sunflower Project Button

Don’t forget to post and then submit your June Newsletter nature studies to the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival. Here is THE LINK. If you need to find the link quickly, it is at the top of my blog in a couple of places for easy access.

Jami’s Tuesday Garden Party meme is open from Tuesday to Thursday so there is still time for you to jump in and participate!

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Still Planting Seeds and Making Discoveries: Sunflowers, Foxglove, and Three Sisters

5 10 11 Sunflower Seeds
Three kinds of sunflowers – mixed the seeds and planted in our garden.

Seed planting continues in our garden as the weather has allowed us to be outdoors. We have had rain, wind, and one morning we had about half inch of snow! It has been the craziest weather year ever. The snow managed to come *after* I planted my tomato seedlings. They look like they are going to be just fine but I hope the weather warms up again soon.

I decided to plant a patch of sunflowers, mixing three different kinds of seed in a pile and then randomly putting them into the garden (see the photo above for the varieties we picked). We shall see how it turns out. The Lemon Queen sunflowers that I planted a few weeks ago are now sprouted and about 2 inches high. I ended up planting some Four O’Clocks in the same bed which will be interesting to see how they grow in the same space.

5 12 11 Sunflower Sprouts

Our volunteer sunflowers sprouting up under the birdfeeder are really getting tall already. I love having sunflowers plant themselves and the birds enjoy the seeds in the autumn.

5 11 11 Three Sisters Garden
The Three Sisters garden did not get planted again this week. We have composted the row again and added a little mulch as well. It is really looking great after Mr. B dug out all the turf and roots left over from the last composting. The corn will be planted first in mounds and then when the corn is 6 inches tall we will plant the beans and pumpkins.

I did get one more tomato seedling in the ground and some lemon thyme to replace the one that disappeared from last year’s garden.

In other areas, amazing discoveries were made over in the butterfly garden. I noticed a rather large plant growing over the last few weeks. I couldn’t remember what I had planted in that particular spot….I’ve tried a few things there and nothing seems to like it very well. I left the plant alone when I was weeding, figuring I could wait a bit to see just what it was when it grew larger.

Sure enough, it is a foxglove!

Foxglove 2

This was quite a surprise since I don’t even remember EVER planting a foxglove in this spot. I will enjoy it no matter how it ended up in my garden. It looks pretty happy growing up among the daylilies and the lavender.

Foxglove 1

I can hardly wait for it to bloom!

This week we are hoping to get out and plant the remaining seeds – more basil, more zinnias, a few more rows of Kentucky Wonders, and a new dahlia that says it grows in containers (I put a link at the bottom of this post for the seeds we are planting). We are really keeping our garden a manageable size this year and I am anticipating a lot of time just sitting and enjoying the garden rather than working in it all the time.

Jami’s Tuesday Garden Party meme is open from Tuesday to Thursday so there is still time for you to jump in and participate!