Nature Study: Going on a Feather Hunt

We’ve been studying birds lately.  For science for the first half of the year, we are going through Apologia’s Elementary Science book: Exploring Creation with Flying Creatures.  We needed some feathers to examine closely, so we took a nature walk with the goal of finding some feathers.

OHC Going on a Feather Hunt

When the kids saw all the rocks at the beginning of the trail, they decided that they were Rockhopper Penguins (birds we’ve learned a little bit about in the course of our bird study) and so they hopped on rocks and had a good time.  It is important for peaceful (relatively speaking) nature walks for my kids to bounce and jump and run and wiggle some of their energy out, right at the beginning.

September 20145


Then we settled down into our nature walk and feather hunt.  The first feathers we found were attached to X-man’s very favorite birds: Dark-Eyed Juncos.  Dark-eyed Juncos were regular visitors to our backyard at our house in the South Bay Area, but we haven’t seen any of these sweet little birds since we moved last summer.  So we were all so excited to spot them hopping around in the grass by the path.  Princess K began to keep record of all the birds she saw (she was up to about 21 when we walked by a huge flock of crows and lost heart).  We had just read in our science book about using certain features, such as bright colors and tufted crests, to identify birds.  So we tried to keep our eyes sharp to see these features on the birds we found.  Way up high in a tree, we saw a bird with a crest.  I could not closely see the colors of the bird, but I know it had a black face and a crest.  So perhaps it was a Cedar Waxwing?

September 20147

By this time, we were near the water and a female Mallard Duck came swimming across the lake in our direction.  My children were enthralled by the sight and sat quietly for several minutes (this is like a minor miracle!) to watch the bird.  They did not want to scare her away.

Mallard duck swimming toward us

Mallard duck swimming toward us

Quietly observing the water bird

Quietly observing the water bird

They noticed that is seemed like she was searching for food.  She came quite near the children, perhaps hoping that they might share a snack with her.  Alas, they had no food to share and she swam on.  While the kids were quietly watching the duck, we heard an intriguing sound.  A faint tapping sound was emanating from a tree nearby.  I peered through the tangled branches and saw flashes of black and white feathers and a little red on the crown as the Nuttal Woodpecker tapped quietly away.  I was really excited.  Not only had we just read in Burgess Bird Books about woodpeckers, but although I have heard woodpeckers tapping from far away, I have never seen one up close and at work.  A new bird for my life list!

You can just barely see the bird through the branches

You can just barely see the bird through the branches

After the duck swam away, the children grew restless and we all decided to resume our nature walk and keep our eyes open, searching the ground for feathers.

OHC Nature Walk

Looking up at the heights of the trees surrounding him

We were successful in our hunting endeavors and found four feathers to carry home with us to observe and study.  We noticed that they all looked a bit damaged in some way or another and recalled that we learned that birds molt because of the very fact that feathers get damaged and must be replaced or they cannot fly.  It is so exciting to see with our eyes and touch with our hands proof of the facts that we learn.


Then we had some more fun:  Z-urchin climbed a tree that was bent over the water (I really want to find out how that happened!  It’s crazy!) and I had quite a challenge on my hands keeping him from climbing out to the top (?) or end (?) of the tree.  But I really did not want to jump in the lake after him, so I was vigilant.  X-man made a fishing pole out of a stick, a long grass or reed, and a piece of a straw that he found.  Princess K collected things to put in her little fuzzy pink purse she brought along to keep feathers and other nature items in.  Shortstop watched everyone and tried (fairly unsuccessfully) to copy them all.

The Horizontal Tree

The Horizontal Tree

Goin' Fishin'

Goin’ Fishin’

Looking for things to put in her collection bag

Looking for things to put in her collection bag

We went home happy, having made fun new memories and being four feathers (and one bird for the life list!) richer.



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