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Pond Life – 4 Seasons Activity

Pond Study Nature Club August 2018 @handbookofnaturestudy

Handbook of Nature Study

Nature Book Club – August

Seasonal Pond Study with Printables

The theme of the link-up for August is Water – River, Stream, Pond. I decided to share one of the books that we used for our study of local ponds. This compact book is a terrific source of information for all ages. It’s detailed enough for an older student to use as a reference and it has colorful illustrations that will capture the interest of younger students.


Here’s the book I’m featuring: Pond Life – A Golden Guide

You can look for it at your public library or it’s available from Amazon (note that I’m an Amazon affiliate and there are affiliate links in this entry).

You can use this as a reference book or field guide during your pond study. Or, read a few pages a week over a longer period and learn about pond life in preparation for a future pond study. There are sections for plant life and animal life in this book, including birds, reptiles, fish, and mammals. In addition, there are simple illustrations for really small things you might collect in pond water, looking at them up close with a magnifying lens or microscope.

We have owned and read this book several times during our homeschool studies. I’ve kept it in our nature library even now as a quick way to learn more about things we see in our own pond/stream.

Pond notebook page with net

Nature Journal Page (shown above) Printable Link

 “Almost any of the fishes found in a brook or pond may be kept in an aquarium for a few days of observation in the schoolroom. A large water pail or a bucket does very well if there is no glass aquarium. ”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 145

august nature book club graphic

Seasonal Pond Study with Printables


Use this notebook page to record your pond study observations and then revisit your pond in each season to compare plants, insects, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians.
Printable Seasonal Pond Study Notebook Page


Pond Study and Pond Grid 

As a bonus, I’m including the Summer Pond Study notebook page and the Pond Study Grid from the August 2011 Newsletter!

Pond Nature Journal

Additional Links

Here’s another idea for the field: Guide to Pond Dipping(YouTube video). I also found this excellent resource for identifying things you find when you scoop your pond water: Simple Guide to Small and Microscopic Pond Life.


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Make sure to subscribe to my blog to follow along with our weekly nature study activities.

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.  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!

Sensory Bin and Observation Notebooking Page from Jenny at Faith & Good Works
Pond Life Printable Pack from Emily at Table Life Blog
Aquatic Science Studies: 10 Activities for Teens from Eva at Eva Varga
Above and Below a Pond Unit Study and Lapbook from Tina at Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus
Online Book Study about water cycle from Dachelle at Hide the Chocolate
STEAM Challenge – Does Water Ever Flow Up? from Erika at The Playful Scholar
Who Was?® What Was?® Where Is?® Book Series: Where is the Mississippi River? from Sharla at Minnesota Country Girl


Past Month’s Themes:

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Outdoor Hour Challenge #7 – Summer Field Guide

Outdoor Hour Challenge 7 field guide @handbookofnaturestudy

Outdoor Hour Challenge #7 – Create a Summer Field Guide

From the Archives and from the Getting Started Ebook

If you’ve been following along with the Outdoor Hour Challenge Getting Started series this summer, you’ve no doubt enjoyed getting outside each week with your children. Hopefully, there are some nature journal pages in your notebook, recording some of your discoveries. You may have even started a collection after last week’s challenge.

Now, you can use Outdoor Hour Challenge #7 to create a few pages in a custom field guide for your home with birds, wildflowers, or any other area of interest. We started off with birds and the free printable in the archived post linked above.

This is a long term project that your family can work on as you find new topics or interests!


Field Guide Card for Birds

Summer Nature Study Tip

Outdoor Hour Challenge #7 is a perfect summer afternoon activity. Print out a few copies of the bird field guide printable and have each family member tackle a different bird. Take advantage of the hot afternoons to be inside creating your field guide.


Getting Started Ebook New Edition button 2

If you have access to the Getting Started ebook, there’s a custom notebook page that you can use alongside Outdoor Hour Challenge #7 if you wish, or a number of blank pages you can print and use instead.

Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy

The Getting Started ebook is included in all levels of membership here on the Handbook of Nature Study, including the Discover Level.

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Still a little time to enter the giveaway for an Ultimate Naturalist Membership!

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If you would like to purchase a membership, please use this discount code for $5 off an Ultimate Naturalist Membership of your own!

Discount Code: NATURE4U

This discount code will expire on 8/18/18.

Benefits by Level Updated size 500




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Book Review- Natural History of the Pacific Northwest Mountains

Natural History of the Pacific Northwest book review

It’s been awhile since I wrote a book review here on the Handbook of Nature Study. I try to share only the best of the books that make it to my home nature library shelf, the books I use all the time and LOVE. So, this book, Natural History of the Pacific Northwest Mountains by Daniel Mathews, is just such a book! I use it as a reference when I return home from a hike and I’ve seen something that captured my interest.

Natural History of the Pacific Northwest table of contents

It covers all the basics: trees, shrubs, flowers, ferns, mosses, lichens, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, geology and even the climate. (The topics are even color coded as a quick way to flip to the right section.)

The images are full-color photographs which helps make identifying unknown subjects easier. There are also clear line drawings of additional information like the leaf shape and bud shape that make identifying plants a snap.

Oregon wildflowers collage

Since I’m new to this part of the world, I enjoy just paging through the book and digging in deeper where I find something of interest. I’m currently working on the wildflower section since it’s coming up on spring and summer blooming season. I digested the bird section this past winter as I listed in my nature journal the birds that visited my yard and on the river behind our house.

Natural History of the Pacific Northwest review

This review includes affiliate links.

I’m also enjoying this book because it’s more than a field guide. There are boxes that introduce people (that plants and animals are named for), boxes that explain fascinating additional information on things like animal sonar, torpor and hibernation, wing shapes, corkscrew trees, and so on. I love learning little tidbits along with my nature study and many of these facts make their way into my nature journal.

Note: My home is not specifically in the range that this book covers, but I still find it particularly useful since we many times travel to the range that is included: western Washington, southwestern British Columbia, and northwestern Oregon.

I give this book two thumbs up if you live or visit this part of the world…my neck of the woods. It’s a valuable part of my local nature study library shelf.


Nature Book Project 2016 @handbookofnaturestudy

I’ve written quite a few book reviews in the past as part of my Nature Book Projects. You can find the selections from 2016 in the link below. Make sure to scroll to the bottom of the post to see the entire list.

Nature Book Project 2016

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Handbook of Nature Study Newsletter – August 2015 Nature Library

Handbook of Nature Study Newsletter Aug 2015 @handbookofnaturestudy

August 2015 Nature Library

I apologize for not posting this earlier in the month….you should have already received your email with your download link. Any new subscribers will receive the link in their welcome follow up email.

Please read the following explanation outlining how to get this month’s newsletter.

The newsletter link is not in this email but will come separately. There may be a delay in your receiving the email so please don’t email me until the second day of the month if you haven’t received the link on the first. For some reason, some email providers take longer to receive the newsletter email.

If you don’t receive the separate email with the download link, you probably aren’t subscribed to the blog yet. This will take less than a minute to do if you follow the steps below.

If you are a subscriber and you haven’t received your newsletter email yet, check your SPAM inbox. Some subscribers have found the email buried in SPAM inbox.

If you need to subscribe:

  • You will need to go to the Handbook of Nature Study, look to the top right corner for the box to type in your preferred email address, and then confirm the email that comes to your email inbox.
  • Once you subscribe, you will receive a thank you email from me with the download link.

This month’s newsletter link will be available only during the month of August so be sure to download it before 8/31/15.

Remember! All of the archived and current newsletters are available as part of the Ultimate Naturalist Library…every level!

Contents of this edition of the newsletter include:

  • Three new articles sharing practical tips for building and organizing your own nature library
  • Three articles from the archives that will encourage you with specific nature books and authors
  • August planning page (four challenges to schedule for each Friday in July)
  • August Nature Journal Toppers, grid, and My Backyard in August notebook page
  • Bonus August grid and printable from 8/12!

Please note that Ultimate Naturalist and Journey level members have access to members only printables each month in addition to the newsletter printables. You will need to log into your account and then go to the “Other Releases” section.

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Need help getting started with your nature study using the Handbook of Nature Study? Check out the fresh “Getting Started” page here on the website!


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Top Picks For Field Guides for Homeschool Nature Study

Building a library of field guides for your reference shelves is something that you can do as you work through the Outdoor Hour Challenges or as part of creating a homeschool library. You don’t need to invest a lot of money all at one time but choose a topic of interest and search out a good field guide as you can afford it. It is an investment in your family’s growing interest in nature study that will enrich your life for many years to come.

What is a Field Guide?

First of all, what is a field guide? A field guide is a book that helps you identify wildlife like plants and animals or other objects you find in nature like rocks or weather phenomena. It is usually created to cover a specific region or area of the world. The guide usually has photos or illustrations of the object along with descriptions of the subject that help the reader identify it. Field guides are usually arranged to group subjects by color, shape, or habitat. Each guide will have introductory pages to explain how that particular field guide is organized.

Our collection of field guides has grown year by year. I will share three choices that there are for field guides to use alongside the Handbook of Nature Study: Audubon Society Field Guides, Peterson Field Guides, and Golden Guides.

Audubon Society Field Guides (This link will take you to a list of all the guides available)

  • Actual photographs-glossy and in color
  • Separate section with thorough descriptions for identification
  • Vinyl cover for more durable wear or carrying in your day pack
  • Some topics available in Western or Eastern North American editions
  • My favorite: Birds

Peterson Field Guides (This link will take you to a list of all the series available.)

  • Illustrations of typical specimens
  • Field marks for birds
  • Leaves, nuts, cones, needles shown for identification in the tree guide
  • My favorite: Trees

Golden Guides (This link will take you to the list of guides available.)

  • Compact size and interesting to look at
  • Illustrations in color
  • More than a field guide with help in getting the most out of each study
  • My favorite: Pond Life

Which field guide would I recommend you start with?
If you are looking for a field guide to purchase as a starter and to go along with the autumn nature study series we are currently using, I would recommend a tree field guide. For the next three weeks, there is the opportunity to learn more about our autumn trees.

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Focusing on Reptile and Amphibian Nature Study

Last week’s Focus on Reptiles and Amphibians challenge was to start a focus study of reptiles and amphibians in our local area whether that was actually going out and finding a subject to investigate or to use this week’s challenge as a preparation for a future outing. We were fortunate enough to have two different snakes cross our trail (literally) last week and for my nature journal I used the printable reptile notebook page from the Reptile and Amphibian Grid Study entry earlier this month.

I pulled out our field guides and did some research into our two snakes and recorded the information and a couple of quick sketches for my journal. Snakes are not my favorite nature study subject but it is helpful to know a little bit about these two common snakes that live in our area.

I started a “reptile and amphibian” section in my nature notebook and I plan on adding to it as subjects arise. I have a short list of things to research and record as I have time over the next few weeks.

Nature Journal Organization - tabs
You can read more about how we organize our nature notebook pages in a binder in this entry:
How to Organize Your Nature Notebook Pages.

Have you seen any reptiles this month?

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Frog Pond Study Plus a Rattlesnake Friend

Our first attempt at a tadpole/frog study was unsuccessful. We visited my dad’s pond and could  not scoop up any tadpoles but we did get some great insect larvae to observe in the pond water sample. We brought them home in a bucket and used our pond field guide to try to identify them.

Edit to add: I was told this is not a Mayfly but a Damselfly so I will be off to do some more research….now you will understand why I say I should take Eva’s free entomology course down below. 🙂

Meet the Mayfly….which we learned are called naiads during their aquatic stage. (This is an image of a dead one I found lodged in my net.) They live in ponds, lakes, or streams for up to several years. They molt 20-30 times during that period of time. The most interesting thing about Mayflies is their short lifespan for adults- only a few hours to a few days, depending on the species. We actually observed an adult Mayfly that landed on my dad’s shirt while we were observing the pond. What a great insect to learn about!

Even if we didn’t find any frogs on this outing, we sure enjoyed our time just being outdoors at the pond.

As a sidenote: I think we need to take Eva’s Introduction to Entomology course that she is offering on her blog Academia Celestia. It is a free six week online course in a subject she is highly knowledgeable in and is passionate about. If your family is looking for a way to learn more about insects…click over and see it this would work for you.

We took a second trip to the local walking trail where I had observed some frog’s eggs earlier this month. Success! There were hundreds of tadpoles but I didn’t get a single decent image…the one below is the best I was able to get with all the reflections but if you look closely you will see some dark tadpoles swimming in the water.

We will continue to observe these critters in the weeks to come…easy to do since they are on the side of our usual route on the walking trail.

I highly recommend this Golden Guide to Pond Life. We have always been able to identify any creatures or plants we found at Grandpa’s pond using this simple field guide. Great beginning guide for young ones!

There are affiliate links in this entry. 

 Rattlesnake Video on YouTube….
My husband and I took a hike to the river on a glorious day last weekend. The grass was green, the wildflowers were amazing, and the sun was warm….perfect day for a spring walk through the Northern California foothills.

I was sort of worried about the possibility of encountering snakes but we were keeping a close eye out. I had stopped a few feet off the trail to look at some metallic insects on a wildflower stem. I was trying to get a really close look and then I stepped backwards to the trail. My husband immediately started yelling  that he saw a snake….startling me and making me scream. The snake was right by my feet….a really big rattlesnake!

He pulled me out of the way and the snake moved across the trail over to the other side. I (of course) pulled out my camera and started taking a video. That is what you see in the video above….me still all shaky and out of breath capturing this huge old rattler as it slithers into the tall grasses but not without showing us his extremely long rattle.

We ended up seeing three snakes that day, one rattlesnake and two gopher snakes. Just in time for reptile month!

So have you seen any reptiles in your area yet?

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Outdoor Hour Tree Grid – Another Oak and Acorn Study

Now that one complete challenge each month is to use the grid study…we are making better use of it as we go about our weekly outdoor time. This week we had tennis plans with some friends at the park and we combined this with some time observing the oak trees that surround the courts. 

I brought our tree field guide, our journal supplies, and the tree grid to help us glean more from our observations. There is a picnic bench right under the great big oak that you see in the top image. It is very different from the other oak we observed last week in our backyard. This one has a bunch of large trunks coming up from one spot and reaching out to make a crown.

So we took photos of our tree parts as part of the grid study.

These acorns are much larger than the ones we have on the California Black Oak tree in our yard. We also noticed that there are two growing together, opposite each other. This was a clue to the identify of the type of oak once we pulled out our field guide.

Here is a photo of the trunk with the bark and woodpecker holes. Which reminds me that I need to add the woodpeckers we saw to our bird list for October. We keep a running list each month of the birds we see and now that we have three year’s worth of data it is interesting to compare.

Under the main tree we saw this new oak sprouting….which technically isn’t part of the tree but we thought it was interesting. Looking at the image now it also shows the dry, brown leaves of this oak tree.

My tree pages using the tree grid and bookmark from the October Newsletter. (Amazon link to journal below)

So then we pulled out our tree field guide (A Field Guide to Western Trees-Peterson Field Guides) and tried to determine just what particular oak we were enjoying at the park on a glorious October afternoon. Turns out it is an Interior Live Oak.  We were interested in the fact that the leaves can either be smooth (like ours) or they can be “sharp-toothed”.

So for my nature journal pages for our tree study, I am using the Tree Grid and bookmark from the newsletter, my tree poetry from last Friday’s Using Your Words challenge, and then I will add some additional observations and maybe an image I print our from our photos.

We still have some tasks left from the Tree Study Grid to complete but there is plenty of time in the month to work on them. We have had some debate about which tree is “closest to our house”….it might even mean getting out a measuring tape to have an official closest tree.

I have a nature study group trip this week and I have been gathering some things to take for all of us.

I thought you might like to see what I pack for our group…nothing too exciting.

  • Colored pencils and Number 2 pencils with erasers
  • Scissors (for cutting the grids)
  • Tape
  • Pencil sharpener (can’t see it in the photo)
  • Assorted field guides (which I put in my daypack)
  • A couple of magnifying tools
  • Clipboards with the study grid (we are going to work on insects on this trip)

Even though we are going to be working on insects, I decided to bring in a few other field guides. We have quite a few lizards right now and I know some of the boys are going to want to chase those. I also always bring a bird field guide since that is one that we always seem to need.

I have gleaned some wonderful ideas from all of you as I watch you work with your grid studies….so many ways to use this simple idea. I hope that showing you a glimpse into our tree grid study will encourage you to give it a try this month or any other month you feel like studying trees.

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California Black Oak Tree – Our Autumn Nature Study

We have spent quite a number of our outdooor hours observing and learning about oaks. We are blessed with many different kinds of oaks right in our own yard so they are constantly a backdrop for many of our studies.  Here is a link to one of our entries that shows the variety we have: Oak Tree Study.

So what did we do for our Outdoor Hour Challenge on oak trees?

  • A little comparing – leave size and shape
  • Looking for acorns – found very few
  • Talked about how the different tree silhouettes in our yard – oaks are the prettiest

We settled on the California Black Oak for our nature journals, with its large lobed, bristle tipped leaves.

California Black Oak
Quercus kelloggii
Resource to print: USDA Plant Guide

“The California Black Oak is strikingly unlike all other deciduous Oaks in the Golden State, for its broad thin leaves are jaggedly lobed, with the veins running out beyond the leaf margins as fine bristles.”
A Natural History of Western Trees.

We have noticed the woodpeckers that enjoy the tall branches, the Scrub jays that frequent the crown, and we are even thinking this is the tree that the bats use for shelter…not sure. It is a truly abundant food source for much of our local wildlife, including bears.

“…it has one admiring friend, the California woodpecker, who finds its acorns, bitter to our palates, exactly to his taste….This handsome redhead devours what he can hold of acorns, and lays up great stores of them, like a squirrel.”

There is always something to learn and to make note of as we revisit even a common tree to our area.

We are looking forward to observing:

  • The yellow leaves of autumn and then seeing the bare branches.
  • The dropping of acorns.
  • Finding a California Black Oak with acorn holes.
  • In the spring, pink or crimson of the new foliage.

Another successful oak tree study….thanks to our ability to see beyond the ordinary.
Printable notebook page for Extraordinary in the Ordinary. 

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My Fine Feathered Friends and Those With Bushy Tails

Tweet and See button

It’s been a week for the birds…..

Finch 3
Who are you looking at?
Finch 4
Camera shy…or is this his better side?
Finch 5
Me and My Gal!
Snow Day Goldfinch
Who you callin’ yellow?
Finch 2
Playing Statue.
American Robin in the Tree
Puffed Up With Pride….King of the Tree…Lord of the Flock.
Finch in the Blossoms 1
Snacking on the Pink Stuff.

Now on to the furry friends…

Gray Squirrel in the Tree
Gray squirrel, gray squirrel, swish your bushy tail.
Fox Squirrel on the Road
Late for the fun…snow storm slowed me down…just a little.

“Where have you seen a squirrel? Does the squirrel trot along or leap when running on the ground? Does it run straight ahead or stop at intervals for observations? How does it look? How does it act when looking to see of the coast is clear?” Handbook of Nature Study, page 236.

If you have a squirrel to observe, I highly recommend looking at Lesson 57 in the Handbook of Nature Study. There are quite a number of questions to answer and to record in your nature journal. In this section Anna Botsford Comstock also gives the account of “Furry” their pet squirrel in journal style that you might like to read for fun to your children.

Hope you enjoyed taking a look at my friends.

House Finch ID

Goldfinch ID

As part of Tweet and See, here is our list of February 2011 birds observed for the month:

  1. Mourning dove
  2. Acorn woodpecker
  3. Nuttall’s woodpecker
  4. Northern flicker
  5. Oak titmouse
  6. White-breasted nuthatch
  7. American robin
  8. Cedar waxwing
  9. Spotted towhee
  10. California towhee
  11. White-crowned sparrow
  12. Dark-eyed junco
  13. House finch
  14. House sparrow
  15. Canada goose
  16. Western scrub jay
  17. Anna hummingbird
  18. Lesser goldfinch
  19. Red-shouldered hawk
  20. American crow
  21. Brewer’s blackbird
  22. Turkey vulture
  23. Rock pigeon
  24. California quail