Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Great Backyard Bird Count

I have never had a bird feeder before. I remember my father-in-law telling me that they draw rodents to your home. That is probably true. I live in an old farm house, so I certainly don't need any more rodents.

However, after watching the birds through the window at the dentist's office last month, I decided that I HAD to get one. It was so relaxing! So I stopped in Tractor Supply after my appointment and spent $45 on stuff to feed the birds.

Ava and I do our school work at the kitchen table. No matter the weather, I always have the curtain open to enjoy the country view out of my back patio doors. It was the perfect place to hang my feeder.

Our rotten little cat, Biscuit, also thinks it is a great place to watch stalk the birds. I worried about this initially, but have realized that the birds are aware of her presence and keep an eye out for her. Besides, any attempt to pounce them would result in Biscuit taking a flying leap off the back porch and falling about 15 feet below. Which would serve her right!

At least Biscuit takes care of the rodents!

As the birds discovered my new feeder, I was able to recognize most of them. One little black bird with a white belly was a new one to me and after a little searching online I found out that he is a Junco. I also came across the Great Backyard Bird Count project on the Audubon website and it is preparing to start at 7:00am EST on February 15, 2013. It is held annually.

The information they collect through a multitude of participants will be studied at Cornell University to put together a snap-shot of the health of bird species populations in the U.S. and elsewhere.

If you want to participate, the instructions can be found here. You'll need to set up a free account with them. It only takes 15 minutes of observation (or longer if you wish). Count and ID all the birds you see at your location during that time period and submit your list online at The event last 4 days, February 15 through February 18. They also have a photo contest with prizes.

Ava and I are going to use this opportunity as a fun science project. We've already identified all the birds we've been seeing daily. The same little birds come by to visit us each day, but lately I have noticed a few more have found us.

Ava's Nana recently brought her a copy of The Little Big Book of Birds by Natasha Tabori Fried which is beautifully illustrated and contains several short stories and poems about birds as well as interesting tidbits of information and history. Ava's favorite part was a list of bird calls represented as sayings. For example, robins say "cheer-up, cheer-up, cheerily". Using this method, we have been able to recognize several of our little feathered friends as they call back and forth to each other. We will be using this book for part of our studies, especially the poems.

I am a big fan of the tiny chickadees. I found and purchased two children's books for us to read: Chickadee Winter by Dawn L. Watkins and Emily the Chickadee

We also have on order Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book and Audubon's Birds of America Coloring Book, both from Dover Publications. We love their coloring books...all very educational and affordable.

We're also going to do a little art project making paper birds to paste onto a hand-drawn poster of a tree, make sketches of our birds in our observation notebook and learn about charting data after we have recorded our birds for the GBBC.

And just for fun, we are going to make bird's nest treats. I made these once for our Creation Club kids and they were a big hit.  This recipe is from the Creation Club Idea Book by Constance H. Crossman. I've had this book for a very long time, long before I even had children of my own. It is chock full of ideas for games, activities, crafts and projects for exploring science, topic by topic.

Edible Bird Nests

(modified by me)

  • 3 cups dry cereal
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Jelly beans or bird egg candies

Combine the cereal and coconut in a large bowl. In a sauce pan, bring to a boil the brown sugar and light corn syrup. Boil for one minute. Remove from heat and add the peanut butter and vanilla. Mix thoroughly and pour over the cereal mixture, tossing to combine. Allow to cool enough to handle, then shape into little bird nests. Fill each nest with the candy "eggs".

I guess you could call this a Unit Study. I am not exactly sure it fits that definition, being that I am new to homeschooling! ;)

There is still plenty of time to join the Great Backyard Bird Count. Everyone from beginners to serious bird watchers is invited to take part. Leave me a comment and let me know if you decide to participate. I think we will do it every year.

(FYI -- This is not a paid advertisement. All links and books cited are resources I found useful for my own purposes.)

1 comment:

  1. Loved the entry! What a great way to enjoy the birds and learn about them at the same time!

    Tell Ava that the chickadees need to feel safe around her if she wants to feed them. My brother-in-law feeds them regularly and they have come to recognize him and flock to the area where he feeds them when he steps outside. You the patience to stand perfectly still while they check out your hand of seeds. They are very timid and fearful at first but once they realize they won't be harmed or frightened, they become braver. They may be less likely to come to you since you have a cat but good luck anyway.