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Winter Berry Hunt & Nature Walk

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Winter Berry Hunt – Nature Walk

Our last hike along the river was on a cold but sunny day last week. This particular trail allows for one way hiking on a loop that goes upstream on the Deschutes River and then across a bridge and back downstream on the other side. Although it’s a popular trail, keeping us all hiking in one direction means you can easily space out and feel as if you have the trail all to yourself.

We noticed quite a few shrubs with berries along the trail and it reminded me of this winter berry hunt nature study idea. I was wishing you all could see the many berry colors!

berry shrub


I hope that you can squeeze in a winter berry hunt sometime soon. Let me know what you find along your neighborhood trails.

Winter Berries Nature Study @handbookofnaturestudy

View the original challenge here: Outdoor Hour Challenge – Winter Berry Hunt.   

Snow and Winter Berries

Winter Berry Hunt notebook page 1

Winter Berry Hunt notebook page 2


If you have access to the Autumn Nature Study Continues ebook,

there are two notebook pages to choose from for your nature journal.

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020To purchase an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership, click on over to the Join Us page at any time.

Winter Nature Study ebooks graphic and promo

Don’t forget there are Winter ebooks in the Member’s Library for you to use in your nature study. Feel free to use any of the winter Outdoor Hour Challenges during this season. You can pick and choose the topics that fit your family best.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Winter Nature Study Ideas Index @handbookofnaturestudyYou’ll find all of the winter themed nature study ideas by clicking the Winter tab at the top of the Handbook of Nature Study website. Everyone is welcome to use the ideas found there whether you have a membership or not.





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Outdoor Hour Challenge -Winter Berries

This is going to be a fun Outdoor Hour Challenge! During the winter months, there are many shrubs and trees that have winter berries that provide a splash of color to an otherwise drab landscape. You can use the links in the original challenge to prepare for a winter berry hike and then use the notebook page in the Autumn Nature Study Continues ebook to record your results.

Winter Berries Nature Study @handbookofnaturestudy

Use this link to the challenges in the archives:

Outdoor Hour Challenge – Winter Berries (from the Autumn Nature Study Continues ebook)

If you’re a member here on the Handbook of Nature Study, you can look in your printables library for the berry and shrub set of notebooking pages. There are pages for nine different berries!

Snow and Winter Berries

OHC Autumn Nature Study Continues Cover Button

This challenge is found in the Autumn Nature Study Continues ebook found in the Ultimate and Journey level memberships here on the Handbook of Nature Study. You can print the notebooking pages and the coloring page included in the ebook to supplement your nature study this week.

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist November 2019

If you don’t have a membership yet, you can click the graphic above and join today for immediate access to the 23 ebooks and so much more!


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Outdoor Mom’s Journal – December

Outdoor Moms Journal Nov and Dec 2016 @handbookofnaturestudy

Where has the time gone? I was looking back in preparation for writing this entry and realized I never did a November installment of the Outdoor Mom. It certainly wasn’t because I haven’t been outdoors! Our November and so far this December have still been very conducive weather-wise for getting outdoors and exploring.

Red leaves and blue skyOne thing that may have interfered with writing it all up for the blog is the fact that we have been doing some renovations on our home…kitchen and master bath mostly. But, now we are mostly done with that and I can turn my attention back towards sharing our outdoor exploring. (I already posted about our 3 Questions Nature Walk if you are interested in reading that entry.)

Winter Berries collage

If you follow me on Instagram, you have probably noticed our weekly hikes and my images of things right in my own yard. I rarely stay indoors all day no matter the weather. The one thing about this particular time of year is that any color really pops out at you as you venture out and this collage of berries images illustrates this well. Don’t forget…berries attract birds so watch for birds wherever you find shrubs with colorful berries!

Stellers Jay in the feeder
I snapped this image of the Steller’s jay in my feeder. He was swinging around on it so it was hard to get a clear image but you can see his brilliantly blue feathers in this one.

I also started the Project Feederwatch counting in November. This is my sixth season of counting birds for this citizen science project and each year it brings such joy to my heart as I anticipate the arrival and sojourn of so many beautiful birds. This is a way I can give back to the birding community there at Cornell University. My life is better because they share their knowledge and experience with me via the internet.

Would you like to see my list of birds? Here you go! These are the high counts for each bird and we certainly don’t see these all in one day at our feeders but the count has taken place since 11/18/16 so that would account for the variety of birds on the list.

Pigeon – 5
Mourning dove – 2
Anna’s hummingbird – 2
Northern flicker – 5
Black phoebe- 1
California scrub jay (new name!) – 2
Oak titmouse – 2
Western bluebird -6
Northern mockingbird- 1
European starling -6
Cedar waxwing -25
Dark eyed junco -9
White crowned sparrow -6
Spotted towhee -3
House finch -5
American goldfinch -2
Steller’s jay – 1
White breasted nuthatch – 2
Bewick’s wren – 1

 Project Feederwatch button

Bird Sleuth button
There is a wealth of birding information on the internet but I have not found a more homeschool-friendly site than the ones sponsored by Cornell University. I would love to encourage you all to subscribe to their homeschool blog (click the logo above to pop over there now).

You can also follow them on Facebook .
You can download homeschooling resources here.
Of course, my favorite resource is their AllAboutBirds website which is a great tool for identifying and learning more about birds in your own neighborhood.

I would love for other families to join ours in watching your feeder birds. It is super easy and you just need to devote a few minutes a week to getting to know your feeder birds one bird at a time.
So what have you been up to this month? Join me here by commenting or leaving me a link to your blog entry.

 buckeye in autumn

Outdoor Mom’s Journal

Whether your family spends a few minutes a week outside or hours at a time, share what is going on in your world.

How Do You Join?

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 week 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….
  • I am reading…
  • I am dreaming about…
  • A photo I would like to share…


Outdoor Hour Challenge Plans for Sept 16 to March 17 @handbookofnaturestudy

You can use the free monthly newsletter along with the Handbook of Nature Study book for your nature study. Adding a membership gives you access to the Ultimate Naturalist Library’s ebooks and printablse which provides members with even more in-depth studies each month.

Read more about it!

Birds of North America Notebooking PagesBirds of the World Notebooking PagesBirds - Basic Study Pages

These are affiliate links to products I have used and love.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – December World and Winter Berries

 December World Nature Walk Outdoor Hour Challenge @handbookofnaturestudy

Outdoor Hour Challenge

December World (from the archives) or Winter Berries from the Autumn Nature Study Continues ebook.

We have reached the last official Outdoor Hour Challenge of 2016. I thought it would be a perfect time to complete one of the two suggested challenges during the next few weeks.

Snow and Winter Berries

Everyone can record their December World observations even if you don’t live where it is currently winter. I know I put snowflakes on the notebooking page but you can make a sketch of anything you want from your outdoor time and then describe your December conditions. Note: This link includes a free printable notebook page. Plus, there is a new December Words notebook page activity in the Ultimate and Journey level memberships in the printables section.

Winter Berry Hunt Activity Image
Winter Berry Hunt – This is found in the Autumn Nature Study Continues ebook found in the Ultimate and Journey level memberships.

The Winter Berry OHC is one of my favorite challenges because it makes you realize how much color there is out there in the natural world. I have started to see colorful berries everywhere I go on trees, shrubs, and other plantings around town. Use the ideas in this challenge to open your eyes up to the wonderful world of winter berries. Note: There is a notebooking page included in the Autumn Nature Study Continues ebook if you have access to that in your Member’s Library.



Outdoor Hour Challenge Winter 2016 More Nature Study WinterThe winter series of challenges will start on January 13, 2017.


