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A Place for Birds and Butterflies – Book Review

A Place for Birds and Butterflies Review @handbookofnaturestudy

A Place for Butterflies and A Place for Birds are two of the books in the series written by Melissa Stewart (see all books in this series on her website). I first saw these at a gift shop at a national park and was tempted to purchase them because of their gorgeous illustrations (done by Higgins Bond). These award winning books were my February selections for my Nature Book Project for 2016.

Please note that the above links are affiliate links. I purchased these books with my own money and have written an honest review.

A Place For Birds @handbookofnaturestudy

Along with the beautiful illustrations, I really enjoyed the concept of how to create in our local communities a space and place to nurture the native butterflies and birds that make their homes there. Specific birds and butterflies are discussed along with a location map and interesting facts.

A Place for Butterflies @handbookofnaturestudy

The main message of this series is how we can combat the negative effects some practices and progress can take on the habitat where the birds and butterflies need to live. For instance in A Place for Birds, there are suggestions that people put up decals on their windows so birds don’t fly into them and even provide nesting boxes for birds.

A Place for Butterflies @handbookofnaturestudy

I would love to share both of these books with the young people in my life. From start to finish, I found these books to be a delight and they are now resting on my picture book shelf for any young visitors to my home to enjoy. I can imagine sitting on the sofa with a child alongside me as we page through and enjoy the words and illustrations together.

Additional Information:You can find teacher’s guides for both books on this page of her website: Curriculum Guide for A Place for Birds and A Place for Butterflies.

Note: There is brief reference to the idea of evolution in each book.


Nature Book Project 2016 @handbookofnaturestudy


Note some of the links below are affiliate links.

January- Discover Nature Close to Home

February-A Place for Birds and A Place for Butterflies

March- A Crow Doesn’t Need A Shadow

April- The Practical Naturalist

May- Break month.

June-Botany in a Day

July- Rockhounding Nevada (postponed)

August- Break month.

September- The 10 Best of Everything National Parks

October- The Nature Handbook

November- Bringing Nature Home (postponed)

December- Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling

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September Newsletter Nature Photo Assigment

Handbook of Nature Study Newsletter September 2015 button
Not too late to subscribe and receive the September 2015 newsletter! The newsletter includes the nature photo assignment ideas that I completed in this post.

As part of the newly designed Handbook of Nature Study September 2015 newsletter suggestions, I have been on the look out for an opportunity to take some photos of a tree and its parts. I have an especially photogenic tree in my front yard and as I was sitting on the wall just taking in its splendor, I happened to notice a perfect monarch butterfly enjoying my butterfly bushes.

Monarch butterfly September 2015 (10) @handbookofnaturestudy

In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary.
 ~ Aaron Rose

This set the mood for a terribly enjoyable photo session as he flew from limb to limb. I also managed to spot a Common buckeye butterfly but failed to get a decent image to share. I am still hoping to see one again and be able to share it with you in a future post.

Well, one to the main subject of the nature photo assignment….my tulip poplar tree. I decided to just let the images speak for themselves so enjoy!

Tulip poplar tree sepember 2015 leaf study newsletter (1)

Tulip poplar tree sepember 2015 leaf study newsletter (3)

Tulip poplar tree sepember 2015 leaf study newsletter (4)

Tulip poplar tree sepember 2015 leaf study newsletter (5)

Tulip poplar tree sepember 2015 leaf study newsletter (6)

Tulip poplar tree sepember 2015 leaf study newsletter (7)


Planning a year of nature study using the Handbook of Nature Study and the Outdoor Hour Challenge. Printables and examples for you to view and use.
If you have the September 2015 newsletter, the photo assignment is on the Nature Study Planning Page.


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Monterey Monarch Habitat…and More

Monterey 17 Mile Drive Oct 2014 (15) Monarch Habitat
Somehow this post got started and then never finished or posted. I think it was just waiting for me to have some important reason to share it….today is the day. 

Way back in October I visited Monterey and Pacific Grove (California) for a wedding with my son and we had a few minutes to stop and check out the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary which unfortunately didn’t have any monarchs yet.
Monterey 17 Mile Drive Oct 2014 (17) Monarch Habitat

We walked around and looked in the trees and along the trail but not a single butterfly to see. We were just too early in the season.

