Birding at Malheur

When I was a child, my parents took me to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. I have been wanting to take my husband, an avid birder, there for years. We finally got our chance and my husband’s sister’s family and my brother joined us on the trip too. We had lots of fun and saw scores of birds. On the trip my husband and I identified 82 birds. (My list is at the bottom of the post.) Rather than tell you anymore about our trip. I’m just going to share tons of pictures with captions in chronological order of how they were taken.

Horned Lark

Horned Lark — taken in John Day, Oregon, shortly before we arrived at Malheur.

Uncle J. with bird scope

My brother with our new bird scope.

American Avocet

American Avocet

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

White Faced Ibis

White-faced Ibis

Yellow-throated Warbler

Common Yellowthroat

Bullock's Oriole

Bullock’s Oriole

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler–in flight and perched

Lazuli Bunting Pair

Lazuli Bunting Pair

Pancakes in Malheur

Happy campers enjoying a pancake breakfast.

Cliff Swallow

Cliff Swallow

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Duck–Can you see his blue bill?

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

Canada Goose & Goslings

Canada Goose with goslings.

House Wren

House Wren serenading us during our lunch.

American Robin & Chicks

American Robin feeding her chicks. It was really special to watch the parents feeding these chicks. They were perched right in between a couple of our tents. This was one bird that the kids were actually willing to stay quiet to watch.


Looking at a Northern Pintail–sorry no picture of the Pintail, but boy, was I happy to see it!

The Photographer

My favorite photographer in the world! (My husband)

Common Raven and chicks

Common Raven and chicks–This Raven is landing in her nest. You can see the mouths of the babies wide open waiting for their snack.


Just a nice view (to prove that my point-and-shoot can take good pictures too! Actually, i took all the people pictures with my point and shoot too.)

Zippy the Birder

Zippy, the birder.

We don’t completely have Zippy’s life list updated with her Malheur list. We have to finish weeding out the doubles, but she should have around a hundred when we are finished. Not too bad for a nine year old who’s been working on her life list for a year.

Red-winged Blackbird

A displaying Red-winged Blackbird

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Female California Quail

Female California Quail

Western Tanager

Western Tanager–Is he pretty or what?

Ring-necked Pheasant

Ring-necked Pheasant–This seemed to be the kids’ favorite bird to see and he really is a beauty.

Long-billed Curlew

Long-billed Curlew

Black-necked Stilt

Black-necked Stilt

Great Egret

Great Egret

We read the book The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon while we were on our expedition. (A few times actually. It was such a good one.) That is the artist that we’ve decided to learn about right now. I thought it would be fun to learn about him while we were getting to do this birding trip. We’re really enjoying learning about nature and art together.

We also tried our hand at our own bird illustrations. The two big kids and I did some nature journal entries in our individual journals.

Ring-necked Pheasant by Zippy (age 9)

Ring-necked Pheasant by Zippy (age 9)

Sandhill Crane by JD Boy (age 6)

Sandhill Crane by JD Boy (age 6)

American Avocet by me

American Avocet by me

Here is our list of identified birds from the trip:


Horned Lark



Yellow-breasted Chat


Bald Eagle



Common Raven


Wilson’s Snipe



Cliff Swallow


Wilson’s Phalarope








European Starling


Common Grackle



Song Sparrow


Western Kingbird





American Robin



Barn Swallow


Mourning Dove



Brewers Blackbird


Great Egret



Northern Harrier


Great Blue Heron





Canadian Geese



Trumpeter Swan


Red-winged Blackbird



Spotted Sandpiper


Western Meadowlark



Black-crowned Night Heron





Black Tern


American Kestral



Ruddy Duck


American Avocet



Forster Tern


Black-necked Stilt



Tree Swallow


Yellow-headed Blackbird





Long-billed Curlew



Lesser Scaup


Franklin’s Gull



Northern Pintail


Sandhill Crane





Northern Shoveler





American Coot





Brown headed Cowbird



Western Grebe


Turkey Vulture



Black-headed Grosbeak


White Pelican



Western Wood Pewee


Ring-necked Pheasant





California Quail



Western Tanager


Double-crested Cormorant



Olive-sided Flycatcher


White Faced Ibis



Evening Grosbeak


Cinnamon Teal



House Sparrow


Common Yellowthroat



Red-tailed Hawk


Bullock’s Oriole



Pine Siskin


Red-shafted Flicker



Warbling Vireo


Yellow Warbler



Eastern Kingfisher


Lazuli Bunting





Virginia Rail



California Gull


House Wren



Mountain Bluebird


Song Sparrow



Scrub Jay


Cedar Waxwing



Mountain Chickadee

Brown Birds

I haven’t blogged for awhile. I hope you missed me! Once in awhile, life comes at me a little too fast and I just have to try to survive. I had one of those weeks, and then immediately after that we went on a much anticipated trip, but I’ll post about that later this week after I sort through a few hundred pictures. I’ll just give you a teaser now to say that we identified 80 species of birds in three days. What fun!

For now I’m going to post about the Outdoor Hour Bird Challenge that we did earlier, but I just hadn’t posted about it yet. This challenge was basically about brown birds: House Sparrows, House Wrens and Mourning Doves (all of which we saw on our trip, by the way.) We didn’t get any pictures of Mourning Doves, but we got pictures of the two others plus an extra sparrow.

House Wren

I’ve never seen a House Wren around our home. We do have a Winter Wren that visits us some, but I haven’t managed his picture yet. This House Wren picture was taken on our trip this last week. This guy came almost within reaching distance of my daughter. He was nesting somewhere near our campsite. He thrilled in serenading us, and we couldn’t help but enjoy.

While we were watching and listening to this little guy, we talked about how typically the birds with bright and beautiful feathers are not the ones with beautiful songs and vice versus. There are exceptions, but it seems to be the general rule. This is actually a good life lesson for us. (Especially for adults, I think.) We often see others who are so talented in this or that and we feel a bit jealous because we aren’t, but God has given us each talents and we need to cultivate what God has given us and stop comparing ourselves to others. I’m quite positive that this little wren has never worried that he doesn’t have bright feathers to show off.

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

I took these two pictures of the House Sparrow at a rest stop on the way back from one of the trips that I’ve made recently to see my family. I kind of thought it was fun to watch him do the dust bath in the bottom picture. Now this bird doesn’t really have bright feathers or a beautiful song, so he probably has reason to complain, but not really. He is one of the few privileged birds to have been mentioned in the Bible and by Jesus Himself, when Jesus said that He’s watching out for each and every sparrow. Once again a great life lesson. Even if we think we are not important to anybody, at least we can know that we are important to Jesus and He’s watching us with His tender, loving, care.

White-crowned Sparrow

This is a White-Crowned Sparrow. My husband took this picture on the same trip as the previous sparrow, but at my parents’ house. (With all of the travel that we’ve done in the last six weeks, a lot of our nature study and a lot of our learning in general has taken place away from home.) I just think this guy is so cute all fluffed up like he is. I think it was taken in the early morning and the birds seem to fluff up more then. Maybe it helps keep them warm.

I let the kids choose one bird to do their nature journal entry on. Here they are:

House Wren--by Zippy (age 9)

House Wren by Zippy (age 9)

House Sparrow by JD Boy (age 6)

House Sparrow by JD Boy (age 6)

Nature Study–Frogs

It’s just that time of year when nature study is a lot more enjoyable around our home. In the winter, we do it, but not as faithfully as we should. That’s why I’ve been posting so much about nature study lately. We’ve just really been having fun with it. (Besides the fact that it’s a lot more fun to take pictures of nature study than of math books!) Sometimes impromptu nature study is the most fun. Something just surprises you and so you take the time to appreciate it, observe it and learn about it. That’s what this study was–impromptu.

My husband found this special little critter while he was rototilling our garden, so he brought it to the kids for their inspection.

Pacific Tree Frog

Pacific Tree Frog

We identified it as a Pacific Tree Frog, which is the most common frog on the West Coast of North America. It can be brown or green or both. The identifying marks are the size and the black patch on the eye. They are mostly nocturnal, so it’s a privilege to find one in the day. They have sticky feet which makes it so they can climb on slick vegetation. They catch they’re prey by ambushing the insects.

Pacific Tree Frog

JD boy even got to hold it. This can give you an idea of the size of the frog as compared to a six-year-old’s hands. I think this one is a a female too and the males are supposed to be even smaller. I don’t know for sure that it’s a female though, but the markings are slightly different and from what I can see the markings match the female rather than the male.

Art Appreciation – Mary Cassatt

Art appreciation has always held the sound of dread to me. You see I had one of the worst experiences anyone could imagine in relation to this subject. When I was a college student, I put off art appreciation until the last, because I just didn’t look forward to it. I was an engineering major and thought I was mostly interested in science. It was a required class however, so I enrolled to take art appreciation as my very last class during the summer after my senior year. I was already arranging for full time employment as an engineer come August, so I did need to finish that class and get my certificate.

I signed up for a one month class. I had a little time between Spring semester and the Summer session and I was working hard to earn some money. The day came for me to go to my class. It really wasn’t a big deal. I’d been in college for four years and was pretty use to starting new classes. I had written down in my calendar the room number, time of class and the teacher’s name, so I looked at it and marched off to my new class. When I got to the door however, I had a real shock. The room was locked. "That’s funny," I murmered. I walked around in the art building trying to see if the class had been moved. Finally, I went to the student center and got a catalog of classes and looked up the class to see what I had written down wrong. Well, I had a made a huge mistake. I had written down the wrong month. It was July and the class had finished at the end of June. Horror! I might not be able to graduate.

I went to the chairman of the electrical engineering department and with the brightest red face you can imagine, I explained my predicament. He, of course, first had a hardy laugh. But then he took pitty on me and went to the dean of the college and asked if he would consider allowing me to take another class in place of art appreciation. I ended up taking a very interesting government class. I even got a nearly full refund for the art class, but only after explaining my situation to several more people, who thought I must be a brick shy of a load. Now you know though why I’m afraid of art appreciation. It gives me nightmares.

I never thought until recently about learning about art with my kids, other than learning how to make it. I have been following a few blogs of families that use the Charlotte Mason method in their homeschooling and I became interested in their art appreciation. They call it artist study. So, in spite of my fear of art appreciation, I asked my kids if they would like to learn about artists. They, of course, were thrilled. They both love to draw and want to learn about others who were artists of all types. I tried to think through how to start and I realized that I only knew a handful of names: Van Gogh, DaVinci, Michaelangelo, Picaso and Normal Rockwell (even though some would argue with me on the last one.) I thought we would start with Van Gogh, since I knew my dad (who should be an art teacher…and I wish would have taught me a little more. Ahem, Dad!) really likes Van Gogh and I knew that I could only think of one of his paintings that I could identify. I thought I could learn a lot about him. It wasn’t to be though. (I’ll get to eventually though.)

I told my daughter that I would let her choose which artist we would study and she had heard of an American female artist that she would rather learn about: Mary Cassatt. That is because my daughter has hopes that she’ll be an American female artist someday. I already think she is an American female artist, but maybe I’m prejudiced. Anyway, Mary Cassatt it was and I enjoyed it too. I learned about somebody totally new and enjoyed a lot of her art too.

Mary Cassatt notebook page

Zippy’s notebook page that she did on Mary Cassatt.

I made this page. (I’m so proud of me! It’s the first notebook page that I’ve ever made.) You can download it here. You can also download a black and white notebook page from this Cassatt Artist Study lens as well as some free coloring pages. We used this lens/website a lot during our study and it has all kinds of ideas on studying about Mary Cassatt, so check it out if you’re interested in studying/learning about her.

We got a hold of a few books with Mary Cassatt’s art and we just started looking at her paintings and drawings. We also read the preface out of a couple of them, because that told about her life. Even though she was an American, she spent most of her life in Paris soaking up life with the other Impressionist artists. Her favorite subjects were women and children.

Mary Cassatt Books

We also purchased the book: Mary Cassatt by Trewin Copplestone. (Thanks to a suggestion from Jimmie at the One Child Policy blog.) This is part of a set of books on different artists that is fairly inexpensive. (That’s always nice.) We also got the Cassatt Activity Pack by Dover publications.

 My kids did some of their own renditions of some Cassatt works.

Helene de Septeuil

JD Boy’s rendition of Hélène de Septeuil from the Dover coloring book. (Click on the link to see the original painting.)

Mary Cassatt renditions

Zippy’s renditions of Cassatt works. From left to right: Summertime (Grandpa did the ink on this and she did the painting), Young Woman Sewing in a Garden, Hélène de Septeuil. (Click on the links to see the originals.)


We got to stand and watch several hummingbirds this weekend, but they weren’t the kinds listed on the Hummingbird Outdoor Hour Challenge. Nonetheless, we enjoyed them.

Sometimes, I can’t quite figure out why God made certain birds. (I won’t tell you which ones.) I know why God made hummingbirds though. It’s because He wanted to us to see jewels flying through the sky. We learned however from reading the Handbook of Nature Study that they serve a purpose to the ecosystem, as well. They help to pollinate flowers that have long necks and whose pollen the wind can never touch. We were also amazed to learn that the hummingbirds like to eat bugs and will hover in front of a spider web and steal the spider’s catch. I thought they were just nectar suckers. The most amazing thing we learned though was about the hummingbirds’ tongues. Their tongues have little hairs on them and they curl in from both sides, causing them to have two straws in their mouth. Now that’s amazing! We have such a wonderful Creator.

We got to watch two varieties of hummingbirds at Grandpa and Grandma’s this weekend.

We got to see the most amazing Rufous Hummingbird, but I’m going to share one of the pictures that I posted a couple of weeks ago of the Rufous, because we couldn’t get a photo this time.

Rufus Hummingbird 04.06.09

Rufous Hummingbird photographed at the feeder on our porch.

The hummer that we watched the most was a Calliope Hummingbird. There were several of them hanging out at the feeder. However, we observed one interesting phenomon–the Rufous was the boss. When he came to the feeder, the others left. And he perched on a tree not too far away to chase the Calliopes away just whenever he felt like it.

Calliope Hummingbird

Calliope Hummingbird

Calliope Hummingbird photographed at Grandma’s feeder.

Here are our Nature Journal entries.

Rufous Hummingbird -- by Zippy age 9

Zippy’s (age 9) nature journal drawing of the Rufous Hummingbird.

Rufous Hummingbird -- by JDBoy age 6

JD Boy’s (age 6) nature journal coloring of a Rufous Hummingbird. From the Cornell Bird Coloring Book.

Goldfinch & Western Meadowlark

Yellow birds. Yellow is JD Boy’s favorite color. It was his favorite even before he could talk. I was so amazed that a little guy would prefer a color so early in life. Anyway, as you might guess, he enjoyed our study about two yellow birds–the American Goldfinch and the Western Meadowlark.

American Goldfinch

We enjoyed learning about the American Goldfinch. We rarely have them visit our feeders. We’ve always been wondering why they avoid us and we still don’t have it figured out, especially now that we learned that it is our state bird. Maybe they don’t like all the trees around our house. All in all, because of our travels during the last couple of weeks, we did get to have a few really good sightings of the Goldfinch. (And in our state, so we believe that they chose a state bird that actually likes it here.)

American Goldfinch

Another of my husband’s bird pictures from the last couple of weeks. Could be the same bird that we saw in all of our sightings, since they all occurred at Grandpa and Grandma’s house.

American Goldfinch -- by Zippy age 9

Zippy’s drawing of the Goldfinch for her Nature Journal

American Goldfinch -- by JD Boy age 6

JD Boy’s coloring of the Goldfinch. He decided that I want him to draw too much. He really enjoys drawing, but he’s only six, so I decided that I didn’t want to make him hate drawing by pushing  it too much. Instead, we printed off a coloring page from the free Cornell Bird Coloring Book and cut it out and pasted it in his journal.

Western Meadowlark

We were afraid that we weren’t going to get to take any pictures of Meadowlarks. They don’t like our place either. It’s definitely too wooded for them around our house. So I was quite happy that when we stopped at a rest stop I could hear one singing. So I grabbed the kids and we went searching to see if we could see the Meadowlark. Zippy didn’t even have it on her life list of birds yet. We did find it, but it would only show us its back. I knew we were seeing the Meadowlark though, so she added it to her list, but I wanted her to see it well enough to identify it herself. I’m happy to say that yesterday, while we were driving, we looked over and there was one on a fence post. We immediately pulled over and all three of the kids could see it good enough to identify it. (Even my three year old is getting pretty good at identifying birds, so we showed him too.) I wanted a picture so bad, so my husband grabbed his camera and took one, but it was just a small dot on the ground where it had flown too. Sometimes I’m determined, (Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not.) so when it flew closer to another road, we backed up the entrance ramp to the highway (fortunately there was not other traffic) and were able to get a couple of shots. I’m happy now. They might not be gold medal pictures, but you can still identify the bird, and I’m happy.

Western Meadowlark in Flight

Western Meadowlark in flight.

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark perched.

Western Meadowlark -- by JD Boy age 6
Western Meadowlark nature journal drawing by JD Boy, age 6.

Western Meadowlark -- by Zippy age 9

Western Meadowlark nature journal drawing by Zippy, age 9.

Now we’re working to see if we can learn to whistle the song of the Western Meadowlark. We have a ways to go though before any of us can fool anybody!

Please Pray & Thank you

A few of you sent me emails and left comments saying that you were praying for my brother (31 year old) who was hospitalized for internal bleeding a month ago. I just thought I’d say how much I appreciated all those comments. I’d like to also ask that you keep praying. He hasn’t got well. He’s in a very precarious situation. He needs the healing that only the Great Physician can give.

Thanks and God bless.