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Winter Berry Hike – Fungi Too!

toyon berryWe had a chance to hike to the river this week to look for winter berries. The only ones we observed were the bright red toyon berries that lined the trail in certain spots. This is a shrub that we have studied in depth in the past and although it is not in the Handbook of Nature Study, we used the internet to discover what birds or animals eat the berries.

I found information that says that there are many birds,  coyotes and bears eat the toyon berries which help to disperse the seeds.

Here is my Toyon Berry (or Christmas Berry) entry from last year.

This hike though was all about the variety of fungus that we have emerging from the ground in our area since the rainy season has officially started.

IMG_8820So these look like Emetic Russula that my field guide says are present in all western forests. In the comments in the guide it says that they are usually regarded as poisonous and have an extremely acrid taste that would discourage you from eating them anyway. I will just enjoy their bright pops of red on the forest floor as I hike along.

Here is a glimpse into some of the other more interesting fungi we spotted as we hiked. It was actually a little overwhelming to try to see them all…it was a perfect fungi walk!

IMG_8795 IMG_8791 IMG_8790 IMG_8785 IMG_8781 IMG_8777This is my favorite…the trametes versicolor or turkey tail. Don’t you just love it?

The woodlands of our area are coming alive right now as the rains bring on the green grasses and beginnings of the early wildflower plants. As we pass the first day of winter and the days gradually get longer and longer, I feel the pull to be outdoors again even in the cold temperatures. This is actually one of the best times to be outside in our area if the sun is shining. Hats and jackets are required to keep warm but as long as you keep moving or stop only in the sunshine, it is a glorious time outside.

As this year draws to a close, I am reviewing my Nature Study Goals for 2014 and anticipating those for 2015. Stay tuned for those posts soon!

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Garden Update – Beans, Berries, and Assorted Other Edibles

We went camping in Oregon for a week and while we were gone our garden decided to spring into life. I have it all on an automatic drip system so we knew it would be nicely watered in our absence. There were some surprises for us when we got back.

Our green beans have all started climbing their poles and I am afraid that I over-planted this veggie. We love green beans and I may need to learn how to preserve them so they don’t go to waste.

The tomato decided to really grow! It looks super healthy and I can hardly wait for the fruits to appear and ripen…then it will truly feel like summer.

The squash has come alive as well. The plants have green luscious leaves and seem to like the box I chose for them this year.

My patio tomatoes look fantastic…they are from Renee’s Garden in their Container Kitchen Garden Collection.

The Pots of Gold Chard (from Renee’s Garden Container Kitchen Garden collection) looks great too and I hope it is not going to get too hot for it before we harvest. I may pick some smaller leaves and add them to some soup.

The blackberries are thick with fruit this year. We had to trim the vines back because they were beginning to take over their little space over in the front corner garden. We had lots of berry treats in Oregon and it whetted my appetite for our own blackberries that will ripen next month. Then I will have blue stained fingers most mornings as I make my round of the garden, nibbling the delicious sweet berries.

There are lots of flower seedlings in my fence garden and I will share those as they mature and bloom. I can hardly stand the wait. The sunflowers are up tall and look like they will burst open with huge flower heads any day! That is always a fun time as they all start to blossom and the bees and butterflies arrive to enjoy them too.

Is your garden growing like mine?

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Spring Garden Box Clean-Up and Planning

We had a chance to work on our garden boxes this past weekend….cleaning up the debris and tilling the soil. It is always a joy to see what is already sprouting and growing without much effort. We made some hard choices this year about which things to continue growing and which things to get rid of in each box.

Box number one is historically my box to plant and care for…I change it up every year. With the clean-up this weekend I realized that the Prairie Sunflowers are really going to fill the whole box up. I should probably thin the plants out but I will let them go one more year. They are great bird attractive plants and I have other boxes I can use for edibles.

Box number two has always been Mr. A’s box. He is a simple guy and enjoys his strawberries and dahlias. This is a no fuss kind of box. The berry plants are already growing like crazy and there are blossoms! There is one corner where all the strawberries died for some reason so we will be picking up some need seedlings next time we are at the garden nursery. He has both everbearing and June bearing plants in his box.

Box number three is Mr. B’s box. He is the herb man. This was where we made the executive decision to pull ALL the oregano from the box this year. Mr. B has lost interest in his herb garden so I am going to be using part of his box for my veggies. We left the lemon thyme and the garlic chives. There are also two small mystery plants that we will leave until we figure out what they are.

Box number four is Amanda’s box but she is off having the time of her life in Bolivia this year so I will be nurturing her box while she is gone. She has always had a cutting flower garden in her box….even after leaving home we still consider it her box. The coneflowers and daisies are looking healthy and I will be planting some zinnias and other colorful flowers to fill the box when it is time.

Garden Color

The rest of the yard is looking so spring-like. The climbing rose is dazzling yellow and there are so many promises in other parts of the garden as well. The roses are in bud, the butterfly bush and lavender are growing like crazy, the day lilies are all filling in….can’t wait for the show to begin. Something new this week- apple blossoms!

Plans for Garden Boxes – 2013
Box 1 – Prairie Sunflowers, shade tolerant herbs (dill, cilantro)
Box 2 – Add more strawberries and add stakes for dahlias.
Box 3 – Existing herbs, zucchini and green beans
Box 4 – Coneflowers, daisies, zinnias

Other Areas:
Under Birdfeeder – Morning glories
Large bed in back – Sunflowers

Deck Containers – I am receiving and reviewing from Renee’s Garden the Easy to Grow – Container Kitchen Vegetable Garden collection which includes tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, chard, and basil. Excited to see how this goes this year!

I would totally love to add a blueberry bed in a different area of the garden. The spot where my current blueberries live is just not right…they are not thriving. I am trying to convince my husband to help me add a row of blueberries as an experiment…we shall see.

How are your garden plans coming?

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Winter Garden For Wildlife Part 1

Now that the season has changed and we have cleaned up the yard for the coming season, I thought I would share a few of the ways we keep our yard as a wildlife habitat in winter. It is just a matter of knowing which plants to prune back and which ones can be left as they are.

We have learned by trial and error mostly.

The Heavenly bamboo along the front of our house is not only colorful this time of year with the leaves turning reddish and the berries ripening to a brilliant orange-red but it is a source of shelter for birds and insects. I have seen the Ruby-crowned kinglet gathering spiderwebs from these bushes. (Audubon website says of the kinglet’s nest, “Moss, grass, lichen, bark strips, twigs, rootlets, needles, and spider webs comprise its outer walls, and feathers, plant down, and hair form a soft lining.”)

We leaves some of the grasses and weeds for the birds and other animals to use as food and shelter.

They don’t look very appetizing but the birds think these are tasty little treats….blackberries left on the vine just behind our bird feeding station. The finches, sparrows, titmouse, and towhees all shelter on and under these vines. I also saw fox scat just by these vines last week so I think they might be gleaning a few berries as well (as evidenced in the scat).

The coneflowers are another favorite in the winter flower garden. I cut them way back but leave some of the seed heads for the birds to glean from.

We also have learned that some of the weeds in our yard are best left to over-winter. These mullein plants will shoot up a stalk next spring and then flower all summer. The hummingbirds and finches will use them as a steady part of their diet. We leave those in the garden.

I harvested about thirty pounds of walnuts this year for our enjoyment. I will spend many a winter evening hour cracking nuts for our family and to share with friends. Some of those friends will have feathers and fur. I leave quite a few of the nuts for the squirrels and Scrub jays to use for their winter meals. When I note that all the nuts are up off the ground, I will regularly set some out of my store cupboard in various parts of the yard. They always disappear.

