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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Goose and Duck Study


Outdoor Hour Challenge

Goose Study

From the Archives and the Autumn 2010 ebook


Here we go with the challenges that encourage you to create a Venn Diagram for comparison. This week’s challenge guides you through a study of the goose using the Handbook of Nature Study and then you will compare it to a duck.

See the entry from earlier this month showing how to use a Venn Diagram. (make this a link later)

If you’re using the ebook, there are notebook pages for a goose study and a more generic autumn bird study just in case you don’t have a goose or duck to observe in real life.

For more bird related nature study ideas, you can click over to view my page devoted to all things having to do with birds: Outdoor Hour Challenges for Birds plus other activities.

Go look for some birds!

Learning About Birds 3D cover

If you would like to have a complete plan for studying birds using the Handbook of Nature Study, you can take a look at my Learning About Birds ebook.

Learning About Birds ebook Bird List @handbookofnaturestudy

If you don’t have a membership yet, I am offering a $5 off discount code that will be good towards your Ultimate Naturalist membership.

Discount Code: BIRDLOVER5

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Ten Images I Should Have Posted On The Blog

I post lots of photos on this blog of our adventures, gardening, and nature study. You can only imagine how many images I don’t share….perhaps thousands (30-40 a week adds up especially when you add in longer trips). I decided to share ten of those images that didn’t make the blog for your viewing enjoyment.

Yellowstone Color

#1 This was from an amazing day at Yellowstone…totally unplanned and we were on half-speed since both my boys were really sick with some sort of sinus cold. We had planned a glorious day of hiking at Teton National Park, but since they were sick we altered plans and opted to drive the short distance up to Yellowstone and take a leisurely day and let things happen. Sometimes you just need to be flexible and this was one of those times. It was a great day with some great images… this was the same day we saw the grizzly bear and cubs driving back from Yellowstone to Jackson.
Roosevelt Elk
#2 Roosevelt Elk in Northern California are such majestic animals…very powerful. This photo reminds me of a great camping trip full of boy stuff, including lighthouses, long deserted beaches, crazy long hikes in the redwoods, and roasting monster size marshmallows over the campfire.
Hiking with Boys
#3 The real story of hiking with boys is shown in this photo. How do they always find something to climb on, over, or through? This gate leads to a fantastic little spot that we discovered this year and have been back in just about every season, including January with about four feet of snow.
Yellowstone Wildflowers
#4 There is not nearly enough time and space to share all my wildflower photos with you on this blog. These are along the roadside inside Yellowstone National Park. Honestly, if I didn’t always have boys waiting for me I could get stuck on just taking photos of flowers.

Prepare yourself for a different sort of image….

Dead Salmon Head - Fall 2011
#5 Yep, this is one of my boys’ favorite images of all 2011. They spent quite some time posing this salmon head for a photo. Mr. A had his camera phone out and was snapping away before I even took any images. Gross but sort of cool when you examine it….I think it looks like a fossil. Later they found a really funny looking dead fish but I will spare you the images.
Mallard Duck - Tahoe
#6 You must click over to Flickr and look at this one really big…the texture of the feathers is awesome. Do you think I will ever learn to identify more kinds of ducks. Mallards are the only ones I can name for sure…something to work on in 2012.

Brussel Sprouts at the Farmers Market

#7 I planned on writing a post that included this image and sharing how much I HATE brussel sprouts although they are really quite interesting to look at. Who likes brussel sprouts anyway?
Love this Combo of Trees and Flowers
#8 This is a combo I am thinking about for my yard. Isn’t it pretty? Love the white of the birch and the yellow of the yarrow together.
Mourning Dove on the Utility Wire
#9 My daily friend who visits our feeder. There is a pair that sits on the utility wire across from our house and they make the most amazing sound when they fly….mourning doves are a great bird.
Barb Birdwatching
#10 This is what my family sees me doing a lot….gazing out the window at a variety of things, mostly birds.
If you would like to see my Flickr set with my favorite images from the blog from 2011…here you go:

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Our Mallard Duck Study – Unexpected Place and Time

We have been on the lookout for an opportunity to study ducks this month as part of the Outdoor Hour Challenge newsletter suggestions for August. Our local pond is usually a good spot but we cruised by there earlier in the month only to discover that there were in fact no ducks on the pond right now, only geese. We were a little discouraged and trying to brainstorm another pond in the area to visit. As if they knew we were looking for some ducks to observe, a small group found us while we were out on a near-by lake having some fun with our boat.

Ducks at the Lake 1

We were out on the lake taking a break from our water sports activities (wakeboarding for Mr. A and water-skiing for the Dad) when a mama and some juvenile mallard ducks came up to visit. There were six smaller ducks that we are assuming were the babies of the female in the group. The water was very clear and we could easily watch them use their specially designed feet to paddle around in the water. We noted that the little ducks had fluffy feathers on their backs and were not as smooth yet as the adult female in the group. We observed the flat long beak that they were dipping into the water.

Ducks at the Lake 2

I am pretty sure they were inquiring to see if we had any crumbs or goodies to share with them. They were very bold and came right up to the side of the boat…not really quacking but making a sort of peeping/squeaking sound. We didn’t see any males out on the water. We did read later that it is the females that incubate the eggs and take care of hatchlings so this fits in with our observations.

Ducks at the Lake 3
Here is what the AllAboutBirds website says about the female mallard (love the word dabbling):

  • Large dabbling duck
  • Streaked brown and tan overall
  • Dark blue patch on wing
  • Dull orange and black bill

We wondered as always why the females are not as colorful as the males….she does have a pretty blue spot on her wing which really is her only decoration.

We enjoyed our encounter with the lake ducks and it was fun to observe them from the waterside instead of from the shore. We could really see their swimming and paddling abilities in action. We could also note the way the water does really run off the feathers on their back, making them appear water resistant. Maybe next time we will observe some ducks flying….giving us another glimpse into this beautiful creature.

Make sure to submit your entries to the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival. Tomorrow afternoon is going to be the deadline for entries since I need to finish it up early this month. You can submit your entries by following this LINK.

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Salmon Circle of Life

We were able to experience two kinds of salmon and their spawning this autumn.

Kokanee Salmon
The Kokanee salmon are a land-locked species that live in the high mountain lake and then return to the creek of their birth for spawning.

10 2010 Taylor Creek
This shallow creek is the perfect place for laying eggs in the gravel.

10 2010 Kokanee 2
The fish come by the thousands, swimming and leaping around in the water as they make their way back up the creek from the lake.

10 2010 Bear sign
The bears are around and we are warned to keep clear of them as they come for their autumn feast of salmon after the fish have spawned and then die.

Even though these are land-locked salmon, they still go through the same changes that their ocean cousins perform. Their colors change and their jaws and teeth become more prominent.

10 2010 Kokanee salmon 1
They wiggle a little dance to court the females and then fertilize her eggs. It is amazing to watch.

10 2010 Taylor Creek Bridge
There are two bridges that you can watch the fish from and on this day there were quite a few nature lovers out there viewing the fish ritual.

Mallard Duck and Salmon

The ducks, gulls, and eagles all depend on the salmon spawning for their autumn diet. We didn’t see any eagles on this day but the ducks were present.

10 2010 Kokanee and ducks
They eat the freshly laid eggs if they get the chance.

Our second salmon observing opportunity came this past weekend at the American River above Sacramento. There is a fish hatchery below a dam where the salmon will make their way up the fish ladder.

Nimbus Fish ladder
Here is the ladder the salmon will leap up as they  make their way to the hatchery. The officials were waiting until the next day to open the gate that ajoins the river to the ladder.

Chinook salmon 1
We were a little early but we were still able to observe the *huge* Chinook salmon waiting at the gate to climb up. They were actually jumping up out of the water and slamming into the metal gate. One sign says they can leap out of the water nine feet!

The Chinook are much larger than the Kokanee and we decided it was because they have a much longer migration journey. They travel round trip 2,000 miles from their birthplace, down the American River, through the Sacramento Delta and then out into the Pacific Ocean. Two or three years later, they make the return trip and end up at their birthplace again….changing from freshwater fish to saltwater fish and back again.

Nimbus Visitors Center
The hatchery we visited has a lovely visitor’s center to learn more about the cycle of life of the salmon.

Nimbus holding ponds
Trout are filling the holding ponds of the hatchery at the moment. There are steelhead and rainbow trout to view. In a month or so the steelhead will start their journey up the fish ladder and we may take time to visit again.

We had an additional observation of the rainbow trout a few weeks ago at a local pond that they stock for the kids to fish in. They are such beautiful fish and very tasty too. (I’m surprised I didn’t encourage us all to taste test the salmon and the trout…next time.)

So for our Outdoor Hour Challenge we were able to compare two different species of salmon as well as the salmon to the trout.

Our favorite is still the Kokanee salmon in its wild habitat and its unique cycle of life.

Kokanee Salmon -oil pastels
Here is a nature journal entry I made a few years ago featuring this colorful amazing fish.

Kokanee Salmon oil pastel
Here is one from my son’s portfolio…oil pastels.

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Our Family OHC #2 Geese and Ducks

We had quite a few false starts on this particular challenge. A couple times we planned to go out after dinner but it is getting dark so early these days that we decided it was too late to go once the dishes were done. Then one of the boys was sick and wasn’t up to going.

Thursday was the day! We went in the afternoon before dinner and we were able to see some geese and ducks.Usually there are more ducks than geese but this particular time there seemed to be more geese.

Geese and Ducks 9 30 10 (9)

No Canada Geese this week but we did find these white geese at our local duck pond.There were a few mallard ducks hanging out with the geese as you can see in the background of this photo.

Geese and Ducks 9 30 10 (15)

Their necks are so very long that they can do amazing maneuvers like this!

Geese and Ducks 9 30 10 (10)

There were a few gray geese like this one as well. They would flap their wings and you could glimpse at how long they were. I love the way when he stood still his feet were on top of each other…really big feet! This guy is definitely going into my nature journal.

Geese and Ducks 9 30 10 (16)

The goose in the background shows how they stand on the dry land and poke around in the edges of the pond to find something to eat.

Geese and Ducks 9 30 10 (1)
The ducks floated out onto the water and did the bottoms up technique instead.

We were able to make quite a few observations on this trip because there were not too many people around to distract the birds from doing their own thing. We just stood on the bridge and watched the geese and fairly soon they totally ignored us and went about their business of preening, eating, and honking.

We are heading out to the river today to do some kayaking so maybe we will see some Canadian geese there…I will update if we do.

If you are interested in more bird challenges, you can look on the right sidebar of my blog and see a whole series of bird challenges listed there for you to choose from. Enjoy!

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Autumn 2010 OHC #2: Birds-Geese and Ducks

Autumn Series #2
Bird Study: The Goose

“And there is not a more interesting sight anywhere in the autumn landscape than the wedge-shaped flock of these long-necked birds with their leader at the front apex.” Handbook of Nature Study, page 133

Inside Preparation Work:
1. Read pages 130-135 in the Handbook of Nature Study (Lesson 34). Take special note of the fact that the northern migration of wild geese takes place in April and May, and the southern journey is from October to December. (Check this website for a map of where Canada Geese live in North America.)

2. Listen to the sound of Canada Geese and Snow Geese. Many times we will hear a goose before we see it flying overhead. Use your sense of hearing to help you identify a goose when the opportunity arises.

Comparison Ideas:

Compare a Goose to a Duck
  • What do ducks eat and what do geese eat? (Hint: Where do they look for food?)
  • Compare the duck’s and the goose’s beak, the length of their legs, and the shape of their necks.
  • Compare the color of their feathers, beak, eyes, and feet.
  • Do they both swim in the same way? How about flying?
  • Are there some feathers on the ground to observe and compare?
  • What does each bird sound like?
  • Are they friendly, shy, or aggressive?

Outdoor Hour Time:
Take the opportunity during this challenge to find a local duck pond and check to see if there are any geese visiting at this time. You also might try a local farm that may have geese and ducks for you to observe. Use your Outdoor Hour time to observe geese and/or ducks with the suggestions from the Handbook of Nature Study as well as those suggested above. Help your child to find words to compare the goose to some other bird they already know as far as shape, size, and habits.

If you do not have any geese or ducks to observe, you can observe any of your backyard birds and make some comparisons. This activity is one that can be done with any bird at any time. Work on your observation skills a little each week to sharpen your child’s awareness of their own surroundings.

Follow-Up Activity:
Take a few minutes to talk briefly about what you saw during your Outdoor Hour time. If you observed geese and/or ducks, use the gentle reminder questions in the list above to stimulate a little conversation. Your child can also record their observations in their own blank nature journal or use the notebook page from the ebook for convenience. You may wish to pull up the website listed in the preparation work to view more photos of geese to make sketching a little easier. In the Autumn 2010 ebook, there is a printable notebook page for a goose and another more general page for an autumn bird study of any bird.

If you did not observe a goose or duck, you can still complete a nature journal page or notebook page for any bird you did observe. Use your field guide or to glean more information if desired.


Note: This nature study challenge can be found in the Autumn 2010 ebook.

If you would like to own this ebook, it is part of the Ultimate Naturalist Library for members. You can find more details on how to get your own membership here: Join Us!

Autumn 2010 Cover ImageUltimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy