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Outdoor Hour Challenge – December World and Winter Berries

 December World Nature Walk Outdoor Hour Challenge @handbookofnaturestudy

Outdoor Hour Challenge

December World (from the archives) or Winter Berries from the Autumn Nature Study Continues ebook.

We have reached the last official Outdoor Hour Challenge of 2016. I thought it would be a perfect time to complete one of the two suggested challenges during the next few weeks.

Snow and Winter Berries

Everyone can record their December World observations even if you don’t live where it is currently winter. I know I put snowflakes on the notebooking page but you can make a sketch of anything you want from your outdoor time and then describe your December conditions. Note: This link includes a free printable notebook page. Plus, there is a new December Words notebook page activity in the Ultimate and Journey level memberships in the printables section.

Winter Berry Hunt Activity Image
Winter Berry Hunt – This is found in the Autumn Nature Study Continues ebook found in the Ultimate and Journey level memberships.

The Winter Berry OHC is one of my favorite challenges because it makes you realize how much color there is out there in the natural world. I have started to see colorful berries everywhere I go on trees, shrubs, and other plantings around town. Use the ideas in this challenge to open your eyes up to the wonderful world of winter berries. Note: There is a notebooking page included in the Autumn Nature Study Continues ebook if you have access to that in your Member’s Library.



Outdoor Hour Challenge Winter 2016 More Nature Study WinterThe winter series of challenges will start on January 13, 2017.


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Winter Berry Hike – Fungi Too!

toyon berryWe had a chance to hike to the river this week to look for winter berries. The only ones we observed were the bright red toyon berries that lined the trail in certain spots. This is a shrub that we have studied in depth in the past and although it is not in the Handbook of Nature Study, we used the internet to discover what birds or animals eat the berries.

I found information that says that there are many birds,  coyotes and bears eat the toyon berries which help to disperse the seeds.

Here is my Toyon Berry (or Christmas Berry) entry from last year.

This hike though was all about the variety of fungus that we have emerging from the ground in our area since the rainy season has officially started.

IMG_8820So these look like Emetic Russula that my field guide says are present in all western forests. In the comments in the guide it says that they are usually regarded as poisonous and have an extremely acrid taste that would discourage you from eating them anyway. I will just enjoy their bright pops of red on the forest floor as I hike along.

Here is a glimpse into some of the other more interesting fungi we spotted as we hiked. It was actually a little overwhelming to try to see them all…it was a perfect fungi walk!

IMG_8795 IMG_8791 IMG_8790 IMG_8785 IMG_8781 IMG_8777This is my favorite…the trametes versicolor or turkey tail. Don’t you just love it?

The woodlands of our area are coming alive right now as the rains bring on the green grasses and beginnings of the early wildflower plants. As we pass the first day of winter and the days gradually get longer and longer, I feel the pull to be outdoors again even in the cold temperatures. This is actually one of the best times to be outside in our area if the sun is shining. Hats and jackets are required to keep warm but as long as you keep moving or stop only in the sunshine, it is a glorious time outside.

As this year draws to a close, I am reviewing my Nature Study Goals for 2014 and anticipating those for 2015. Stay tuned for those posts soon!

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California Shrub: Toyon or California Christmas Berry

Toyon or California Christmas Berry

  • Rose Family
  • Evergreen shrub or small tree growing to 6 or 8 feet high.
  • Leaves are 2 to 4 inches long and dark green and fine toothed.
  • Small white flowers appear in June or July.
  • Red berries appear by December….favorite food of robins, mockingbirds, and cedar waxwings!

This is a common shrub in our area and right now it is brilliant with red berries. I love seeing it along our walking trail and I realized this week that my dad has a whole patch of it on his hill. I am planning on going over there to take some photos later in the week which I will add to this entry.

I enjoyed this paragraph in my California Forests and Woodlands book:

“The wildlife of Foothill Woodland is often richest in the woods where the pines and oaks intermingle with California Buckeyes, a shrubby undergrowth of Buckbrush, California Coffeeberry, Toyon, and tangled vines of Wild Grape, Pipestems, and Western Poison Oak.”

This describes our habitat perfectly! I love learning about the interdependence of plants and animals…so very interesting. I need to add Coffeeberry and Wild Grape to my list of plants to study in the next year so look for entries in the future.