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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Bird Study Grid

We are staring a month long focus on birds using the Handbook of Nature Study and other resources found here on my blog and in each Friday’s post. Make sure you have subscribed to this blog so you will receive the monthly newsletter download link for additional bird study encouragement and special discounts on ebooks and other products.  

Outdoor Hour Challenge:
For our first bird related challenge, let’s all print out our Bird Study Grids from the newsletter. This month they are a little different than in previous months. I have given you two simple grids that you all can use wherever you live and at whatever time of year you want to study birds. There are also two smaller tally sheets you can print out for your nature journal to record bird colors and bird parts you observe. Print and cut any or all of the grids this month and have some fun while taking your Outdoor Hour Challenge time either outdoors looking for birds or from you window if you need to.  

Printable Activity: Handbook of Nature Study Nature Table Ideas Birds
Use the suggestions on this free printable to build or add to your nature table. There are many suggestions that have hyperlinks so make sure to check those out for additional ideas and resources. Send me a photo of your nature table and it may be included in the next newsletter!

Getting Started Suggestion:
If you already own the Getting Started ebook, complete Outdoor Hour Challenge #4.  Use your outdoor time to talk about your new focus for the month on birds and all the different ways you can learn about birds. Spend a few minutes listening for birds, looking for signs of birds, and then completing the accompanying notebook page in the ebook or an entry in your own nature journal. 

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Handbook of Nature Study Ultimate Naturalist Library

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Meet My New Friends-The Goldfinches

Lesser Goldfinch 1

We have had a hard time attracting goldfinches to our yard. We tried thistle feeders before but the goldfinches never came. I decided two weeks ago to try again and this time….they arrived right outside my window!

Lesser Goldfinch 2
I can’t tell you how thrilled we were to see them in the feeder, lined up along the branches, and sitting in the top of the tree. Their bright yellow color is amazing to see flash across the yard and their sweet little song is so beautiful coming in the windows.

Lesser Goldfinch 4
Mr. B came in yesterday with a gift for me.

Lesser Goldfinch feather
He found a goldfinch feather under the feeder and brought it in for me to see. Doesn’t it look as if someone dipped the tip in yellow paint?

This is going in my nature journal! We found the goldfinch in the Handbook of Nature Study and now we are going to read up on them and do some of the suggestions in Lesson 10.

“Goldfinches are seen at their best in late summer or September, when they appear in flocks wherever the thistle seeds are found in abundance.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 57

Hopefully they are here for awhile so we can get our fill of finches.

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Birds in the Winter: Our Winter Wednesday Bird Style

We recently participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count and even though this is our third year participating, we still found it a thrilling activity. The whole family participated at some point over the weekend and although it was a very snowy weekend, we saw some amazing birds. This was a great way to learn about our winter birds and we took the opportunity to combine the Bird Count with Winter Wednesday.

The point that sticks out to me this year is that we had no trouble identifying any of the birds that we observed. We have built up over the last three years the ability to quickly name any bird that happens into our yard or to our feeders. I think that is amazing!

Here is our list of birds that we saw over the weekend:
White-breasted nuthatch
Spotted towhee
California towhee
Cedar waxwing
Western Scrub-jay
Oak titmouse
House sparrows
House finches
Black-eyed juncos
American robins
American crows
Anna’s hummingbird
White-crowned sparrows
Canadian geese

We decided to learn more about the White-breasted nuthatch since it was one of the birds mentioned in the Discover Nature in Winter chapter notes. We have a pair of these that frequent our feeders on a daily basis. They are such perky little birds and have such an interesting sound. They are very acrobatic and entertain us when they climb down the tree trunks head first.

We started off with a coloring page from the Cornell University website found at this link:
Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and National Audubon Society
Previously, I had printed out the table of contents and it hangs on the wall near our bird viewing window. When we observe a new bird, we check the list and see if there is a coloring page for that particular bird. Then I print just that page out for those that want one for their nature journal.

We also looked the white-breasted nuthatch up in our field guide and on the All About Birds website.

I was interested in learning more about the Cedar waxwing birds that we saw in our trees during the Bird Count. We counted 61 of them at one time! This was the most we had ever seen all in one flock. They were eating the berries/nuts out of the pistache tree.

I used a coloring sheet from the Cornell book as well and then I looked information up in our field guide and at All About Birds. I learned the meaning of the word “frugivore“.

We also learned what is meant by the term “field marks“.

We also found these feathers in our backyard this week and we haven’t been able to figure out who they belong to yet.

There is always something new to research and learn right from our own backyard. 🙂

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Aspen Trees in the Fall-Salmon-And a Bear

What a wonderful afternoon drive we had yesterday! The fall colors were popping out all around us and we were pointing out the car windows, totally amazed at the colorful show we could see as we drove along.

The aspens were glorious and the sun even made a brief showing in the late afternoon.Walking along the path under the aspens, I remembered why I love this variety of tree.

Here is our regular stretch of beach at the lake. We indulged in a picnic dinner of roast chicken and salad and then realized that we were all alone at the beach for the first time ever. It was quiet except for the Stellar’s jays.

The three boys were erecting driftwood and rock sculptures while the rest of us took a walk out onto the dock. The sun was beginning to set and we very reluctantly started back to the car.

Earlier in the afternoon, we also went to see the Kokanee salmon spawning in the creek and these signs were something new in the last few weeks. Apparently there are three mama bears with cubs in this area and they are feasting on salmon during the spawning period.

While we were observing the salmon in the creek….a bear was spotted on the opposite side of the water. The bear was totally and completely uninterested in us humans and she went about its business of eating and foraging around in the bushes. We did get a really great view of the bear and I was too busy watching her to take a photo. I do not have a very good zoom on my little camera so it would probably not have turned out very well anyway. Take my word for it, this was not a scary encounter at all. There were a lot of salmon to occupy the bear and a lot of water inbetween us. We watched for a few minutes and then hiked along the path.

There is nothing mentioned in the Handbook of Nature Study about the salmon but I was surprised to find a section on goldfish. I read over the observation suggestions and they were quite good so we will be including a study of our goldfish when the weather is too yucky to go outside. There is always some way to fit nature study in if you are diligent.

We found a lot of interesting feathers on this hike. I love this polka dotted one the best. I am guessing it is a woodpecker feather but I am not sure.

“The color of feathers and often their shape make some birds more beautiful; while in others, the color of the feathers serves to protect them from the observation of their enemies.”
Handbook of Nature Study, pages 31-32 about feathers as ornaments

What a great day for a family drive, hike, and picnic.

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Yosemite Birds: Photos and Notebook Page

Lest you think that all I took photos of on my Yosemite trip were wildflowers, here are some bird photos. You will also note that these are not my typical “pretty” photos….birds are hard to photograph and they just don’t come close enough for my little camera.

I love to watch for birds in the early morning. The meadow near our campsite was a perfect birding site and I was up early each morning to see what I could find. The first photo is of a white-headed woodpecker and the second photo is a brown creeper.

These are both new birds to add to my life list of birds seen and identified. That is always exciting.

There is a section in the Handbook of Nature Study on different woodpeckers on pages 70-77. You might enjoy reading about the woodpecker in preparation of your next encounter.

Something else interesting is that I found a feather from a Steller’s jayand when I compared it to my Scrub jay feather that is already in my collection, I found out how different the feathers are colored. Both birds are very similar in color and shape but the patterns of color are very different. Here you can see it clearly. The Scrub Jay is on the left and the Steller’s Jay is on the right. There is a section in the Handbook of Nature Study specifically on bird feathers starting on page 29. We found it very interesting to read about the various purposes of feathers and the various kinds of feathers.

Here is a scan of one of my bird nature journal pages that I made during our trip. Nothing fancy but still a really good reminder in my nature journal of the day we saw this woodpecker. You can find the notebook page on my Freebies page.

Hope you enjoyed a little bird stuff today. I still have insects to share and a really big entry with wildflowers. I am trying to decide whether to make a slideshow of the flowers or just share a few of the over forty flowers I took photos of.