Sunday, January 26, 2014

Homemade Bird Guide

We're on about Day 5 of being stuck at home due to severe cold and drifting snow. We went outside just briefly, but for the most part have been reading Fablehaven, watching Narnia movies, cleaning the house, having learning time, looking at pictures, and playing games. Our bird feeders are right outside our front windows so they're easy to see. Even the toddler watches the birds and says "bird" when he sees our visitors. It's one of his first ten words!

I've been working on a little nature area by our front window as part of the Handbook of Nature Studies Outdoor Hour Challenge this month. It's mostly gathering a few books, supplies, loose parts, and other items that might be nice to have in a centralized place for nature study and exploration and can take many, many forms. It was fun to see the preschooler take one of the marbles and put an acorn top on it to make a little person yesterday. The toddler grabs the bucket of Schleich Animals and spreads them throughout the house! While there is a little "clean up" involved, it's been nice to have things we can easily use and draw upon as we're watching birds or making other nature connections.

The birds were active this morning, with red bellied woodpeckers, white breasted nuthatches, dark-eyed juncos, a tufted titmouse, and a downy woodpecker showing up for a treat or two. We also noticed a much larger bird than we usually see on one of the nearby trees, watching the bird feeders like a hawk. We got out the binoculars from the nature table to get a closer look, yet still weren't able to see great details. We found bird guide books at our nature area to try to see what it might have been. We weren't able to identify it, but are sure it was a smaller bird of prey based on its shape, size, and behaviors.

With the bird guides out, we started looking at other birds. "What is this, Mom?" for lots of birds that are not found anywhere near us! :-) "I love turkey vultures" which prompted us to pull out Vulture View by local author April Pulley Sayre. Love her books!


He found the pileated woodpecker in two different books. We live near wooded areas and saw a pileated woodpecker in the yard just this last week. It was exciting to see! We practiced saying woodpecker a lot today. He's in speech and needs a little help getting all the sounds and letters in the right places. He sounds much better saying woodpecker by this afternoon!

One of my son's has a bird guide from Indiana Young Birders Club on the way. While we have several, I think there is power in children having their own field guides. The four-year-old has a simple bird book (Birds of Indiana Field Guide )that is arranged by color. It is perfect for him (when we find it again!). There is even more power in creating one's own information! Last month, I visited the early childhood program at The Stanley Clark School. I was so impressed by one child who made detailed drawings of birds he had been studying and labelled them to create a book. Since we have some extra time and most likely will have fewer school days this next week due to the cold, I thought why not make our own for the birds we see near us? I started with the book, The Nature Connection , which I LOVE as a basis for family nature study. It is organized by month and examples and information to help observe and record nature findings. These pages looked at using basic shapes for drawing birds as an introduction to creating our own drawings. 

I didn't want our guide to be too big to handle or too floppy, so I folded paper (between copy paper and cardstock weight) in half and asked them to draw a detailed picture of the bird with color, label the bird with a name, and write three facts about the bird. I wanted these on the inside pages so they could be seen in one spread. 

The boys used guidebooks and a Birds Fandex to investigate the birds in closer detail. They used crayons and pencils to add details to their birds. I guided them a bit to help notice small details, such as tail feathers, the length and shape of the bill, etc., though they also shared many details on their own. With the downy woodpecker on the right, my son came back with white crayon as he noticed the white speckles/spotting on the back of the bird. 

I really like this Backyard Birds book, too. My mom picked it up for us last year. I took it to lots of ball games to read while waiting over the summer. It is true to its name, focusing on backyard birds a man in Ohio photographed. He shares his experiences and journey with getting more acquainted with his feathered friends. I love the pictures, the organization by color, and his observations of behavior. 

My mom also picked up a stack of Birds & Blooms magazines this summer for 50 cents at a yard sale and gave them to us. These were a great deal. We had the front and back of our "booklets" open, so found additional pictures and information to go with the guides we made. While we looked for pictures, we also talked about other birds we found in the magazines. 

While the older boys glued their parts in, the 4-year-old is obsessed with tape right now and had to tape everything he cut out. He was a little meticulous with how he wanted to have his work done and even started another for a bald eagle. I am not sure if he's seen one of those yet, so we'll have to make that happen soon. A friend went down for Eagle weekend at Turkey Run State Park this weekend. She saw about 60 eagles roosting! We need to try that sometime! I've heard they are often seen along the St. Joseph river, even just behind the 7-11 in Bristol. One was seen near Elkhart Environmental Center recently as well.

After the boys were done with their creations, they came for a show and tell with dad. They loved sharing their creations! 

I used my Crop-A-Dile II to punch holes in their guides and used book rings to put them together. If we have more sow days, I know what we'll be doing this week! I love that we can add more information to these, arrange them however we like, and can gradually put more entries into our guide. We will need to make a cover and maybe add some pictures of our bird feeders and the boys "birding" as we use this more. I put it in our nature area by the window. This will be a great resource!