I don’t know about you, but one of our favorite pastimes in winter is bird watching. We have feeders in the garden and we keep them full so the cardinasl, snowbirds (dark-eyed juncos), woodpeckers, and titmice have plenty to eat. Plus, every once in a great while, and at least a couple times per winter, something rare shows up. That’s the stuff.
Because it’s an activity we enjoy so much, I am constantly on the lookout for ways to enhance our experience. Enter Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Project FeederWatch. This is a winter-long survey that can be joined at any time by people of any age and experience range. This year, the cut-off date is April 8, so you have plenty of time. Now, to sign up and get all the goods, there is a price. I’m not trying to pretty this up. But it’s only $18, and if you have multiple children, you can all work from one registration. When you sign up, you’ll receive a FeederWatch Research Kit, which includes a welcome letter, the FeederWatch Handbook & Instructions (which contains bird feeding information and complete project instructions), a full color poster of common feeder birds with paintings by Larry McQueen, a subscription to their quarterly magazine, BirdScope, and a calendar to track your FeederWatch count days. You’ll also get the year-end report, Winter Bird Highlights. So it is definitely worth signing up.
But if you’re just interested in the learning experience and can do without the year-end report, there are lots of free resources on the site, as well. For instance, there are mini pdf versions of the of poster of common feeder birds And a mini hummingbird poster. And the handbook and instructions booklet. You can’t enter your data to be counted by Cornell or get Winter Bird Highlights, but you have quite a bit of information to do your own bird watching project at home amongst yourselves.
The site also has an interactive list of 100 common feeder birds. I mean, you could do a full-on bird lesson just with this website. It is freaking awesome. There’s even a section called Educational and Homeschool Resources that has The Homeschooler’s Guide to Project FeederWatch as a free download. The pdf has all kinds of cool stuff in it, like a bird diagram, ideas for researching birds, keeping nature journals, and graphing your bird count, types of bird feeders, and ideas for feeders your littles can make.
Why yes, yes it does.
Here’s the thing. Bird watching is a great way to get in your nature study in the winter. Registering for Project FeederWatch (go ahead, $18 isn’t much, is it?) means your littles are truly contributing to science and that may spark them more than anything else. Plus, it really is important to help with the data. For the birds. Because we haven’t given up trying to right our wrongs and save our planet, have we?
In the meantime, make a pine cone bird feeder to get you started. Easy peasy–just find a large pine cone, slather it in peanut butter, then roll it in birdseed. Tie a string to the top to hang it and swing it from the nearest tree. Your littles will get to see more birds and the birds will truly appreciate you. We make them every year, because it’s a fun way to spend a winter morning, and we love feeding the birds.
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