Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Non-Nature Mom's Guide to Winter Nature Study

I have a confession to make. I am a complete failure at nature study. Honestly, my idea of the perfect nature study is sitting outside on a very warm, dry, beautiful Oregon day and reading a book about nature, such as,  A Girl of the Limberlost!

Don't get me wrong--I long to do nature study and I even get inspired, but after one or two attempts I just give it up. (And yes, I have tried using the Outdoor Hour Challenges from the Handbook of Nature Study blog.) I have more excuses for why not to do it than why to do it, such as:
  • Where do I go?
  • I live in Oregon and it rains all the time thus it is...
  • Too muddy--we don't have the proper foot gear for mud or...
  • It's too cold--we don't have the proper clothing or....
  • Finally, the sun came out and the trees and flowers are in bloom. Let's go explore--Achoo!!!!! Sniff, sniff!! Where is my allergy medicine???
I'm sure you get the picture, plus all those books sitting by by bed are so much more enticing than the outdoors any day. Since reading outside doesn't count what is a non-nature mom to do to get her kids interested in nature? A couple of years ago we started Apologia's Exploring Creation With Zoology 1 and I accidentally hit on a nature study project that we have been successful in.

In the book it is recommended to make a bird feeder and attract birds to your backyard. Well, I seriously doubted we would have any come since where we live is a residential area (Imagine my shock the first morning after we moved to this neighborhood I woke up to a crow cawing vs. junco's twittering prettily in the trees of our old neighborhood). Anyway, I went out and bought a cheap bird feeder and some bird feed and put it out and lo and behold after a week or two we began to attract birds to our backyard!

Our bird feeders as of Monday morning.
This started a new love in our house for all things birds. We were also reading Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess, which dovetailed nicely with with the Apologia book and the birds that were coming to our feeders. The kids began to watch for new birds and then would look them up in the bird book and even began to draw them. We also relied on the All About Birds website to help us out when our bird books didn't give enough information. I also noticed that the bird watching wasn't limited to our backyard, but also when we went out the kids were looking for birds.

Oregon Junco
Later we added a suet feeder and a finch feeder with thistle seed. We see a lot of Goldfinches, House Finches, Oregon Junco, and even some Black-capped Chickadee. In the summer we have seen Western Tanagers and even had hummingbirds visit and we don't even have a hummingbird feeder!

If you look in the top of the picture you can see a (blurry) House Finch.
There is so much out about birds, I found it easy to just strew books around and the kids did most of their learning on their own. They took old Audubon Songbird calendars given to them by my mom and fought over them for a while and cut them apart, glued the pictures onto nice paper, and wrote down information about the birds.  They also like to browse through the Birds and Blooms Magazine. I have even seen my daughter get out Handbook of Nature Study!

Resources we use .

I will admit we aren't going outside very much and we don't have any beautiful nature journals sitting around and Handbook of Nature Study sits unused (especially on my part), but attracting birds to our backyard has created and fostered a love of learning about birds in our house. Hopefully, it will lead us to make it outdoor and discover and learn about other parts of nature.



  1. We use Ambleside too! Nature study is one of our favorites, but bird study isn't something I've been able to fit in.

    I'm following you now from the crew!

  2. I will totally admit I am not the outside person in winter time... I like inside much better! LOL... I love looking out at our bird feeders and see the birds from my warm house!!

  3. This is great, Beth! I have had an off and on again relationship with nature study. I enjoy birdwatching, too, though. We need to get our feeders in working order.

  4. Oh, Beth, I can so relate! Here in SW MS, it is either too hot, or too rainy! ;) But I've always enjoyed birdwatching (thanks to my mom!). We LOVE hummingbird migration, in the late summer/fall. Right now, the gold finches are having feeding frenzies. ;-) BTW, I talk a lot about our birds and such on my blog. :-)

  5. Oh, also, try to get ahold of books by Jim Arnosky, and Sam Campbell. Great ones to read to the kids.

  6. This inspired me to think again about bird feeders. We saw so many more birds when we had one but were put off by the rodents attracted. I've been meaning to investigate feeders that might avoid this-thank you for the reminder.

  7. We are using Zoology 1 right now so this is a timely post for me! I have been pleasantly surprised how interested we are in birds now! And like you, I'm not much for nature study!

  8. Thanks for sharing how you make nature study work for you. We have used some of the resources you listed.



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