Lavender along the front wall is once place I trim but not all the way back. It looks sort of wild but it does provide shelter all winter long for birds and nectar for the hummingbirds and bees. Yes, we have bees and hummingbirds in the winter who frequent this section of the garden. It amazes me every time I see the birds hovering over those small little flowers but they must be gathering some food or they wouldn’t come back. I also love leaving this section of lavender because when the sun hits those plants it produces a sweet smell that reminds me that summer will come again.

It can’t all be about the animals, birds, and insects.

I have another post that I will share in the next few weeks showing some more sheltering spots in our yard that may inspire you to try your hand at a winter garden for wildlife.

I invite you to read Winter Garden for Wildlife Part 2 – Shelter.

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Gardening for Birds – Expect to Be Dazzled By Who Comes to Visit

Finch in the Sunflowers

Our garden and our bird list is very interconnected. The birds are coming and enjoying a variety of things in our garden habitat. I learned from Angie at Petra School that it takes about twenty minutes before the birds forget that you are watching. I have tried to find a spot to sit or stand in the garden and just wait to see who will come back during that twenty minute’s time.

The results?

I can confirm that she is right on! Usually after a few minutes the jays come back and the nuthatch and the grosbeaks come fairly quickly too. But some of the birds take a good long time before they reveal their hiding places in the trees and in the shelter of the bushes we have at the edges of our yard.

It is worth the wait. I decided that this week’s garden/bird entry would be a photo essay with lots of colorful images and very few words. Enjoy!

July 12 Garden and birdbath
Day lilies and our back birdbath

The birdbaths are a frequent stopover for the neighborhood birds.

July 12 Garden and birds (3)
Our little wild patch of blackberries just behind the birdfeeding station.

The blackberry bushes are a perfect shelter for birds to rest and to wait their turn at the feeder.

July 12 Garden and birds (9)
The leaves on our sunflowers are being eating by nibbling finches.

The sunflowers and birch trees are attracting the Lesser Goldfinches…who are eating the leaves and seeds.

The Black-headed Grosbeaks and the Western Scrub Jays are in and out of the feeders all day long.This is the best image I could get this week…they are fast in and out of the feeder. They have a sweet little song as well.The Mourning Doves and California Towhees are pecking around under the feeders.The White-breasted Nuthatches, House Finches, Titmouses, and House Sparrows are always found in the seed feeders.The European Starlings and Robins are busy eating the fruits from the neighbor’s tree that hangs over the fence into our yard.The birds are making a huge mess by taking the fruits all over the yard and eating them. They leave the pits behind and they are covering our driveway. This starling will leave the pit in our neighbor’s grass and next year it may start to grow into a tree. I know this from experience.

Hummingbird in the Butterfly gardenThe Anna’s Hummingbirds are everywhere. They still come to the feeders but they also are in the trumpet vine, the roses, the bee balm, the butterfly bushes, and several of my potted plants.The neighborhood Great Horned Owl is heard once it is dark and still outside. I envision him hunting the rodents that get into my birdfeeders.The mockingbird sings all the time…almost round the clock.

Additional bird notes:
We have heard the Steller’s Jay and their “shook-shook-shook” several times in our neighborhood but we have yet to see one. This would be a new to our neighborhood bird.
We have heard the Nuttall’s Woodpecker lots of time but only once in our back tree. I need to remember to fill the suet feeder.
The Starlings come everyday now which is new for this year as well. Their buzzing sound is now a familiar backyard bird sound.
The Black-headed Grosbeaks are also a new every day bird. Their flash of color at the feeders is 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!You may be interested in reading my entry, If You Build It, They Will Come, entry that shows the butterflies that are frequently found in our yard.What are you doing to make your yard attractive to birds and butterflies?

Sage Lavender Butterfly Bush
Sage, Lavender, and Butterfly Bushes
Fruits for the Birds
Not sure what kind of tree this is but it sure is messy…the birds love it though.
Starling Eating Fruits
Starling in our neighbor’s yard with a fruit from the tree.

