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Discover Nature at Sundown

Nature Walk at Sundown @handbookofnaturestudy

Handbook of Nature Study

Nature Book Club – June

Nature Hike – At Sundown!

Welcome to the latest edition of the Nature Book Club link-up! This month the theme is NATURE HIKE and I’m going to share my favorite summer time nature hike idea that happens at sundown! It’s a truly magical time of the day to be out on the trail or just in your own backyard watching, listening, and experiencing this special time of day. You’ll find my nature book selection below, Discover Nature at Sundown, along with a fantastic idea for taking a nature walk in the evenings.

Nature Book Club Nature Hike

Take a Nature Hike at Sundown

Discover Nature at Sundown by Elizabeth P. Lawlor is a book that our family has used for many years. When my children were younger, we would pull it off the shelf every summer to use as a reference and as a source of nature study ideas. I even wrote an entire ebook that features Discover Nature at Sundown and its topics, which you can find referenced below (Summer Series of Outdoor Hour Challenges).

Discover Nature at Sundown

(Note there are affiliate links in this post)

Here are some of the main topics in this book: owls, frogs, moths, fireflies, bats, opossums, raccoons, and skunks. There’s a little something for everyone’s taste! Dissect an owl pellet, try to entice moths to your nature hike, chase a firefly, listen for crickets, or hunt for traces of raccoons and opossums.  My strategy was always to complete an entire in-depth study from this book each summer. Over time, your family will have covered a lot of interesting topics in a relaxed and enjoyable way.

Discover nature at sundown

For those of you that keep nature journals, you’ll be happy to note that the illustrations and charts are all very well done and our family would often copy them into our nature journals for future reference. The black and white line drawings are simple enough to inspire even the most reluctant nature journaler.

Discover nature at sundown

The ideas in this book will help you use your senses during your nature study to learn more about each of the topics. These skills are so useful in all scientific study but especially so for nature study. Plus, using all your senses is lots of fun! The book will help you with ideas for honing these skills and explain how we can enhance our natural senses.

5 senses sunset walk

5 Senses at Sunset Nature Walk – A Fun Way to Work on Using Our Senses

Summer evenings are a cooler time of day for getting outside with your children. The after dinner hours are still light enough that taking a nature walk is a possibility. We often would go on a dinner picnic at a lake and then take a long walk in the evening air. There would still be plenty of things to observe, including a delightful sunset, the chirping of crickets, the song of the robin, the breeze in the treetops, and the buzz of mosquitoes.

Your nature walk doesn’t need to be a long one and you can adjust the time of day and length to fit your particular family. For a first outing, plan on 15-20 minutes and then see how it goes. If you can encourage your children to walk silently, even for just a minute, they are going to get more out of the experience. As your children are able, try to spend longer periods of silence as you listen for any signs of life during your outdoor time.


The notebook page is also available in the Ultimate and Journey level memberships here on the Handbook of Nature Study. Log into your account and look for it in the Misc. Topics section.

Printables for Members Button

You can click the link above to see all of the printables available in the Ultimate and Journey level memberships.

Links You May Find Helpful:

Outdoor Hour Challenge Summer Using Your Senses

You can click over to see if the Summer Nature Study – Using Your Senses Ebook is something your family would benefit from using this summer or in the future. It includes specific nature study ideas and links for all of the topics in the Discover Nature at Sundown ebook and will help you work on using your senses on every nature walk.

Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy

You can find this ebook in the Ultimate Naturalist Library membership along with 20 other nature study ebooks that feature nature study ideas for all seasons of the year. You can click the button above to read more about the benefits of a membership here on the Handbook of Nature Study.

Handbook of Nature Study Subscribe Now 2

Make sure to subscribe to my blog to receive weekly nature study ideas right in your email inbox.



nature book club main graphic

Note: This post is part of a monthly series of posts I’m writing as part of a fantastic group of nature loving women who I’m linking up with on the 20th of each month. There’s a topic of the month and we’ll all share a book and activity that goes along with that theme.  You can use the links at the bottom of this post to see all of our books/activities. Use the linky tool below to share your own nature walk related links this month too.

Check out these other links for more nature walk ideas from Nature Book Club Co-Hosts!



Past Month’s Themes:

Nature Book Club Nature Hike

Link Up Guidelines

    • Choose an engaging nature book, do a craft or activity, and add your post to our monthly link up.
    • The link up party goes live at 9:00 a.m. EST on the 20th of each month and stays open until the last day of the month. Hurry to add your links!
    • You can link up to 3 posts. Please do not link up advertising posts, advertise other link up parties, your store, or non-related blog posts. They will be removed.
    • By linking up with us, you agree for us to share your images and give you credit of course if we feature posts.


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Nighttime Critters – Our List from the July Newsletter

Summer evenings outdoors….with our chiminea.

We have been working on our July Newsletter Nighttime Critter Challenge all month. I wanted to post a little of what we are observing and learning to give you an idea of how you can pick a few things from your area to study in the evening hours.  I will update our list after the end of the month with any new finds.

Our most predominant nighttime critters of interest are the Brown bats that come every single night to fly in our backyard. I wrote about them back in May as part of mammal study.  For the July newsletter challenge for Nighttime Critters, I decided to share a few of our other nighttime visitors of interest. This study was sort of on-going because when the weather is hot, we tend to drag sleeping bags out to the back deck to sleep in the cool night air. We all lay awake and listen and watch as the nighttime settles in around us.

Shooting stars, satellites zipping across the sky, the moon, the swaying trees in the breeze, and the night sounds all entertain us as we wait for sleep to come.

Great Horned Owl Nature Journal
Fill In The Circle and Fill In With Color Example – Poor owl sketch…he has such a crooked beak.

One of the things that we have discovered sleeping outside on hot summer nights is that we have quite a few great horned owls in our neighborhood. We can hear them calling back and forth right after the sun goes down and then again at around 5 AM. Here is a link to and if you click the sound button, you will hear the two types of sounds we hear from our owls: Great Horned Owls. We have yet to actually see them but they are out there…no doubt about it.

We also are serenaded by crickets when the temperatures get just right. It is amazing how you don’t hear any crickets and then all of a sudden it is as if someone turned on a cricket soundtrack and they all chirp at the same time. The lesson in the Handbook of Nature Study gives a great illustration showing the parts of the cricket and an excellent explanation of how he “sings”. (Lesson 82)

 “The wing covers are much shorter than the abdomen and beneath them are vestiges of wings, which are never used. The male has larger wing covers than the female, and they are veined in a peculiar scroll pattern. This veining seems to be a framework for the purpose of making a sounding board of the wing membrane, by stretching it out as a drumhead is stretched.” Handbook of Nature Study.

Turn in your copy of the Handbook of Nature Study to read much more in the lesson explaining this interesting creature.There is such a simple explanation of the mechanics of the crickets chirping that it is perfect for sharing with younger children. The crickets and the frogs compete in our neighborhood for the winner of the “background” noise. It seems as if one or the other is singing their little hearts out.

We smell skunks quite a few nights a week. Sleeping outside we hear rustling in the garden and I think it is the skunk. I know they dig around the base of the birdfeeder outside our window but over the years I have decided that if he leaves me alone, I will leave him alone. Here is another entry where I talk about our nighttime visitors.

Nighttime Critter LIst - Outdoor Hour Challenge
List from the July Newsletter. I cut it out and taped it inside my nature journal.

One last nighttime critter we have had around the neighborhood is the raccoon. Our neighbor has been sharing how they keep forgetting to bring in the dog’s food dish at night and the raccoon has decided that it makes a easy snack taken just outside their patio door. We have had our share of raccoons in the yard over the years but we haven’t seen any lately. Here is an entry sharing one raccoon experience: Raccoon Visitor.

Well that gives you a taste of what we have around here in the evenings. I just thought of something else I need to put on my list….moths.

I look forward to reading about your nighttime critters. Don’t forget to post your entry and then submit it to the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival before 7/30/11 for a chance in the July Newsletter giveaway!

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

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OHC Summer Series #12: Raccoons and Skunks

Summer Series #12
Raccoons and Skunks

Train Your Senses

  • Sight: Observe any mammal up close: fur, teeth, ears, eyes, paws. Use a flashlight to see if you can see eye-shine in the dark.
  • Smell: Close your eyes and smell the night air. Can you smell a trace of skunk?
  • Touch: Feel different kinds of mammal’s fur and compare: soft, bristly, thick, coarse, smooth.
  • Hearing: Listen closely to hear any mammals in the dark: rustling in the leaves, scratching, barking, howling, sniffing, eating.

Inside Preparation Time:
1. Read pages 245 to 250 (Lessons 60 and 61) in the Handbook of Nature Study for information about skunks and raccoons. Highlight some points that may be helpful when you have a chance to observe a skunk or raccoon in person. You can also use the links in the follow-up section for additional resources for these two mammals.

Link to tracks to look for: raccoon and striped skunk.
2. Read in Discover Nature at Sundown pages 190-209 and 212-226. Use the territory maps to discover what kind of skunks you may have in your area. Also you can use the exploration ideas for activities to learn more about skunks and raccoons.

Outdoor Hour Time:
This week you can spend fifteen minutes outdoors at any time of the day if you are interested in looking for signs of mammals. In the evening you may be able to smell the fragrance of a skunk. If you are out during the day, you can look for mammal tracks, holes, scratches on tree trunks, scat, hollows in the trunk of a tree, burrow, holes in the lawn.

Remember that one of the main aims of this series of challenge is to train your senses. You may not find a raccoon or skunk to observe up close but you can use all your senses to learn more about your own backyard. Keep the suggestions above in mind as you spend your fifteen minutes outdoors for this challenge.

Follow-Up Activity:
You can use the provided raccoon notebook page or the skunk notebook page from the Summer Series ebook.

You can read these previous Outdoor Hour Challenges for additional resources for these two mammals:
Outdoor Hour Challenge #50 Skunks and Badgers
Outdoor Hour Challenge #52 Raccoons

If you would like all the Summer Series Challenges in one place, I have an ebook gathered for you to purchase for your convenience. Here is a link to a complete description:
Summer Series of Outdoor Hour Challenges
Summer 2010 Nature Study Final

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy

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Our Moth Study: Summer 2010

Summer Series 2010 Outdoor Hour Challenge for Fireflies and Moths

Since we do not have fireflies in our part of the world, this will be the second time we have studied moths using the Outdoor Hour Challenges. During the summer of 2008 we completed a moth study while on our camping trip. Moths seem to be one of those creatures that we don’t pay too much attention to as we go about our regular business.

The Discover Nature At Sundown book gave us some really good ways to tell moths and butterflies apart, along with wonderful illustrations of the parts of a moth. We are going to continue our study of moths as we have subjects come our way.

Here are a few moths we have seen in the past.

moth 2
Forget me not moth

Moth we saw on a trip to Oregon that I would love to know the name of if anyone out there has it. Hint, hint.

We have been watching for moths in our garden in the evenings but the best place to observe them is actually in the house. I many times come into the kitchen in the morning and find a few moths clinging to the bottom of the nightlight. I scoop them up and take them back outside.

We did find some signs of spiders in the garden during the day this week. There has been a return of the webs on our crepe myrtle. I was able to capture a few in photos and even one photo of the spider that I think must be making the webs. Any ideas would be appreciated.

Web on Crepe Myrtle (3)

Web on Crepe Myrtle (2)

Web on Crepe Myrtle (5)
See the spider inside the web? These are fantastic webs to look at and they are complex as well as beautiful.

So much for a firefly and moth study….we never feel defeated though. Our advance preparation seems to always pay off in one way or another. I am confident that we will someday be in a position to study fireflies up close and personal.


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OHC Summer Series #8 Moths and Fireflies

Outdoor Hour Challenge
Summer Series #8 Moths and Fireflies

Train Your Senses

  • Sight: In the evenings, look for moths around outdoor lights. Look for the feathery antennae, the wings, and the eyes of the moth. Look for fireflies if they live in your area, noting their flight patterns and their light flashes.
  • Touch: If you have the opportunity, carefully feel the wings of a moth.

Inside Preparation Work:
1. Read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 367 to 369 (Lesson 90) for fireflies and pages 310 to 329 (Lessons 72-76) for information about moths.
2. Read in Discover Nature at Sundown pages 93 to 114 for lots of wonderful information and suggestions for activities to study your local moths. Also, read pages 116 to 127 to learn more about fireflies and suggestions for their study.

Moth on a Yellow Wildflower
Wild Forget Me Not moth– day flying moth

Outdoor Hour Time:

“After the outdoor observations have been made, collect some of these beetles in the evening with a sweep net; place them under a glass jar or tumbler, so that their light can be studied at close range.” Handbook of Nature Study, page 368

If you live in an area that has fireflies, plan on taking your fifteen minutes of outdoor time this week in the evening hours.

Some suggestions for studying fireflies:

  • Where do the fireflies gather? Field, meadow, stream, woods, over lawns?
  • Are they up high near the treetops or low to the ground?
  • Describe their flight pattern. Is it straight and fast, slow and curving?
  • Is there a pattern to the light flashing? What color are the flashes?

