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Spring Birds and Blue Skies

We had a flock of Cedar Waxwings come through yesterday and I was able to capture some pretty images of them up in the trees. They don’t ever stay long but I love to watch them…..we usually hear them before we spy them up in the trees. They have such a distinct sound.

So enjoy a couple of images of my friends the Cedar Waxwings.

They came on a Project Feederwatch day when I was observing the feeders. We have had fewer birds but more of a variety now that the season is changing. I say bring on the springtime weather!

The trees all continue to pop out with colors and this finch was spotted up in the tree just singing away.

What a great time of year to observe some birds and record the experiences in your nature journal.

So what birds have you seen in your yard this week?

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Robin Nature Study – Where Have They Gone?

Robin nature journal
We have studied Robins in the past.

This week’s Outdoor Hour Challenge was to do a robin nature study…but where were the robins? Just a few weeks ago we counted six for our Project FeederWatch count. We saw forty-two during the Great Backyard Bird Count this year in February. This week….zero. We have been vigilant about looking but they are gone from our neighborhood now. So what to do?

We were out looking for any birds this morning and we were surprised to see that our neighbor’s trees were full of Cedar Waxwings! We have learned that they visit us on their way south and then again northwards. The interesting thing, according to our family’s records, we usually see the big flock come through during the GBCC in February. We did not see them this year at all until now. What does that mean? Not sure but it will be interesting to see what happens next year.

Would you like to see our Cedar Waxwings?

Cedar Waxwings in the Trees

They filled three trees and were munching on the “nuts” from the pistache tree that have lasted all winter…just waiting for them to come and polish them off before the next growing season. What a wonderful provider they have!

Cedar Waxwings - In Tree 1

Yes, we had very gray skies this morning but it wasn’t very cold. They sat resting and eating for quite some time and I was able to get up close to take a few colorful photos of them as they sat in the tree. Don’t you just love their yellow-tipped tails? I could really hear them making their very unique buzzing sound. Do you want to hear? Here is a link to AllAboutBirds and you can click over and hear what I heard…click the “high pitched hissy whistle” and that is exactly it.

Cedar Waxwings in Flight

Then in a blink of an eye, they were off again. I was amazed at just how fast they flew away in a flock. What a great experience we had this morning! I am forever grateful for the Outdoor Hour Challenges. I know that if I had not started this adventure with all of you that I would have missed out on so many deeply memorable times with my family.

It spurs me on to get outside and this month I have enjoyed joining in with Debi at Go Explore Nature and her #GetOutside project…a photo scavenger hunt. This simple project has already brought such joy to our family. It has encouraged us to think about how we can incorporate outdoor time each day in the month of April. I hope you will consider jumping in with us and take a few minutes to read more about the way it works on her blog. You can see all my entries in my Flickr Set: April GetOutside Project.

April GetOutside Project

Another great week of nature study with my teenage sons.

More Nature Study Book 3 Button
Don’t forget to share your April Outdoor Hour Challenge blog entries with the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival.You can submit entries directly to me if needed:

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GBBC and Birdzilla and Our Enthusiasm

Birds flying
Our “squirrel-proof” birdfeeder is very popular with the finches and sparrows.

The excitement for the Great Backyard Bird Count mounted last week all over the blogging world, especially among homeschoolers. I could feel it here at the Handbook of Nature Study as so many families prepared to participate. Birdzilla was the talk of the bird blogs….check it out for your state.

Little bird big seed
Black oil sunflower seeds are the seed of choice at our feeders. You can read some more tips HERE.

Our family has been a long time fan of the GBBC but the enthusiasm I felt became a little contagious as the boys helped me count birds most of Friday afternoon from our windows, watching our feeders and trees. Much to our surprise, the day before it had snowed so Friday was cold and there were patches of snow on the ground. The birds didn’t seem to mind.

Friday’s Count:
American robins – 5
Mourning doves – 2
Acorn woodpeckers – 2 (tapping on the side of our house!)
Nuttall’s woodpecker – 1
Norther flicker – 1 (he has become a regular visitor to our back grass)
Oak titmouse – 1
White-breasted nuthatch – 1
Spotted towhee – 5
California towhee – 2
White-crowned sparrow – 14
Dark-eyed junco – 15
House finch – 5
House sparrow – 5
Cedar waxwing – 57

Cedar Waxwings 2 18 11
Cedar Waxwings

Yes, we saw fifty-seven cedar waxwings and it was the spot of the day. Here is the story. We were about to finish up our counting and I said to one of my boys that I was disappointed that we didn’t see any cedar waxwings. We changed windows for a last look and honestly….a flock flew into the tree in our neighbor’s yard at that very moment. It was amazing. I truly would have been satisfied to have seen the flicker again but the cedar waxwings made the whole thing perfect.

