Monday, January 28, 2013

Birds of a Feather: A Winter Nature Study

Did you know that the brilliant colored cardinals are males?

 Birds are flyin' south for winter.

Here's the Weird-Bird 
headin' north, Wings a-flappin', 
 beak a-chatterin',

Cold head bobbin' back 'n' forth.

He says, "It's not that I like ice

Or freezin' winds and snowy ground.

It's just sometimes it's kind of nice

To be the only bird in town."

The poem is Weird Bird by Shel Silverstein. It is the perception that birds always migrate south for the winter. No so! But, of course, you knew that. And for any doubters I give you...Exhibit A

There is something about winter that feeds my dark and gloomy side. The earth seems forlorn. I see bare branches and fields sleeping and can barely recall the fresh blossom of spring and summer. 

For us who live in more seasonal climates it’s easy to let the cold of winter seep into our bones and our psyche. We lock our doors and windows against the cold winds, bundle up in our long johns and fuzzy socks, sip on hot cocoa and wish for spring.

How much we miss! It's not hard to be cheered just a bit by the sight of a cardinal looking for a nibble after a light snow. Or a brilliant blue jay perched on a stark winter branch.

This is a blue jay. I saw one just this morning!

But I understand. Here in the Show-Me-State we can have cold, damp winters (speckled in with a few balmy days and an odd tornado).  There probably isn’t much to inspire a poet (unless it is Poe), but the avid bird watcher can be entertained for hours.

My parents live on a farm in the country….right in the middle of gently rolling hills, sprawling forests and plenty of pasture for a cow and a chicken coop. They get quite a bit of  winter bird traffic.

I want to share with you some of the exquisite pictures my mom has taken of the winter birds along with some links and resources (all free) that can assist you with a winter bird watch (and nature study) of your own.  
Mr. Blue Bird. He is also the state bird of Missouri, which is where we live. Do you think he knows how important he is? He just might!

1. Start with some free books for the Kindle (there is a free Kindle app available for computers). They are oldies, but goodies! There is something delightfully poetic about the language of older books.

The Bird Study Book
The Children's Book of Birds
The Burgess Bird Book for Children
Among the Forest People

2. Download a copy of Anna Comstock's classic Handbook of Nature. It a treasure.

I'm not sure what the bird on the right is, but the bird at the top is a junco and the bird on the wire is a morning dove.

3. Visit the Handbook of Nature Blog. These are several Outdoor Hour Challenges available for birdwatching. The main resource used is the Handbook of Nature.

4. For all budding scientists here is an egg experiment.

5.  Join the fun at the Great American Backyard Bird Count.

Blue Jay!

6. Here are some myths about Birds in Winter. And this article talks about how people long ago accounted for some birds disappearing in the winter. Can you believe that some thought the birds went to the moon every winter?

7. Snowy day? Make this snowman head bird feeder. It's sure to attract some feathery visitors.

8. Download one of these blank maps and chart the migration of the birds you might find in your region.

Another morning dove. Or maybe the same morning dove?

9. Make this bread bird feeder or here are some other bird feeders for you to try.My parents use suet. This one is an easy recipe. And here you can find all sorts of ideas for making suet and more.

Another picture of a Cardinal.
10. Learn about more about the birds that you might see from your window. This site has all sorts of fun stuff to see.  Or go to National Geographic and look up a bird that is particular interesting to you.

11. Go on a nature walk to see what you can see. This site has some fun printables for you to take on your walk. We printed one out and it is waiting for us to take on a nature walk this week!

12. Miss the bird song in winter? Listen to some here.

Now who is the king here!

13. Here is one of my favorite locations for Nature Study ideas. It's broad, but you can use it for any study you choose. 

14. Use this free lapbook to help you in your studies.

15. I love notebooking. Here are some free bird notebooking pages. Or use these nature notebooking pages. All free! Oh! And be sure to print off this bird watching journal.

Now this is a female cardinal. I think she is a perfectly lovely.

16. Put some of those notebooking pages to use and copy Looking For a Bird in Sunset by Robert Frost. Or how about How the Woodpecker Knows.

17. Add some art to your Nature Journal. This site teaches you how to draw birds. Or try this fingerprint art. Or how about painting birds using watercolor!

Can you guess? This bird is a woodpecker!

18. Are your drawings more of the stick variety? Here are some black and white drawings to print out. Or print out these beautiful painted birds. They would make a beautiful mobile.

19. Make your own field guide using these pictures.

20. The kiddos really enjoying the art of Nature Study? Here is a free John Audubon artist study.

Another type of woodpecker.

21. I love, love the idea of making an exploration kit. Use this idea and create a winter bird box.

 I hope that I've inspired you to embark on your own winter bird nature study....or at least take a look at your window. You never know who you might see there!

You can see how more homeschoolers study nature during the winter months at The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog. 


  1. We say a cardinal up close and personal yesterday! I couldn't get my camera out quick enough!

  2. Beth B @ Ozark RamblingsJanuary 29, 2013 at 9:45 AM

    How funny that we're both from Missouri and both chose bird watching for our Winter Nature Study.

  3. Man your pictures are awesome! My daughter loves looking at birds and I personally think nothing is sweetier than waking up to the sweet songs they sing!

  4. Seeing all your birds make me miss the midwest. We have been watching our birds and enjoying all the finches and juncos. I'm off to check out your links.


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