The book Birds, Nests, and Eggs is the perfect beginner’s book for homeschool nature study. It’s also a wonderful take along guide that features many of the common birds that we see in our yards and neighborhoods.
(Note the link above is an Amazon affiliate link to a book that I own and love.)
The illustrations give a wonderful look at something we don’t often see because they are hidden from sight. The nests are shown in such a way that you can see the shape and what materials are used for creating just the right container for the fragile bird eggs. The eggs are also shown in full color. This is a fun way to learn more about birds and their life cycle. In addition, you’ll find some fun bird related activities to try and to weave into your backyard bird study.
When I found my first “Take-Along Guide” at a used book store, I was interested so I purchased it. But it was later when I began really reading it that I became really interested.
I would recommend reading through your Take-Along Guide before taking off on your nature walk. Then you can put it in your bag and bring with you on your walk and use it to identify things as you go. Read more of the Take-Along Nature Guides for Homeschool.
BirdResources to Use in Your Homeschool Nature Study
Examples of Nests and Eggs: This is a page on the Cornell website that shows actual nests and eggs for many common birds. Spend some time with your children clicking the images and viewing them together.
Nestwatch: This citizen science program is something your family could participate in if you have a nest in your yard. Take a look and see if it’s something you can incorporate into your nature study plans.
Bird Nest Studyin our Homeschool Nature Study Membership
Spending part of my time in Florida immersed in nature study was a highlight of my recent traveling adventure. I prepared ahead of time by purchasing a wonderful book focusing on the Florida Gulf Coast. Wow! There was a lot to be excited about! My trip was specifically to Sanibel and Captiva Islands and then a few days in Naples, Florida. Getting the opportunity to explore a new to me habitat is thrilling!
Since my time was limited but I did have a sweet ride in my friend Tricia’s sponsored car from Kia Optima Hybrid, I wanted to have a general plan for our time outdoors. I narrowed it down to a couple of possibilities and we decided that we would visit Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. We started off in the nature center browsing the exhibits and then I asked at the information desk what they suggested we do to make the best use of our two hours that we had available.
They handed us a map and directed us to take the wildlife drive that wound its way through the refuge and would take about an hour and a half. They also suggested that we drive over to the Bailey Tract and look for gators there.
Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge
We followed their advice and thoroughly enjoyed our time driving along the one lane road through Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. There were many birds right by the side of the road so we could stop and observe or take photos as much as we wanted. What made it really nice was the fact that the Kia Optima Hybrid is super quiet while running on the battery. We did not scare away the wildlife turning the car on and off….it was awesome.
We saw a mama raccoon and her *four* babies as they walked along the road and then across right in front of us. The whole drive was full of wonderful discoveries like the Roseate Spoonbill and the Anhinga who was sunning himself. What a great time we had and so many memories were made in a short period of time! I was so glad I had taken the time to prepare a little before leaving home.
Alligator and other Reptiles at Bailey Tract
Tricia and I were hoping to see a Florida gator on this trip and we were not disappointed. Along the way we also were treated to many butterflies and a few lizards. I can’t tell you how much fun we had hiking out to look for the alligators. We found one lying in the sun, half in the water and with one eye open. Another item to check off my life list!
South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island
Sanibel and Captiva Islands are known for their fantastic shell beaches. As a native California girl, I have spent my fair share of time at the beach looking for shells, but shelling on these Florida islands is much easier and more rewarding. Tricia and I spent one afternoon walking in the sand, wading in the water, and collecting a few beautiful shells in the Florida sunshine.
Our view from our hotel room was out onto the marina and we saw dolphins a couple of times over the weekend. Two times I saw osprey with fish in their talons flying over the marina. There were nesting platforms along the back side of the beach and one morning I saw some osprey on the their nest. What a great sight!
The Beach at Captiva Island and an Osprey Nest
There were shore birds, skimmers, gulls, sand pipers, pelicans, and plovers. It was a bird fest for this nature loving gal.
Tricia left for home and I met another longtime friend at the second location I was able to explore. I stayed in Naples, Florida and was able to visit Corkscrew Swamp Sactuary. There are miles of boardwalks to investigate as they make their way through a variety of habitats. Slash pine and baldcypress were the main trees but there were some palms and saw palmetto too. The sound of birds singing and the cries of Red-shouldered hawks overhead were the soundtrack for the morning. We also learned to identify the Gray catbird by its call.
Epiphytes or Air Plants
We hiked the complete trail loop and took our time as we stopped to use binoculars and video to try to identify the various birds. There were naturalists out on the trail as well and they were super helpful in giving us information and help when we couldn’t identify a bird. This place was awesome and another place I highly recommend if you ever visit the gulf coast of Florida.
I was overwhelmed by all the things to take in…from the overall impression of the new to me habitat to the calls of some really big birds like the Great Blue Heron and the Anhinga. We saw more gators, squirrels, and more new birds to add to my life list like the Great crested flycatcher, the Pileated woodpecker, and the Carolina wren…all very exciting! I was able to use my iPhone to identify or confirm our sightings and then use the notes section on the phone to keep track of their names. Sometimes technology has its place in nature study and this was one time I was super glad to have it along.
Anhinga and Great Egret
One last stop on my whirlwind nature study adventure…the mangroves at Clam Pass Beach Park. My friend who lives in Naples was able to fit that into our day right at sunset. We walked part of the trail and then rode the shuttle the rest of the way…finding the sun just starting to set and people gathering to try to observe the infamous “green flash” at sunset. We soaked in the mangroves and I saw my first ever Blue jay (we have Scrub jays and Steller’s jays here in California).
Bald Cypress at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Florida
I am grateful for the opportunity I had to include some nature study and hiking into my trip to Florida. What a rich experience I had between the wildlife refuge, the beach time, and the time spent wandering the Florida swamps and mangroves.
I have already recorded my time in my nature journal….I did a quick sketch of the view from our window while in Florida and then finished it up at home with watercolors and details from my notes. I have the memories all tucked away in my heart and in a few good photos.
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, completeOutdoor 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.
More Nature Study Book #4 Hummingbird Study – Summer Birds
This week is bird watching week!
You may find that your family likes birds so much that you decide to keep a running list of birds you see this summer. You can see Outdoor Hour Challenge #5-Keeping a List for more ideas. You can print a notebook page to record your birds or use your nature journal.
Here is a video that will inspire you to start your own hummingbird feeder station in your yard: Hummingbird Station
Inside Preparation Work:
Read pages 115-117 (Lesson 29) in the Handbook of Nature Study. There is also a section on pages 46-47 (Lesson 7) that focuses on The Study of Birds’ Nests in Winter. Read for information and highlight questions you can use in the future when you observe a bird’s nest.
Advanced Study: Use a local field guide to familiarize yourself with birds you may see in your neighborhood. You can also use this tool on the Great Backyard Bird Count: Explore Results By Location. Enter your town and the site will generate a list of birds seen during the count. Note that you may see different birds during the summer months but it will give a starting point to use with your field guide. Ebook Users: Print several of the Bird Nature Study Observations sheets included with the ebook (used with permission from HeartsandTrees).
Outdoor Hour Time:
Take your outdoor time for this challenge early in the day and look for birds before it is too hot. If you have hummingbirds in your neighborhood, spend some time observing their behavior. Watch for any birds that visit your yard or at your feeder. Compare any birds you have to the hummingbird: size, beak, tail, food, color, flight.
Advanced Study: Ebook Users: Use the Bird Observation sheets included with the ebook to make a careful study of any backyard birds you view for this challenge.
Use a field guide to identify any birds you observed during your outdoor time. Complete a nature journal entry for any bird you observed. If you would like to complete a notebook page for hummingbirds, the NotebookingFairy has some very simple free pages for you to print.
Advanced Study: Complete a nature journal entry for a hummingbird you have in your local area. Use a field guide for more information. Ebook Users: There is also a notebook page in the ebook for recording more nest and beak information.
All the summer challenges for 2012 are included in the new More Nature Study Book #4 Summer Sizzle ebook. The challenges in the ebook are the same challenges that will post every Friday here on my blog. If you want to follow along with notebook pages and coloring pages, click over and learn more about the ebook.
Lesser Goldfinches- in the sunflowers and birch trees
Western Scrub Jay
Great Horned Owl
American Ravens – what huge birds with big pointy beaks!
Mallard ducks at the lake
Osprey – heard it but did not see it (Yosemite)
Snowy egret – out and about
Our list is pretty much the same as it was last month…summer birds. I am guessing that this month we will begin to see a change in the birds we have visiting our feeders. I think this is the most interesting aspect of keeping a monthly list…it brings into focus the cycle of birds and they rhythm of the seasons.
Now our exciting bird story!
We were able to observe a Lesser goldfinch sitting on a nest in the bushes at my dad’s house. Mama was sitting on the eggs but when I came a little too close with the camera she flew away to a near-by branch. My dad says that there were two little birds that hatched. He has a whole flock of goldfinches in his garden so it doesn’t surprise me that he had a nest this year.
We spent quite a bit of time away from home in July so I will attempt to break the list down by location.
Lesser Goldfinches – they sound like they are laughing
Mourning Doves – our constant companions, everyday under the feeders, always a pair
Western Scrub Jay
Great Horned Owl – early morning
Anna’s Hummingbird – males chasing each other, not so many in the feeders but in the flower garden
Grand Tetons/Utah Trip
American White Pelicans
Lots of gulls – not sure what kind
If I ever go back to Yellowstone, I will print this bird list.
You can share your link with Tweet and See…click the button above to learn more about the monthly meme. This exercise of keeping a list of birds has opened my eyes to a whole world. I highly recommend this activity for all families, no matter where you live.
Now this could pose a problem…..a big pine tree down across our hiking trail.
We actually noticed before that this particular tree is *full* of acorn holes where the woodpeckers have made a huge storehouse of acorns in the trunk. We think this is what led to the demise of this big tree. That looks like a fresh acorn inside the hole.
When it fell, big pieces of the bark came off and exposed all the acorn holes. We climbed up and over to continue our hike. The dog decided to crawl underneath but either way it worked.
Further down the trail my son spotted this section of a wasp nest on the trail. These are amazing creations and hard to believe that an insect made this out of their spit and plant fibers. Once again the Handbook of Nature Study helped us to learn a little bit more about the process of building the nest on page 381 (Lesson 95). The whole section is fascinating…here is an excerpt:
“The nest is of paper made of bits of wood which the wasps pull off with their jaws from weather-worn fences or boards. This wood is reduced to pulp by saliva which is secreted from the wasp’s mouth, and is laid on in little layers which can be easily seen by examining the outside of the nest.” Handbook of Nature Study, page 381.
We also noticed these puffy growths on the oak branches along the trail. We thought maybe they were some sort of gall. I am still working on figuring out what exactly they are so if anyone has any ideas, I would appreciate an email.
It is nice to be out hiking again as the weather is cooling down a bit. My sons have been down off and on this week with a cold/flu. Mr. A said it was nice to get out and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine and I know it always makes me feel better too.
As part of our great front yard remodel, we cut down a tree.
My boys brought me this nest that they found among the branches. I knew there was an abandoned nest up there and it was exciting to see it close-up.
We were able to only see the stick part from underneath but now we see it is lined with soft grasses for the eggs and babies.
We know it is from a Western Scrub Jay because we watched the baby birds fly away this past spring. We know they have a new tree to nest in across the yard…it has better protection and we think they may even have another nest there too.
New purple wildflower. I am still working on identifying this one.
Large Tiger lily.
No kidding, it is as large as my palm.
Osprey nest on the top of this dead tree…see it up there made out of sticks?
Here is a link to the sound that was coming from this nest: All About Birds: Osprey
As we were standing there, the mama or daddy osprey flew in and dropped a fish from the lake into the nest and then it flew away. All was quiet again.
Just a few photos to keep track of some of the things we have experienced while outdoors this month.
Hubby surprised me with this new field guide. I haven’t had a chance to really look into it deeply but it looks very, very good. I will post a review soon.
I forgot that I took these photos a few weeks ago of some quail’s egg shells in a nest. The nest was right on a bank outside a friend’s house in the dry grass on the ground. Amazing that no one saw it until now.
There were so many little egg shells and they are so pretty and speckled. We were not sure whether it looked like the eggs had hatched or not….they do have three foxes that frequent their property. Would foxes eat the whole egg or just break it open and eat what is inside?
We came home and looked up to make sure they belonged to a quail: California Quail
We learned that a nest can have as many as 28 eggs! The nest is usually in a shallow depression on the ground and lined with grasses and other vegetation, usually 5-7 inches across.
We have quail in our yard sometimes but I have never seen a nest before.
There is always something new to see if you keep your eyes wide open.
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