American Robin in the Snow

We woke to snow on the ground again on Saturday and I was up early looking out the windows. The bird spotting of the day was to see the robins sitting in the snow-filled tree outside our window.There were a dozen of them sitting in the frozen morning world, quiet and still.

CA Tohwee on branch
California Towhee

The snow melted quickly and we had another bird filled day. We counted at our feeders again but when we went on our afternoon walk we heard and then spotted a red-tailed hawk flying high over our heads. I felt like he appeared just for us. Thanks Mr. Red-Tail.

Scrub jay in the feeder

The only other bird we added to our list for Saturday was the Western Scrub Jay. He can be a very aggressive bird but isn’t he pretty in the morning sunshine? The Western Scrub Jay’s brilliant color almost makes up for not having any cardinals in our part of the world. Almost. The rest of the numbers were higher for most of our regular visitors on Saturday since the weather was actually quite nice by the afternoon hours.

GBBC buttonIt is not too late to join in the fun and you can spend as little as fifteen minutes looking for birds if that is all you can spare. Read more about the Great Backyard Bird Count and share your list with the Outdoor Hour Challenge too!

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Birds in Our November World

Can you believe it is almost December? I thought I could fit in another November World post or two before the end of the month. It is surprising what you will see if keep your eyes open!

It has been really cold the last week or so and when I opened my blinds early in the morning a few days ago, this is what I saw at my birdfeeder.

11 24 10 Hummingbird in the feeder

Mr. Hummingbird.

We still have hummingbirds in our yard although the temperatures have been in the low 30s and the world has been frozen. Another day I saw some hummingbirds in my remaining lavender blooms in the front yard. One morning the feeder was frozen so I had to bring it in and defrost it and refill it with more liquid. Two hummingbirds come regularly and sit and feed for long periods of time and then they fly off. I am not sure if they are the same birds over and over or whether they are different birds migrating. So many questions….

11 24 10 Northern Flicker eating 1
Later in the day, this Northern Flicker (red shafted) caught my son’s attention and he had to run in and get me to see it. Over the years Mr. A has become a great spotter of birds and I think it is because we have taken the time, one bird at a time, to get to know them and their habits.

11 24 10 birds The Whole Gang
The Chinese pistache tree in our front yard has little red-orange nuts on it this time of year. The local birds come here quite frequently and there seems to be quite a few migratory birds that stop by once or twice a year to enjoy the nuts. Here is a whole gang of different birds in the tree at one time.

11 24 10 birds Cedar Waxwing
One of my favorite colorful birds was visiting, the Cedar Waxwing.

11 24 10 birds American Robin
Mr American Robin was there too making his presence known.

11 24 10 Western bluebird in the Pistache Tree
And don’t forget Mr. Western bluebird. I see these just about every day now and I love them. We are thinking of finding a place to put a bluebird house for them to nest in but we need to do some more research about size and location.

November World birds seem to cheer even the coldest day up!

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Some Migratory Visitors: Cedar Waxwings

Cedar Waxwings: Seven on a Branch
We were visited by a migrating flock of Cedar waxwings this morning. We had a break in our rainstorm long enough for these beautiful birds to take a rest in the tree outside our window.

Cedar Waxwings: Preening
They were busy soaking in the sunshine and fluffing their wings and feathers.

Cedar Waxwings: Yellow tips on the tail
Can you see the yellow tips to their tails?

Cedar Waxwings: Crests and yellow bellies
Their bellies are a softer yellow and they have lovely crests of feathers on their heads.

Cedar Waxwings: Chillin in the Tree
But my favorite parts of all are their black masks and beaks.

These birds are not discussed in the Handbook of Nature Study, but we read over the section on beaks (Lesson 5) and migration (between Lesson 3 and 4) Then we looked Cedar waxwings up at and in our field guide.

After looking at the migratory map in the back of our Peterson Field Guide, we realize that these little birds travel all the way back up to Canada to breed. Truly amazing when you think about it for a minute.

What a great gift this morning to have these visitors to observe and enjoy.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

In case you are wondering, I took these photos with my old point and shoot through the window….how about that? I was really happy with how great they turned out. 🙂