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Counting Blue Birds

Okay, so this isn’t only about counting blue birds.  It’s about counting all birds.

great backyard bird count

It’s the Great Backyard Bird Count, y’all!!

The Littles and I participate in this awesome study every year.  It’s a perfect way to kick off the year’s nature study program, and even now that they’re middle schoolers, we still do nature study.  Nature study is a great introduction to biology, geology, meteorology, astronomy, etymology… you get it.  But the main reason we do nature study is so the littles get a good grasp on ecology and the importance of leaving the smallest carbon footprint they can.

Counting the birds that come to our feeders for the weekend helps us remember the importance of allowing our flying friends the room to have their lives.  We live surrounded by forest, so we can look out the window and see nests in the trees, and a myriad number of birds flitting about every day.  We keep our feeders filled all winter so the winter birds don’t have to search too hard for food, and we keep them filled in summer just to have the chance to watch them.  I have a true fascination for bird feeders.  I can’t walk past them in any store without stopping to dream about which one I’ll buy next.  When we first moved to the farm, I spent hours watching out the big back windows for any kind of bird I could see.  It was so bad that my beautiful husband bought me a pair of binoculars so I could see them better.  He’s amazing like that.

If you go to the website, you’ll find a downloadable pdf with instructions on how to take part and a downloadable poster announcing the count.  I realize that as homeschoolers we might not feel the need to print out a poster, but it always gets my Littles in the spirit of things to see it hanging on the classroom wall for the weekend.  There’s also a data form for youBirds of Indiana to fill out in order to enter your findings, and a bird list and guide to recognizing birds.  As the teacher, all you have to do is print stuff out and you’re ready to go.

We have several bird books on hand, but our favorite is the Birds of Indiana Field Guide by Stan Tekiela.  The birds are separated by color and the pages are color-coded, so it’s easy and quick to find the bird you’re looking for.  The photos in it are clear and gorgeous, and it’s full of information about each bird, including migration patterns, diet, and nesting habits.  And, awesomely, if you go to Tekiela’s Amazon page, you can find a similar field guide for your state!  Yeah yeah.

The cool thing about this bird count is that you can count birds anywhere:  your backyard, the park, on your way to the grocery store.  This free count is connected to the Cornell Lab bird count I posted about a couple weeks ago and co-hosted by the National Audubon Society.  They recommend you spend at least 15 minutes on just one of the days of the Count, watching birds and counting the types you see and how many of each.  Then you simply create an online account at the webite and enter your data.  The account is free, and you can use the supplied data form to keep track.

If you want to do a further bird study with your littles, here’s a free download for researching just about anything and everything to do with birds.

bird report

If you don’t have a bird feeder at home, making one is easy.  A Pine Cone Feeder is as easy as smearing peanut butter over a pine cone, pouring seed onto a piece of wax paper, then rolling the peanut butter-covered pine cone in the seed.  Tie string or ribbon around the top of the cone, and hang it from the nearest tree.

pine cone bird feeder

An Orange Cup Feeder is simple, too.  You just halve an orange, scoop out the fruit and drop it into a bowl.  Then mix the fruit with about 1/2 cup of peanut butter and a cup of birdseed.  Spoon the mixture back into the halved peel, poke a kabob stick near the top of either side of the orange (gives the birds a perch), tie a string to either end of the stick, and boom.  Bird feeder.  If oranges every last long enough in our house to start to turn, they automatically become feeders.

 

 

 

Birding is so much fun!

Birding is so much fun!

Join the Great Backyard Bird Count.  Hopefully your littles will have as much fun as these amazing, wonderful goofballs.

Love wins,

KT

 

 

Homeschool Is for the Birds

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.

Dark-eyed juncos--we call them snow birds

Dark-eyed juncos–we call them snow birds

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 FeederWatchKitthat 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.

Rock much?

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?

pine cone bird feeder

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.

Have fun!

Love wins,

KT