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Garden Color and Fragrance – Early June Delights

Daisies June 2012

My garden is full of promise…the promise of beautiful things to look at and delicious things to eat.

The daisies are filling in a big spot in the back cutting garden and we are anxious to study them as part of the Outdoor Hour Challenge later in the summer. There are coneflowers, sunflowers, and zinnias as well that have buds so stay tuned for some updates on those in a few weeks.

Star Jasmine
Some things are already smelling like heaven…the star jasmine is in full bloom and already needed a trimming back from the sidewalk. The cats lay under these plants since they make wonderful shade in the afternoon sun. Wouldn’t that be delightful?

Disneyland Roses June 2012
Last week when I was working with the window open I could smell this rose on the gentle afternoon breeze. It is a Disneyland Rose and it has been a faithful bloomer these past few years. It is loaded with pink/peach flowers. This rose is what I imagine the perfect rose fragrance would be…a signature scent.

Hydrangeas (1)
The hydrangeas are bursting open this week and the delicate color of the flowers on this particular bush is one of my favorites.

Hydrangea Nature Journal - with watercolor pencils
A few years ago, I used my watercolor pencils to capture the pastel colors of this lovely flower and then used a fine tip marker to outline it a bit. Keeping track of my favorite garden flowers in my journal is a wonderful way to pass an afternoon.

Jerusalem Sage
This is something new in the backyard this year and it is really taking off. We added this Jerusalem Sage to a spot that gets super hot and dry in the afternoons up against the house. So far it is thriving…I did put it on the drip system until it is established and then I think I can back off with the water. The texture of the leaves is soft and fuzzy which adds a nice layer of interest to this side of the garden.

Purple Butterfly Bush
The front yard has been joined by the blooming purple butterfly bush! The hummingbirds have been seen enjoying this particular bush…actually fighting over it in the early evening hours. My cat friend Cocoa is like my garden shadow these days. She seems to pop up wherever I go. You can see my sage growing in two spots in the background of this photo. It is just starting to bloom.

Red Hot Pokers June 2012
Another favorite of the hummingbirds is the Red Hot Poker plant. This is Mr. A’s favorite plant in the garden and he has been eagerly waiting for it to bloom. It looks good this year and I may end up dividing up the plant in the late fall to fill in a few spaces in the front garden.

Apples - June 2012
We have started to see quite a bit of growth in our backyard fruit. The apples are looking like apples! Not too many apples on the limbs but enough for each of us to enjoy a crisp apple come the end of the summer.

Someone asked in a comment a few weeks ago whether we had any lawn left in our yard. The answer is yes and you can see it in this photo. We have a small plot of grass left in the backyard, mostly for the dog to enjoy. We use it as her ball throwing spot and she loves to lay in the shady grass on the hot afternoons. Since it gets so hot here and there is very little rain during the summer months, we do have to water this part of the yard. I have it set on a timer and it waters five minutes a day and so far that is enough to keep it green. (I need to write a post showing how we have cut our water usage to a fraction of what it was two years ago and still enjoy a lush green garden.)

Figs on the Tree
Of course the figs are loaded as usual….this is not my favorite fruit but we eat a bit and then leave the rest for the birds and other critters. We have tried several times to eliminate this tree but every time we cut it down it comes back full and loaded with fruit within a year.

Blackberries - Early June
I do LOVE blackberries and we have our little patch just loaded with blossoms right now. This is exciting and it really seems like summer now that the berries are maturing. My blueberries are still all plant and no signs of blossoms or berries. I hope to get a bit of fruit from them this year. We shall see.

We have rain today so the garden is getting well watered but tomorrow we are going to see the end of the rain and be back to our warm temperatures. I am grateful for the rain but I am ready for the summer heat.

The June (Ocean Beach) edition of the Outdoor Hour Challenge Newsletter has published. You must be subscribed to the blog in order to receive the download link. It is a beautiful and informative edition that I know you are going to want to have in your collection. You can subscribe on the sidebar of my blog.

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