Monterey 17 Mile Drive Oct 2014 (18) Monarch Habitat

Yesterday, I read an article from the Washington Post on monarch butterflies. The title had caught my eye, “Activists seek endangered status for monarch butterfly”. The article reminded me of our visit to the sanctuary and nudged me to actually finish and post this for you to enjoy.

Monterey 17 Mile Drive Oct 2014 (19) Monarch Habitat

Did you know that over the past 20 years, the monarch population has fallen by as much as 90%, according to the Center for Biological Diversity? I find that statistic shocking! The reason for the decline is partly because of dwindling supplies of milkweed along the thousands of miles of their migratory route and the illegal deforestation of their winter habitat in Mexico. Of course, the monarch butterflies that overwinter in Pacific Grove face their own perils. Reduction in the groves of coastal trees that provide cover and the reduction in native milkweed are of major concern to the California migration of monarchs.

Monterey 17 Mile Drive Oct 2014 (16) Monarch Habitat

The Xerces Society website has a list of things we in California can do to help the monarch butterflies, including the planting of milkweed and participating in the Thanksgiving Monarch Count. The results for the 2014 count are available here: Data Western Monarch Count. Shocking numbers!

I hope you take some time to educate yourself about the seriousness of this issue. Resolve to share this information with your children so that they know how important it is to conserve not only the local milkweed habitat but to encourage others to do the same.

What would the world be like without these beautiful creatures? Sad day if we lose these special insects.

Monarch Butterfly in GardenWe have monarch butterflies come through our garden….we have tried unsuccessfully to grow milkweed but I am determined to give it a try again this year!



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Seasonal Milkweed: Summer Observations

We started a Year Long Milkweed study back in the spring while on our trip to Yosemite.

Original Challenge: Year Long Milkweed Study plus free printable notebook page
Our Spring Entry: Milkweed Nature Study 

We returned to our milkweed observation spot at Yosemite Valley….and it was full of maturing milkweed! I have included lots of photos below so enjoy our summertime observations, complete with Monarch butterflies!

Depending on where the milkweed was, it would have blossoms or pods and blossoms. Above you can see the growing seed pods with a few old flower blossoms.

Here is some Showy Milkweed in blossom. I can even see some buds still waiting to bloom near the top.

We saw many Monarchs over the few days we were there but this one was willing to pose for us right on the milkweed. What fun to watch these beautiful insects doing there thing!

This plant had the leaf broken off and you can see the milky sap dripping down the plant. You can also see if you look closely a Cobalt Milkweed Beetle, a shiny blue metallic insect that is common on the milkweed.

We found this sign out in the meadow where our milkweed is growing which shows the complete life cycle of the Monarch butterfly. What a great sign…hope more people stop and read it and learn how fascinating the life of a Monarch is and what part the milkweed plays even there at Yosemite Valley.

We will be updating our study in the autumn and of course I will share.

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Family Monarch Study – How To Conduct a Nature Study Follow-Up

In any blackboard reading lesson, and, so far as possible, in individual written work by the children, tell —
First. What I did.
Second. What I saw.
Third. What I thought.
If this order is habitually followed, the children are more apt to think for themselves, and to base their conclusions on what they have seen. If told in the first person, as far as possible, class reproduction is apt to be more thoughtful and the pupil’s work more individual.
Nature Study and the Child by Charles Scott, 1900

What We Did:
We sat in the garden on several occasions to try to spy out some butterflies as part of the Outdoor Hour Challenge for summer butterflies. Mom had her camera and was ready to snap some images if a beauty came along. We mostly saw bees of various kinds and the occasional dragonfly.

Fiery Skipper from 2009 – I forgot to plant my cosmos this year…just realized.

What We Saw:
Western Tiger Swallowtail (We studied this butterfly during the summer of 2011.)
Cabbage White
Fiery Skipper (We identified this way back in 2007.)

Swallowtail on butterfly bush
Photo from a few weeks ago showing the damaged wing.

What We Thought:
We wondered why we never see the caterpillars in our yard so we investigated the host plant for the Western Tiger Swallowtail. Turns out we have no host plants so that solves that mystery. The host plants are: willow, cottonwood, and chokecherry. (You can use this link to learn about host plants: Create a Butterfly Garden.)

We also noticed that quite a few of the butterflies that come to our yard have tattered wings. We did a little research and found that butterflies can still fly even with up to 70% of their wings missing. It is really a blessing that they are capable of flying even after a bird has taken a bite out of their wings. (See this webpage.) Did you know that some people actually repair a butterfly’s broken wings? Never knew that.

I forgot to mention here on the blog that my milkweed that I had been nurturing along for a few years in a pot on my deck was totally and completely destroyed by the roofers that came to roof our house back in June. They somehow managed to dump it to the ground and it was just smashed into a million pieces, beyond saving. I shed a few tears and promised myself that I would try again. Reminds me I need to order some more seeds and buy a new pot. I am determined to start a monarch habitat in my yard.

Butterfly garden June 2012 (14)
We didn’t see any monarchs this week but we did last month.

So to wrap up this post, I want to encourage you to try the simple process that Charles Scott outlined in the quote at the top of this post. It is an easy way to structure a nature journal entry….even young children could give a few words in response to the prompts.

 First. What I did.
Second. What I saw.
Third. What I thought.


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You Build It and They Will Come – Butterfly Garden

Painted lady
This is the summer of the butterfly! We have been observing many kinds in our front yard garden…it is amazing to watch as several flutter around from flower to flower. The American Lady butterflies are smaller than we expected but they are daily visitors to the butterfly bushes.

We planned this garden for bees, butterflies, and birds and they are now moving in and taking advantage of our neighborhood oasis that we have created. Our neighbors all stop by to tell us how much they enjoy seeing our yard as they walk and drive up the street. It makes me smile.

Creating this wildlife habitat has been a dream realized. I can honestly say that we have spent time every single day enjoying the wonderful things in this space.

Western Tiger Swallowtail
The Western Tiger Swallowtails are the most frequent of the larger butterflies to visit every day. They spend lots of time on the butterfly bushes but they also land on the lavender from time to time. I think they are my favorite butterfly.

Butterfly garden June 2012
The white butterfly bush is the color that attracts the most butterflies from our casual observation. It has larger amounts of flowers so I think they may be the attraction.

Monarch butterfly garden
We have had a few Monarch butterflies in the past week. This one looks a little tattered. It is exciting to see a Monarch though…this is exactly why we created this habitat. We looked forward to having our nature study subjects come to us…and they have.

Butterfly garden June 2012 (21)
This long thin purple flower cluster is my favorite shape and color. This could be called my purple section since I have purple lavender, sage, and butterfly bushes literally bursting out all over. The bees have found this space and they are here all day long.
The deep purple bushes line the front street and there are hummingbirds that can be seen landing on the blossoms as they take a break from collecting the nectar. The blooms don’t even dip down…those hummers must be super lightweight.

There are a few more butterfly varieties that have come to visit but I haven’t caught them with my camera….yet. I will share when I do.

Just for the record, the bee balm and nasturtiums started blooming this week in the back yard. Beautiful!

Jami’s Tuesday Garden Party meme is open from Tuesday to Thursday so there is still time for you to jump in and participate!

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Summer Nature Study: Something New Every Day

Monarch Butterfly in Garden

“Children are quick. In fifteen minutes, they will have finished with their sight-seeing exercise or imaginary picture painting. Other than that, an occasional discovery that the mother shows them with a name and maybe a dozen words about it at just the right time are all that’s needed; the children will have formed an interest in something they can continue on their own. Just one or two of these discoveries should happen in any given day.”
Charlotte Mason, volume 6 page 78

We spent our fifteen minutes everyday this week outside in our own yard. Here is a short list of the things we noticed and enjoyed from our time outdoors.

  • There were robins in the grass after the sprinklers turned off.
  • For the first time this year, we observed a tattered Monarch butterfly in our garden.
  • Our sunflowers started blooming..some yellow, some orange, some almost brown.
  • We noticed the first blooming morning glories in the front container garden.
  • We saw Painted Lady butterflies and Western Tiger Swallowtails too. There were a few more but we had to pull out the field guide so we can identify them the next time we see them in the garden.
  • The zucchini is blossoming.
  • The Starlings are back and eating the little fruits off the tree on our fence line.Noisy birds.
  • Hummingbirds in the butterfly bushes and the Red Hot Pokers. Amazing to watch.
  • Day lilies, day lilies, day lilies!
  • Big black bees in the lavender…had to cut it back off the walkway.
  • The winds on Tuesday and Wednesday were not cool at all…hot! The breeze on Friday was cool and from a different direction.

Those are just the discoveries we brainstormed as I was typing this up. This informal everyday noticing of nature related subjects taking just a few minutes a day adds such joy to our busy lives. As my boys grow older, I love that we have established this habit of noticing the seasonal changes and the cycle of life in our own backyard. You don’t always need to do lots of talking and follow-up to make nature study meaningful. Sometimes it is just the time spent together and enjoying a moment during your day.

We truly do discovery something every time we make the effort to get outside.

Give it a try! The Outdoor Hour Challenge July Newsletter is going to have suggestions for nature study when it is hot and humid. Make sure to subscribe to this blog for your free copy of it the minute it publishes.

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Crowe’s Nest Media: Your Backyard: Monarch Butterfly Review and Giveaway

Your Backyard DVD Monarch Butterfly
Your Backyard:  
The Life and Journey of the Amazing Monarch Butterfly
From Crowe’s Nest Media

You all know our family LOVES nature study. We are inspired by the colors, the patterns, the design of the many amazing things around us. The family oriented DVD, The Life and Journey of the Amazing Monarch Butterfly, feeds our passions. It is a feast for the eyes as well as the heart.

Even for families that have already studied monarchs and have raised them from caterpillars, you will learn so many awesome details that you will not look at a monarch butterfly the same…ever.

  • Have you seen a female actually lay an egg and know how she picks a milkweed to deposit it on?
  • Have you watched the caterpillar shed its final skin and eyes?
  • Do you have a picture in your mind of where the monarchs migrate to in Mexico and why we should care about their forests?
  • Do you truly understand why we should not view milkweed as weeds and remove it from our gardens?
  • Did you know you could tell a male from a female quite easily once you know what to look for?

This DVD will take you deeper and farther than your normal butterfly study could ever dream of doing. You will be encouraged to tell others about the wonder of God’s design and wisdom. You will be determined to nurture milkweed in your neighborhood. You will ignite a desire in your children to be a part of citizen science through the Monarch Watch and tagging program. This DVD will reach your heart.

Features I love about this DVD:

  • Remarkable video and images of each stage of the monarch’s life cycle: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and adult. You will see footage of things humans rarely get to see and your children are going to be amazed at the incredible close-ups that show the intricate workings of this butterfly.
  • The information is interesting to all ages. After watching this DVD, I heard little monarch facts being sharing among family members and with friends as well. There is enough detail for older children yet the animation and “story” make it appropriate for younger ones as well..
  • I was impressed with the creation focus done on a clearly scientific topic, just the way I try to present nature study in our family. Details from scientists, direct observations, and experts draw attention to the amazing design of the monarch.
  • This DVD is fairly long (approximately 60 minutes) but I appreciate that we can watch one segment at a time if we want to go back and rewatch a topic of interest using the buttons from the menu. This will aid us in using the study guide (see below for more information on the study guide.)
  • In addition, I appreciate that this DVD was a family production including all ages and abilities. The Crowe family provides a great example to other homeschooling families with their diligence.

Other information you may find helpful:

  • 60 minutes long. In addition, approximately 45 minutes of bonus features. $19.95 (see special offer below).
  • Watch the DVD trailer on YouTube: Your Backyard: Amazing Monarch Butterfly
  • The bonus features are not to be missed. You will learn how to raise your own backyard monarchs, use extra websites for research, complete a fun follow-up quiz, and see behind the scenes information your family will find inspirational.
  • With the companion study guide this DVD could be the basis of a whole unit study for homeschoolers.
Companion Study Guide Coming Mid-Spring!

Companion Study Guide:
The Crowe family is in the process of writing a complete companion study guide to go along with this DVD. This downloadable guide will include: content review, discussion questions, diagrams to label, sketching suggestions, essay questions, copy work and coloring pages for a variety of ages, and ideas for further research. I know our family will be looking forward to using this as part of our nature study this spring and summer as the opportunity arises. The study guide is scheduled to be released mid-spring and will cost $8.95.

Special Offer: 
As part of this review, I am thrilled to offer you the chance to purchase this DVD with a coupon code to receive the downloadable companion study guide FREE! Also, with the coupon code, you will receive the DVD at a discounted price of $18.95. This offer ends on February 3, 2012.

Read to purchase now? You can click over and enter your coupon code to receive your copy of this amazing DVD at a discounted price AND get a code to receive the companion study guide when it is available. The coupon code is: NatureStudy

Please note: I received this DVD and the giveaway copy in exchange for a review. I always give my honest opinion and share our family’s experiences when reviewing a product. I also will receive a small affiliate commission if you purchase the DVD using the coupon code listed above.

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Yosemite Trip: Summer 2010: Bears, Wildflowers, and A Cool River

I have been trying all week to find time to post an entry sharing a little of our time in Yosemite last week. We had a great camping trip under the big trees and hiking was glorious. There were crowds of people in the valley but once you made a little effort to get on the trail, there were quiet and open spaces to enjoy with only a few other people to share the path.

Bear in the campsite
Our camping was made exciting by the visit of a black bear. Two campsites away they left out some food and the bear was quick to find a tasty meal of peanuts and chips. We were up early and making our way to the restroom and back when I spotted what I thought was a bear in the campsite. I did not have my glasses on and it was still early and dark. My husband assured me it was a bear.

Bear trying to escape Dave banging the pot
We made some noise and eventually grabbed some pots and pans to bang together to scare the bear away from the campsite. There is a meadow and wild space behind the campground and the bear eventually made its way off into the trees…not until after he tried to climb a tree. When he stood up he was taller than my 6′ tall husband. We never felt in danger but we know that once a bear gets accustomed to people food that they become a nuisance and the rangers have to take action. (Sorry for the blurry photos but it was really early morning and I just had my point and shoot.)

Hike to McGurks Meadow
We had two great hikes during our visit. The first was to McGurks Meadow which is off Glacier Point Road. It is the perfect time of year to visit the meadow to view the wildflowers. I can’t keep up with my boys anymore. They take off ahead of me but our family has come up with a way to stay together…a family whistle. They need to be able to hear me whistle and whistle back or they are too far ahead.

McGurks Meadow with Indian Paintbrush
The most abundant wildflower blooming was the Indian Paintbrush.

McGurks Meadow Corn Lilies
The corn lilies were starting to bloom as well. We saw loads of butterflies and when we stopped to sit on a log to rest, a tree frog jumped right up next to us.

May Lake Trail With Mr A
Our second hike of the week was up to May Lake which is a High Sierra Camp. You can hike up there and spend the night in tent cabins or bring your own tent. We just went for the day. Believe it or not, there is a trail there across the granite.

May Lake Trail 1
Here is some more of what the terrain looks like as you hike up to the lake. The lake itself is at about 9,200 feet in elevation. I can feel it in my lungs as we hike up at that altitude. I hike a lot but in combination with the heat and the altitude, it slows me down.

May Lake Trail sharing with Horses and Mules
On this particular day, there were two separate mule teams coming down from the High Sierra Camp. They bring the trash and stuff down the mountain and then after resupplying the packs, they head back up. They seem so sure of their footing even on the granite slabs.

May Lake Glorious View
The lake itself is not very big but so sparkling clear and cold…you just want to sit and enjoy the view for awhile before exploring around the edge. Here my son gives his dad a helping hand up after our time resting.

May Lake Trail Barb
Here I am on the trip down the mountain. Not very glamorous but it keeps the sun off this freckle face.

May Lake Trail Boys need to climb on rocks
The boys still have enough energy to do a little rock scrambling on the way down. They love this stuff and I think they need to do this sort of thing in order to grow up healthy and happy.

Yosemite Valley wildflowers
Our last day was spent in Yosemite Valley itself. We checked out the meadows with milkweed blooming and monarch butterflies fluttering.

Yosemite Valley milkweed with monarch
I almost captured the monarch on the milkweed…see him peeking out?

Yosemite Valley milkweed
The milkweed is just glorious right now…so many butterflies and other insects in the meadows. Coexisting, growing so pretty.

Yosemite Valley Bikes
We spent the afternoon pedaling at bike speed around the whole valley. What a great way to slow down and really see a lot of ground in a short time. Guess where we are parked?

Yosemite Valley cooling off at the river
The Merced River. Talk about refreshing! Most people were drifting down on rafts but we decided to jump in and get wet. No kidding, it was perfect.

Yosemite Valley Half Dome at Sunset
One last shot at sunset of this massive granite rock that we have come to love. Half Dome in all its splendor…until next time.

Hope you enjoyed seeing a few of our adventures.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom