Outdoor Hour Challenge: Belted Kingfisher – Bird Study

Whether it’s a lake, a pond, or a river, autumn is a perfect time to be outside looking for birds. The changes in the landscape will start to be noted by your family as you walk along the water’s edge. Keep your eyes open for any birds you see during your Outdoor Hour time. Listen for the belted kingfisher.

”The note of the kingfisher is a loud rattle, not especially pleasant close at hand, but not unmusical at a little distance.” Handbook of Nature Study

The information in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock will prepare you for learning more about the belted kingfisher, a dazzlingly pretty bird. On a hike this summer, our family had a chance to see and hear two kingfishers as they flew by us along the river. It was exciting and now a treasured memory.

Use this link to the challenges in the archives:

Outdoor Hour Challenge –Belted Kingfisher Nature Study (from the Autumn Nature Study Continues ebook)

Belted Kingfisher Bird Nature Study @handbookofnaturestudy

Look for kingfishers sitting on branches near or overhanging the water. They sit there watching for their next meal of fish.

Remember, the alternate nature study this week is to look for and then learn about any birds you see near the water. Keep it simple and enjoy your time outside with your children.

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This challenge is found in the Autumn Nature Study Continues ebook found in the Ultimate and Journey level memberships here on the Handbook of Nature Study. You can print the notebooking pages and the coloring page included in the ebook to supplement your nature study this week.

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Why Have a Nature Table?

Nature Table History

The nature table has a long history in school classrooms. It has historically been a small table to one side of the class upon which teachers and students have collected and displayed natural objects through the seasons of the year. This was a place of learning and discovery that the children chose to experience on a regular basis. The objects were to be looked at, thought about, and included in discussions and written compositions.

This was not merely a place of looking but of touching and exploration.

Recent investigation has found that our western educational systems leave little time for this personal connection and relationship with natural objects. The opportunities for first hand observation are being pushed aside and  resulted in what is termed learning opportunity deficit (Nabhan and Trimble, 1994) and nature deficit disorder (Louv 2006).

Why Have a Nature Table @handbookofnaturestudy

I love this quote from the magazine Country-Side from 1905.

“Of course, one of the great educational advantages in bringing natural objects into the school is that with a little care and forethought children may be taught to observe for themselves and so learn the art of thinking. Examination of specimens then has a distinct value in recording phenomena of wild life.”

Nature Table tray with items

Why have a nature table?

Providing the space and opportunity for a nature table in your classroom or home will allow your child to make first hand observations of natural objects of interest to them. Creating a nature table bridges the gap between outdoor and indoor activities. Taking time to collect these items will feed your child’s natural desire to understand the world they live in and to also engage them in real science. The early years of exposure to skills needed in upper level science will be built on a regular basis.

Nature Table in a windowsill


  • A nature table – collections displayed on a small table
  • A nature shelf – collections can be stored in boxes for easy access
  • A nature box – limited space may require you to keep your natural items up out of reach of toddlers or pets
  • A nature tray – easy way to gather similar items for exploring and storage

Adapt the ideas to fit your available space and your needs.

Nature Table in a basket

How many items?

You don’t need a large collection in order to make an interesting nature table.  Start collecting items with each nature walk outdoors, supplementing with items you gather from around the home or acquire to supplement an area of interest.


A Nature Table Is…

1. A table, shelf, box, or tray where teachers and families can gather and collect natural items for exploration and discovery.

2. A collection of natural objects gathered by the teacher or student for closer observation.

3. A place for the child to touch and interact with the natural items.

4. A place that changes with the seasons and interests of the student.

5. A collection of inanimate, living, and once living objects.

6. A place to encourage the outdoors to come indoors.

7. An aid to looking more closely at nature from your own backyard.

8. A part of a nature center, hopefully near a window for first hand observation of things in your own yard or neighborhood.

9. A place to gather tools and ideas for further investigation.


Nature Table with plants


Please use common sense when adding things to the nature table. Please be cautioned about potentially hazardous items like glass jars, sharp objects, and/or possibly poisonous items like berries, mushrooms, and leaves.

The nature table can be part of a larger nature observation center in your classroom or home. Positioning the table near a window for outdoor observation is a great way to use the nature table as a place to gather nature study tools like magnifying glasses, binoculars, a nature journal, and field guides.

Why Have a Nature Table @handbookofnaturestudy

Consider changing items from year to year to freshen up your seasonal nature table. Don’t look at the items collected as something to necessarily save from one year to the next.  Allow a place for new objects and for areas of interest. Let your children gather and collect as many items for the table as possible.

The ages of your children should be considered as you gather items for displaying on the nature table. Inspect items for signs of insects or other living creatures that may be hiding among your collection. The time spent collecting items should reflect a level of responsibility and respect for the creatures that live in your environment. Examples depending on the situation: nests, bones, feathers, larvae, wildflowers. It’s also desirable to gather a minimal amount of each item in order to respect that cycle of life in your backyard.

Handbook of Nature Study Newsletter January 2014 Cover

This article is a reprint from the January 2014 newsletter that featured many ideas for nature tables. I invite you to look in your membership library for this helpful issue of the newsletter that will inspire you even more!

Newsletter Index download

All levels of membership here on the Handbook of Nature Study include access to the complete archive of newsletters. You can learn more about a membership by clicking over to the Join Us page.

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September Printables for Members – Berry and Shrub Notebook Pages

Now available in the Ultimate and Journey level memberships:

Berry and Shrub Notebook Pages

Berry and Shrub Notebook Pages: This set of nine new notebooking pages for your nature journal includes pages for the following topics: thimbleberry, blackberry, twinberry, chokecherry, holly, Oregon grape, wax currant, manzanita, and toyon berry. You can research each berry or shrub and then use the notebook page to record all the interesting things you learned.

(See the end of this post for more information on how you can become a member.)

Note: If you have any subjects you would like me to create nature notebook pages for, please let me know in a comment here on the blog or in an email: [email protected]

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Print a complete list of printables available in the Ultimate and Journey level memberships by clicking the button above.

Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy

Use the discount code NATURE5 for $5 off an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership!