The outdoor hour challenge walks are the highlight of my week. I enjoy them immensely. Monday, X-man said to me, “I want to go on a nature walk.” Unfortunately, we really couldn’t as the two younger boys were napping at the time, but I’m so glad he is so enthusiastic about our nature studies. This week’s outdoor hour challenge #5 was another fun and precious time of learning, exploring, discovering and adventuring with the kids.
Task #1- Choose a focus and make a list. We chose birds as our focus. I looked through the Handbook of Nature Study, considered my backyard and our area, and came up with a list of birds I think we might encounter in the next few weeks. It includes Canada geese, Mallard Ducks, Western Scrub Jays, Wild Turkeys, Chickens, Hummingbirds, and Chickadees.
I read through the pages about geese and looked at the observation questions. Yesterday morning, before we left for our walk, I read to them a few sections from a book from the library about Canada Geese. We learned that Canada Geese spend much of their time caring for their feathers- straitening them, oiling them to keep them waterproof and washing them. We also discussed one of the observation questions ahead of time: how are ducks and geese similar and different? The kids were able to point out that they both swim in the water, but that geese have longer necks.
#2- Nature Walk. We went south to another park with a lake. Since we read about Canada Geese, I wanted to be sure to visit a place that might have them.
We started with some lunch in the shade. We looked at several trees whose leaves were starting to turn different colors (though autumn here in California is nothing like the glorious autumn of my childhood in New England) and Princess K noticed a tree that didn’t have any leaves on it. With so many green trees all around it, the stark white branches did look interesting. As we were eating, a very bold squirrel came scurrying over to snag some snacks we had dropped on the ground. Z-urchin had dropped pieces of his sandwich in the dirt, and the squirrel managed to snatch that as well. X-man was fascinated by this crazy little squirrel. Z & K were a bit frightened (understandably- the squirrel was darting under the stroller and table- a wild animal with little fear of humans is a thing to be cautious about… but I was having too much fun taking pictures to be too cautious) and they begged to leave the squirrel’s area before long.
So we took off down the path and stopped to smell the rosemary and peer into a hole that looked like an animal lived there. We were all very curious about how the hole was made. K found some mud to play in- she has always loved mud! I spotted a tree that I recognized from a previous nature study! The Pepper Tree. It is really neat to see how much I’ve learned in the past few weeks with these outdoor hour challenges.
X-man was really struck by the huge number of white birds in the lake and flying overhead. K was amazed by a big brown bird with a crazy long beak resting on a log in a shallow part of the lake. She exclaimed, “I want to draw that!” We wandered down a winding dirt path that ended right at the bank and saw a little island filled with geese and ducks. We witnessed the Canada Geese grooming their feathers with their beaks and Princess remembered that they put oil on their feathers. This was an exciting moment for me. While we were at the bank, we heard a loud quacking sound and a brown mallard duck that had been hiding in the brush nearby took off toward “Goose Island.”
It was at this time that I noticed Baby Shortstop had fallen asleep and thought that it was probably time to leave. So we walked back down the path and the kids found walking sticks. We then had the opportunity to watch that big brown bird awkwardly lift out of the water and dive into the lake. When it came up again, we saw the pouch on it’s bill. A pelican! I looked it up later, and indeed, it is a brown pelican. A juvenile brown pelican, I think.
Tasks #3-#4 Discussion and Nature Journal. When we arrived home, the younger two boys took their nap and we drew pictures of the birds we saw in our nature journal. I added Snowy Egret, Brown Pelican, Snow Goose, Gull, and American Coot to our list.
I am really excited about our further bird studies. There is an adorable little black, brown, and white bird that I keep seeing in my backyard that I have tried really hard to identify, but it is a quick little guy who keeps flying away before I can get a really good look at it. I am excited about the section in the Handbook of Nature Study about “Attracting Birds.” It says that a good time to set up a backyard bird feeding area is in the autumn! Perfect timing! We’ll have to do that soon. I also want to visit a friend (who used to be my neighbor) who has chickens! We took care of them for a week this summer, so I think the children would enjoy observing and learning more about them. On Friday, when I take the Princess to her dance class, the boys and I will walk around the park next door- it also has water and lots of Canada Geese and Mallard Ducks. We’ll have to watch and look for similarities and differences between them.
This challenge is the first week I’ve noticed that their observation abilities are improving. Their vocabulary is also increasing- they were better able to describe what they saw. Improvement in just five weeks of nature studies? Wow!