Outdoor Hour Challenge – Winter Cattail Study


We started a yearlong study of cattails back in September and now’s the time to start thinking about making some winter observations of this interesting plant. We have a patch growing out along a pond near our home and we will be trekking over to take a look as soon as we have a sunny, warm day. We’ve had quite a bit of snow and the pond should be frozen so that should make it interesting.

Here’s a link to the Autumn Cattail Study if you’d like to take a look at that: Autumn Cattail Study using the Handbook of Nature Study.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Winter Cattail Observations @handbookofnaturestudy

Winter Cattail Nature Study Handbook of Nature Study pages 500-503

(See suggestion #7 for winter work.)

In addition to the ideas in the Handbook of Nature Study, you can make the following observations.

  1. Observe the stems and any leaves that are left.
  2. Are any of the cattail seed pods left intact? What does the “cattail” part of the plant look like now?
  3. What are the conditions where the cattails are growing? Is there water, ice, or snow?
  4. What color and shape are the leaves?
  5. Can you pull some of the fuzz from the cattail and observe it more closely?
  6. How do you think the seeds spread, by wind or water?
  7. How crowded are the cattails growing together?


Link to the notebook page: Seasonal Cattail Notebook Page


Make sure to click the link below to read the entire Outdoor Hour Challenge with helpful links, nature study ideas, and suggested follow-up activities.

Winter Cattail Nature Study Handbook of Nature Study pages 500-503


Winter Nature Study ebook @handbookofnaturestudy

Please note this challenge is found in the Winter Series ebook found in the Ultimate Naturalist Library membership. Log into your membership and scroll down to the ebook download link. Included in the ebook, there is a custom notebook page for this challenge.

Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy





Our Winter Willow Observations-Buds, Galls, and Beavers

This was the week we made our winter willow observations. It’s been cold and snowy, but we put on our boots and hiked out to the willow we tied the string onto earlier in autumn. I’m glad we marked it with a string back in the autumn because right now all the willows look very similar.

12 31 18 winter willow study gall  (2)


Here’s a photo of the willow, leafless and bare except for a few straggly brown leaves.

12 31 18 winter willow study gall  (3)


Isn’t this color amazing? From a distance the willows are a rusty red but up close they are a bright orange. There are small buds just waiting to burst open once the season turns warmer.

12 31 18 winter willow study gall  (5)

It was exciting to find a rose shaped insect gall on a branch. I learned all about this interesting creation last year and it’s still thrilling to discover another one this season.

12 31 18 winter willow study gall  (1)

It looks like a wooden rose on the willow…so pretty.


12 31 18 winter willow study gall  (4)

It’s no surprise to us that the beavers have been harvesting branches from the willows since the autumn season. You can see the evidence of their work in the image above. This is just another chapter in our beaver story…I’ve grown to appreciate their part of the habitat and its changing development.

It’s never too late to start your own year-long willow study, even if you didn’t start it back in autumn. Pick up here and join us! Click the graphic below to go to the original winter study challenge here on the Handbook of Nature Study.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Winter Willow StudyPerhaps you don’t have any willows to study in your neighborhood, but I invite you to take a look at the winter seasonal nature study ideas I’ve collected over the years. You may just find a topic that interests your family and you can get started with your own year-long study. Click the graphic below and see the complete list.


Winter Season Nature Study – Seasonal Ideas


Nature Study Goals 2019

Nature Study Goals 2019 @handbookofnaturestudy

As the new year begins and I start to think about what direction I want my nature study to take me, it’s clear to me that I still have so much to learn about my new home here in Central Oregon. So, why not continue to soak in the things in my local habitat once again?

I want to keep in mind that learning about the ordinary and everyday things in my habitat allows me to notice the extraordinary or unusual things that appear.

Plus, a new goal for me this year is to show that no matter where you live or what your age is, you can always find something of interest to learn about close to home. Nature study doesn’t need to be a big commitment of time or involve a lot of travel. The best and most meaningful nature study topics are those that your family comes into contact with during your everyday activities.

We can use fresh eyes and an open heart to make this the best year of nature study ever!

Nature Study Goals 2019

1. Use the Outdoor Hour Challenge topics to stimulate my interest in my local habitat and help to build my skills as a naturalist.

Use the information in the Outdoor Hour Challenge and the lesson suggestions in the Handbook of Nature Study as they apply in my area or find something closely related to learn about and record in my nature journal.

what is a naturalist button

2. Keep a detailed record of my nature observations.

  • Daily journal and a 5-year journal – Start a new daily journal and use The Naturalist’s Notebook during 2019.
  • Field notebook – Carry a small notebook with me at all times to make notes of important things.
  • Personal nature journal – I will continue using my spiral bound sketchbook for my detailed nature journal.


I just keep envisioning myself outside hiking and exploring again with no pain. Overall, that is my biggest goal for 2019!

3. Hiking and Kayaking

  • Use local maps and books to find places to get outside and hike on a regular basis. I’m thinking of marking a twenty mile radius from my house on the map to see if I can really get to know my local area.
  • Kayak during the warmer seasons, completing two new local kayak trips already requested by my husband.

4. Read nature related books this year.

Narrow down my list to four official books but also use books to learn about things that I become interested in during my travels. I haven’t picked a list of books like I’ve done in the past; rather I’m on the lookout for particular topics.

You can read my Nature Book Project 2019 entry for more details.

This year isn’t as ambitious as many years in the past. I have a lot of writing I want to accomplish, so I’m trying to temper my goals with the limitation that there are only so many hours in the day. Plus, I’m still on the path to recovery from my hip surgery and that will be the focus during the first quarter of the year as I regain my strength and flexibility.

If you would like to join me by making your own nature study goals, I’ve included a free printable goal planning page below. Use it to make a few goals for you and your family. Keep it simple and then create a plan for accomplishing your goals. Make steps now to help create a fantastic year of getting outside and learning more about your local habitat!


Nature Study Goals 2019 Planning Page

Nature Study Goals 2019 Planning Page


Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy

You can join as an Ultimate Naturalist Library member and immediately have access to hundreds of nature study ideas and printables. The library is growing every month and there are plans for publishing 4 new ebooks in 2019! If you join now, you’ll have access to those ebooks as soon as they publish!

Click the graphic above to see the complete benefits of a membership. Join and make 2019 the best year of nature study ever for your family!

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