2. Looking for moths to observe will mean another evening time study. Turn on a light outside or use a flashlight or lantern. Most moths are attracted to light so you should have some success if you are patient. Make sure to look on walls and plants near the light for moths. Moths are also night flower pollinators so look in your garden as well.

Moth on a Corn Lily
Here is a website for further tips: How to Start Mothing.
You can collect a few moths in a jar and look at them with a hand lens before releasing them.

Follow-Up Activity:

The Handbook of Nature Study suggests making watercolor drawings of moths. If you have a real life specimen it will be a great way to encourage close observation. You can also use reference photos for moths you observed in your Outdoor Hour Time (do a quick Google image search). If you have a real-life specimen of a firefly, use the suggestions in the Handbook of Nature Study to examine your firefly and then sketch it in your nature journal. You can use the notebook pages and coloring pages provided in the ebook for the moth and the firefly or your own blank journal.

If you would like all the Summer Series Challenges in one place, I have an ebook gathered for you to purchase for your convenience. Here is a link to a complete description:
Summer Series of Outdoor Hour Challenges
Summer 2010 Nature Study Final

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy

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Outdoor Hour Challenge Summer Series #6 Frog Nature Study

“The frog is a powerful jumper and has a slippery body. Its eggs are laid in masses of jelly at the bottom of ponds. The frog may be studied in its native situation by the pupils or it may be brought to the school and placed in an aquarium…”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 183

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Summer Series #6 Frogs

Train Your Senses

  • Sight: Observe the development of a tadpole to a frog. Visit a pond or lake and sit quietly while watching for frogs. Look for eggs clusters or strands in the vegetation along the shallow edges of ponds or lakes.
  • Touch: Hold a frog and use your sense of touch to examine the frog. Is the frog easy to hold? Remember to wash your hands afterward.
  • Hearing: In the evening, listen for sounds of frogs and toads. Can you distinguish different calls?

Inside Preparation Work:
1. Read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 180 to 186 (The Frog, Lesson 47). You can listen to frog calls HERE and HERE.

2. Read in Discover Nature at Sundown pages 68 to 92. This thorough section explains the complete frog life cycle, gives suggestions for finding frog habitats, frog calls to listen for, and suggestions for a tadpole study.


Outdoor Hour Time:
Spend 15 minutes looking for frog eggs, tadpoles, or frogs at a local pond or lake. Use the suggestions from the box above to use your senses in your exploration. If you are able, collect a few tadpoles to put into an aquarium for a period of time to watch the development of the tadpoles into frogs. See this website for more information: How to Raise Tadpoles.

Suggested observation activities:

  • Describe the colors and markings on the frog.
  • Describe the eyes and mouth of the frog.
  • Compare its “hands and feet”.
  • What sound does the frog make?
  • Is the frog a good swimmer?
  • Measure how far your frog can jump.

If you do not have access to tadpoles or frogs, take your fifteen minutes outdoors at sundown and see what you can find that interests your child. Continue your previous challenge activities or follow the lead of your child and see what adventures you can have in the twilight. (Suggestion: Don’t turn on a light and don’t take a flashlight.)

Follow-Up Activity:
If your child is interested, record sketches of the stages of a frog’s development. If you have the Summer Series ebook, you can use the notebook pages and coloring page included to record your frog studies. You can use a blank sketchbook page to record your frog studies. Draw you tadpole’s growth over time. Sketch frogs seen as the summer progresses.

If you would like all the Summer Series Challenges in one place, I have an ebook gathered for you to purchase for your convenience. Here is a link to a complete description:
Summer Series of Outdoor Hour Challenges
Summer 2010 Nature Study Final

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OHC Summer Series #5 Owls

Outdoor Hour Challenge
Summer Series #5 Owls

Train Your Senses

  • Sight: Look for signs of owls: nesting sites, owl pellets. Observe the owl’s eyes, ears, beak, feathers, claws. Keep your eyes out for birds all summer and try to study at least one bird for your nature journal.
  • Hearing: Listen for the screech and hoot of owls. See if you can hear an owl snap its beak. Listen for other bird’s songs.
  • Touch: Feel the feathers of an owl or other bird if you get a chance at a museum or zoo.

Inside Preparation Work:
1. Read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 100 to 103 (Screech Owl, Lesson 26). Make note of any interesting facts as you read for future reference. Listen to the owl’s song on Western Screech Owl and Eastern Screech Owl.

2. Read in Discover Nature at Sundown pages 40 to 65 (reference to evolution). This section on owls is packed with interesting information, maps, and instructions for additional activities. Pages 59 to 63 outline a study using regurgitated owl pellets that you dissect to discover what the owl has eaten. (Please note this is an affiliate link to

Owl Pellets for a dissection activity.


Outdoor Hour Time:
Spend your 10-15 minutes of outdoor time this week looking and listening for birds. Try some birding at different times of day and if you are in an area that has owls, plan on spending some time outdoors listening and watching for these magnificent birds. Use to identify any owl songs you hear, either hoots or screeches. Also, if in the course of your week you find another bird that you are interested in learning more about, please take a few minutes to do some observations of that bird as well.

Remember that we are trying to learn to use more of our sense in our nature study and keep the suggestions above in mind when you are outside at any time this week. Birds can be seen just about anywhere: bird feeder, birdbath, ponds, parks, beaches, in trees, flying over your house, and places that you go each day. Although the focus this week is to learn a little more about owls, you can show interest in any bird that you come across this week.

Follow-Up Activity:
Complete the owl pellet dissection if you have collected or purchased one for this challenge. Follow the directions that come with your pellet and record your findings in your nature journal.

Here is a free online chart of bones you might find in a pellet and some additional free instructions. You can watch a virtual owl pellet dissection HERE.

Free set of owl notebook pages and dissection notebook page There are two notebook pages provided with the ebook, one for the owl and one for any bird you decide to study. You can also record your observations and thoughts in your blank nature journal if you wish.

This owl challenge is found in this ebook here on the Handbook of Nature Study website. You can find it in the Ultimate Naturalist Library membership.
Summer 2010 Nature Study FinalUltimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy


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OHC Summer Series #1: Mosquitoes and World of Smell


Outdoor Hour Challenge Summer Mosquito Nature Study

Outdoor Hour Challenges

Summer Series #1 Mosquitoes and World of Smell

Train Your Senses

  • Sight: Begin to learn how long it takes for your eyes to adjust as the evening gets darker. Use your sense of sight to observe mosquitoes or mosquito larvae. Can you observe any birds or bats eating mosquitoes?
  • Smell: Sit quietly in your yard, perhaps at different times of day, observing any smells of summer that you can recognize. Can you smell more at night when your other senses are not as useful? Can you smell more on a damp night or a dry night? Does a certain smell bring back a memory?
  • Hearing: Can you hear any mosquitoes or other insects buzzing?

Inside Preparation Work:
1. Read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 411-415 on mosquitoes. Pay special attention to page 414 where there is a list of places that mosquito larvae can be found. Read through Lesson 105 to equip yourself for your mosquito study.
2. Read in Discover Nature at Sundown pages 14-26. This section will give you some general information about how humans and other living creatures use their sense of smell. We will study several of these living things as part of this series of challenge: moths, evening primroses, mosquitoes, frogs, and bats.

Outdoor Hour Time:
1. This week spend your 15 minutes outdoors at sundown. As you start your Summer Series of Challenges, try to establish a routine of going outdoors in the evening to spend some time observing your backyard or neighborhood as the light fades. Use the suggests above to use your senses during your outdoor time. After reading in Discover Nature At Sundown, you will have some ideas for night-blooming flowers to look for and to smell. Also the book suggests observing sounds on a damp night and a dry night and comparing your results.

2. Also, as part of this challenge, you can try to collect some live mosquito larvae. Here are some instructions:

  • Look in a pond, along a stream, in a rain barrel or any where else you can find some standing water.
  • Collect a jar full of water to bring home to observe. Scoop the water rapidly and hopefully you will get some larvae or pupae.
  • The Handbook of Nature Study suggests putting the jar on your desk to observe the “wigglers”. Use the suggestions from Lesson 105 to study your mosquitoes. Here is a link to a webpage that has more information about mosquitoes: How Stuff Works: Mosquitoes

Follow-Up Activity:
1. There is a notebook activity included with this challenge is to keep track of all the smells of summer that you find over the next few weeks. As a new smell comes to your attention, make sure to write it down in your journal. There is set of free mosquito notebook pages available over on

2. If you were successful in collecting and then observing mosquito larvae, record your thoughts in your nature journal or on the notebook page provided in the Summer Series ebook. If you did not find any mosquito larvae, you can record the things you learned about mosquitoes instead.

If you would like all the Summer Series Challenges in one place, I have an ebook gathered for you to purchase for your convenience. Here is a link to a complete description:
Summer Series of Outdoor Hour Challenges
Summer 2010 Nature Study Final

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy