Evening Grosbeak in My Feeder and How We Identify a Bird

Very little compares to identifying a new bird in your feeder. This one was so unusual that we just couldn’t stop looking at it.

The photo does not do it justice. It is bright yellow, with distinct markings of black and white. It was fairly good size so we got a pretty good look at it.

Although the photo didn’t turn out well, the memory will be forever with us.

We identified this bird as an Evening Grosbeak.

Yesterday we saw a bunch of blue birds that we had never seen before. We were out driving in the car when we saw nesting boxes all along a fence. We saw flashes of blue and realized that they were birds fighting, not only in the air but on the ground. The birds were very aggressive. When we got home we pulled out our field guide and identified the birds as Western bluebirds.

I shared the following information with a friend about how I identify a bird by explaining how I identified the Evening grosbeak. I personally like using the Audubon Society’s Field Guide to Birds.

Steps I Use To Identify a Bird
1. When I am trying to identify a bird, I rely heavily on color. The bird we saw in our feeder was a bright yellow so that narrowed it down as far as identifying it. The Audubon guide that I suggested for birds is organized by type of bird (clinging, perching, duck-like, etc) and then by predominant color. This makes it fast to skim through a lot of birds visually.
2. After I look at color and general type, I look at size. (sparrow-size, robin-sized, goose-size, etc) The Aububon guide does group from smallest to largest.
3. After color, type, and size, I look at beaks. This is really easy in the Aububon guide because on the photo pages there are three bird photos on a page so there are less pages to look through.
4. If I hit on the right bird by doing that method, I usually do a Google image search on the internet to confirm my findings. If I missed and didn’t get the right bird but I am in the right ball park, I go to whatbird.com and do a search there.

That pretty much sums it up. I know that others have different methods for identifying birds with a field guide but this works for our family.

It was a big bird weekend around here. I love it.


Outdoor Hour Challenge #2: Using Your Words

Outdoor Hour Challenge #2
Using Your Words  
1. Read page 15 in the Handbook of Nature Study. (The Field Excursion) Read page 23-24 in the Handbook of Nature Study. (How to Use This Book) Make note of any points you want to remember. My favorite is “The chief aim of this volume is to encourage investigation rather than to give information.” This is where many people misunderstand the HNS. It is not a field guide but it teaches us how to help our children with nature study.

2. “It is a mistake to think that a half day is necessary for a field lesson, since a very efficient field trip may be made during the ten or fifteen minutes at recess, if it is well planned.” Challenge yourself to take another 10-15 minute “excursion” outdoors in your own yard again this week. Before setting out on your walk, sit with your children and explain to them that when you remain quiet during your nature time, you are more likely to hear interesting things. Brainstorm some sounds they might hear and build some excitement about remaining quiet during their nature walk this week. Take your walk and if they get rowdy, use the universal finger over your lips sign to get them to quiet down. Set a good example and be quiet yourself, modeling how to listen carefully.


3. After your walk, challenge your children to come up with words to describe the following things:
One word to describe something they heard. (For example: rustling, snapping, crunching or chirping)
Two words for something they saw. (For example: tall trees, frozen water, red birds)
Three words for something they felt. (For example: freezing cold wind, rough sticky pinecone)

The point of this assignment is to get them to start thinking about what they see as they go along. Each time they take a nature walk they will develop more and more vocabulary and this will eventually trickle down to their nature journals. If they have difficulty coming up with things to say, help them out with some of your own words to get them started and they will soon catch on. Once we start identifying objects they see on their nature walks, you will be surprised at how easily they remember the specific names of plants, trees, and birds.

4. Optional nature journal entry:
Use their words as the basis for a simple nature journal entry. If the child is too young to write in the journal himself, you can write for them. “Everything he learns should be added to his nature notebook by him or, if he’s too little to write, his mother.” Charlotte Mason, volume 1, page 58.

At this point, you can pull out some colored pencils or crayons and invite them to illustrate their nature journal page if they want to. I always leave it as an option for my boys and I would say about half the time they draw. I feel like the nature walk and the discussion is the meat of our nature study and that it is the most important part of what we do. “No child should be compelled to have a notebook.” HNS page 14 (Next week we will read about drawing in our nature journals in the Handbook of Nature Study, page 17.)

5. If in your discussion of your nature walk your child expresses a particular interest in something they saw or heard or felt, make a note of it for further research later in the week. Remember to check your Handbook of Nature Study index for more information about your nature interests.

Getting Started Outdoor Hour Challenge ebook

This challenge is found in the Getting Started ebook which is included in every level of membership. The ebook provides the challenge as shown above as well as custom notebook pages for your follow up nature journal if desired.

Handbook of Nature Study: Subjects Not Specifically Covered

It is my wish to guide you in using the Handbook of Nature Study. This entry will be about how to use this book with objects that you find in your local area that are not specifically listed in the index. I think this is such an important skill to develop.

How about we use some specific examples?

Sebastian over at Percival Blakeney Academy found some plumeria blossoms on her nature walk with her children. She didn’t find the plumeria listed in the HNS‘s index. How can we use the book to learn more about this flower?
1. Turn to the table of contents and scan down until you get to “Plants”. Turn to the introductory pages starting on page 453.
2. Read to yourself the introduction on how to begin the study of plants and their flowers.
3. Turn to the section on “How to Teach the Names of the Parts of a Flower and of the Plant” on page 456. This will give you some specific names for parts of any flower and they could be applied to the plumeria bloom.
If you want to get some further ideas for studying the plumeria blossom, you could ask yourself what plant or tree you think the plumeria resembles and I thought of the dogwood tree since they are both blooming trees.
1. Turn to the section on the dogwood on page 680.
2. Read through the section and see if there are any tidbits you can apply to your study of the plumeria. Make sure to get to the observations section and use the suggestions that would apply to the plumeria. (Can you see how many petals the flower has? How many stamens has it? Can you see the pistil? Find one of the flower-heads not yet opened and watch it open and develop. Sketch the bracts from below.)

It is not a perfect study of the plumeria but it will give you ways to observe the flower. The Handbook of Nature Study is meant to help you learn to observe and investigate rather than as a source of information. (see page 24)

Want another example?
Jessica at Trivium Academy shared about finding a tree stump and how she talked about the tree’s rings and how it grows. What if you weren’t sure what the rings meant and were not sure how to explain how a tree grows to your child? Here’s how I would go about using the Handbook of Nature Study to help find the answers.
1.Turn to the table of contents and scan down in the plants section until you get to trees. Read the list of subtopics for trees and find any that sound like they might help in your investigation.
2. Turn to page 618 and read the introduction to yourself. On page 620 there is a photo of a cross-section of a tree trunk and this section might be helpful to read. There is a heading on page 620 relating the way a tree grows. Read that and highlight any parts you want to eventually share with your children later in the week.

It took me a long time to figure out how to use the book without being frustrated. The Handbook of Nature Study is a wonderful tool in training parents how to teach their children to investigate nature. We just need to be more familiar with the ways to use it in our homeschooling.

“The author feels apologetic that the book is so large. However, it does not contain more than any intelligent country child of twelve should know of his environment; things that he should know naturally and without effort, although it might take him half his life-time to learn so much if he should not begin before the age of twenty.” Handbook of Nature Study, page xiii

Let’s not waste any time getting started.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom