Special Music

It’s that time of year when so many parents have the opportunity to smile as their children play in recitals and such. Well, I got my opportunity to smile this week. My daughter played her first special music for church. The only problem was that I wasn’t present to hear her play. Sigh. I got sick and stayed home. But I’m still smiling, because I packed up the video camera and sent it with my husband, so now you can smile with me!

Please excuse the fact that when the boys saw that video camera come out that they immediately decided to climb all over their dad so they could SEE.

Black and White Birds

Another bird study from the Handbook of Nature Study Blog. This Outdoor Hour Challenge is on Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches and Towhees.

For us, these are all common feeder birds. On our property we have a Pileated Woodpecker that we hear regularly and a Northern Flicker and a Downy that come to the suet feeder. We have both Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadees that come. And we have Spotted Towhees and Red-breasted Nuthatches. The Nuthatches are my favorite because they look like they’re wearing sunglasses and they’re just so cute.

This first set of pictures were all taken a few months back at our feeder or close to it. They were all taken by my daughter.

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee. Unfortunately, you cannot see the red eyes on this little guy. He’s got bright red eyes.

We have one special Spotted Towhee that comes each year and will eat out of my daughter’s hand. She’s been feeding it for three years. My husband also tricked it into thinking he was my daughter and got it to eat out of his hand once. When she started, we didn’t have the feeders up, so it’s more challenging now.

We also found a couple of birds from this challenge while we were out scouting away from home. We found a Mountain Chickadee in Bend, OR, while there. We found this Red-naped Sapsucker at Grandma’s house.

Red-naped Sapsucker

Red-naped Sapsucker

My daughter did two entries in her nature journal this week. Here is the one on the Black-capped Chickadee. Over the last several weeks, we have also been enjoying John James Audubon’s illustrations almost every day. So this is also her attempt at reproducing his Black-capped Chickadee painting.

Black-capped Chickadee by Zippy (age 9)

Black-Capped Chickadee by Zippy (age 9)

My son didn’t want to do an illustration this time and I decided to let him off the hook; partly because I’m trying to foster a love of nature and nature journaling not make it a grueling.

This challenge also included learning about bird feet. Here is a simple webpage that we found about bird feet and it even has a fun activity that you can print off and do with your children. Natural HIstory Museum: Bird’s Feet.

I just have to say, and maybe I mentioned this before. We have the best videos on birds imaginable: The Life of Birds by David Attenborough. They are absolutely fantastic. Some of the segments can be watched on You Tube. If you love birds, you must have these videos. We’ve watched them so many times. I do have to give a disclaimer–They are evolutionist, but most of it is easy to skip. The videography is just outstanding. We’ve watched them so many times. This set was our first set by Attenborough that we ever had. They were a gift. Now we’ve been slowly collecting other videos by him, just because this set was so outstanding.

Black Birds

I’m behind in my blogging again. We studied this a week or two ago and I’m just now posting. Hope you enjoy it anyway! This is from the Outdoor Hour Challenge: Birds-Crow, Red-Winged Blackbird, Starling, and Cowbird

We went on a search for blackbirds of every type and this is what we got to see: American Crow, Common Raven, Red-Winged Blackbird, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Brewers Blackbird, Common Grackle, European Starling and Brown-headed Cowbird and a Magpie. (Not sure if a Magpie is in the same category though.) We are going to have to go do some more searching for Crows, because we found out that according to some bird books and not according to others, we may have two species of Crows in our area: the American Crow and the Northwestern Crow. I don’t much know the difference. I actually just discovered this a couple of days ago. I just assumed that crows were crows, but now I know that’s not always the case.

We weren’t able to get pictures of every single one of these, but I managed to pull a few together, although they aren’t all from the same outing.

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird

UPDATE: I was looking through some more of our pictures and found another Red-winged Blackbird picture that I just love and had to add. Here it is:

Red-winged Balckbird

Black-billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpie

Common Grackle

Brewer’s Blackbird

The kids also added some nature journal entries.

Red-Winged Blackbird by JDBoy (age 6)

Red-winged Blackbird by JD Boy (age 6)

Red-Winged Blackbird by Zippy (age 9)

Red-winged Blackbird by Zippy (age 9)

Yellow-headed Blackbird by Zippy (age 9)

Yellow-headed Blackbird by Zippy (age 9)

We picked up another excellent book about birds. I love it even more than the kids do. It’s Field Trips: Bug Hunting, Animal Tracking, Bird-watching, Shore Walking by Jim Arnosky. We’ve been reading the section on Bird-watching. We learned a new bird-word from this book–Mantling. It means when a bird spreads out its wings on the ground, usually a sign of aggression.

The challenge also encouraged us to learn about bird eyes and ears. We found a most interesting post on Wikipedia about Bird Vision. Check it out, if you’re interested in the subject.

High Desert Museum

We got to visit the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. I couldn’t believe how long we spent at this museum. We were there for around four to five hours. Usually for me, a museum is exhausted in around two – two and a half hours, but this museum was like two museums in one: they had lots and lots on natural history and tons and tons on pioneer and native history. So on a five star scale, I definitely give this museum five stars. If you’re ever in Bend, Oregon for any reason, go visit this museum. It’s interesting to kids and it’s interesting to people a lot older than me, so it’s a great place.

Canada Lynx

They had a Bobcat and this Canada Lynx, which we watched for ages. These were G’tums favorite exhibits.

Ferruginous Hawk

There was a Raptor Center. This Ferruginous Hawk was brought out during their presentation by one of the keepers. JD Boy was very happy, because he was the only one in the audience of mostly adults who was able to identify the bird. I was glowing a bit myself. He had gone around and looked at all the different posters in the Raptor Center before the presentation and had me read the name on each one to him. He immediately recognized that this bird matched one of the posters and he was right!

G-tums riding an Elk

Here’s a smiling little guy, riding a real slow moving elk!

JD Boy and a Cougar

JD Boy posing with a real stuffed cougar.

We saw all kinds of animals that are specific to the area. We saw amphibians and reptiles (neither of which are my favorites!) black widow spiders (that might be ever worse) and fish and birds. We got to see a mother Mallard just outside of the museum with a bunch of newly hatched fluffy yellow duckings. That was free, but it was also a real attraction! We also got to see a river otter real close and hear a whole presentation about the river otter.

We got to take a nature walk with a wild-plant expert. He told us that it really isn’t a desert there, because they get 11 inches of rain per year and the definition of a desert is 10 or less. He helped us learn to identify several plants. I enjoyed that. Birds I’m getting better at identifying, but as for plants, I still have quite a ways to go.

Besides all of the nature that we learned about, we also learned about some history too. They had a great exhibit on pioneer life and Indian life in the area. We learned about people moving west, about trappers, about miners, about local businesses of the era.

Zipp trying out a straw tick

Zippy is trying out a straw tick. She didn’t think it was that great either. We’ve read about them in our history studies a few times and I tried to tell her what they were like. Now she knows!


Trapper tent.


Canoe made from reeds.

Zippy took all of these pictures with her new camera (except the one of her). She sure loves being able to record the things that are interesting to her and I enjoy seeing what she takes pictures of.

We got to see so much more. We went through a real, old-fashioned, non-electric saw mill that still operates a couple of days a week, besides getting to look at a miniture model. We got to go through a gold mine. That was the least favorite part. It scared my youngest one quite a bit. We climbed in a teepee.

We just saw and did so many things. The exhibits were nicely organized and presented. It was definitely a great museum. You’ll have to visit it one day!

Our Bodies

My kids have been wanting to do this project ever since we studied about the Human Body in January and February. We moved on to other things, so I thought maybe we would forget it; but they kept reminding me, so we did it. It doesn’t necessarily tie in with anything we are studying right now, but it was fun anyway. Even I thought it was fun. And it was a great review to see how much they (and I) remembered from our studies a few months ago.

I traced the kids’ bodies out on butcher paper and cut them out, then we printed the organs and body parts out on construction paper and cut them out and attached them with brads and with glue. All of the body parts were printed from the My Body book.

My Body Bodies

“See what the inside of me looks like!”


Zippy with Painted Lady Butterfly

We had to let our butterflies go. It was sad and exciting at the same time. If butterflies could be considered friends, then ours were. We spent lots of time watching them over the past month. We (not just the kids) were very interested with the famous transformation of caterpillars into butterflies. I’m sure it it ranks with the most amazing things in the world.

We ordered the caterpillars from insectlore.com. They sent us two cups with five caterpillars each in the mail. When our caterpillars arrived they were teeny, tiny things. Within just days they had grown multiple times their size. If my kids grew that fast, they would have to go naked, because they would go through three sizes of clothing every day.

Painted Lady Caterpillars

This is a picture of some of the caterpillars just before they cocooned and one already cocooned.

The timing on our butterflies wasn’t the best for us. As soon, as they arrived, I started calculating and realized that they would start coming out of their cocoons while we were camping and birding in Malheur. (See previous post.) Sure enough that is what happened. So we had them in these little cups riding around in the cup holders in our car until we arrived a our hotel in Bend, OR. I was sure we had cooked them to death in our car, because it was so hot in Malheur; but they survived it. I pinned these little paper disks to our "cage" and by the next morning, we had a couple of butterflies. Whew! Just in time.

Painted Lady Cocoons

The one in this picture that is out of focus was shaking because it’s trying to get out. The cocoon would start shaking and then sooner or later the butterfly would just pop out. When they actually came out, it happened very quickly. Then, you’ll never believe this, they got blood all over the place. I had no idea that this was a bloody operation. I had to clean the counter where this "cage" was sitting several times. (After all, I didn’t want the hotel to kick us out because of our pets!)

We kept them as butterflies for a few days, but I had the feeling they would probably survive better outside  than inside, plus we wanted them to be able to reproduce, so we let them go. We’ve already voted that next spring we’re going to watch tadpoles become frogs. We’ll see if that’s still what we think then, but I’m already excited…although if butterflies were to get loose in my house, no problem…but frogs!!

Painted Lady Butterfly

Fly away butterfly!