Nature Study Science - Making simple bird feeders (which colour do the birds prefer?)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

This week, to go along with our study of birds, we had fun with this simple Nature Study Science project.  We already have dozens of birds visiting our backyard every morning and afternoon, so we knew the birds would come.  The question we asked was this:

Which colour will the birds prefer?

I mean, if the wild birds have a choice between several bright colours of feeders to eat from, which colour will they be more likely to choose?

We weren't sure, but we chose red, blue, and yellow as our colours, made our guesses, and started creating our homemade feeders.

These recycled bird feeders are easy to make.

What you need:

  • empty containers from juice, soy milk/almond milk (we washed/dried them a few days ahead)
  • paint/paint brushes
  • scissors and string/yarn
  • a stick for a perch (we used a twig from the backyard)

What to do:

  1. Cut a small hole near the bottom of the container where the birds will access the seed.
  2. Paint your container (it took 3 coats to cover ours).
  3. After they are dried, you can make a small hole with scissors under the hole and push the stick all the way through for a perch.
  4. Punch a small hold on the top of the feeder, on the opposite side from the pouring hole.  Feed a doubled-up string or yarn through the holes and secure it by screwing the cap on.
  5. Fill the bottom of the feeder with a set amount of high quality seed.   We put in 1 cup.

If your child chooses, they can add details with paints or, as Audrey has, with Sharpies.  I would recommend permanent markers though, otherwise, the elements will cause streaking.

The children took these photos as they observed!


Once the feeders were hung, we had fun simply watching the birds as they came to visit.  Most likely to eat from the feeders were our friends the Black-capped Chickadees and the Sparrows.  I seemed like yellow was the winning colour now we aren't so sure.  We are still observing.

One of the best things about doing Nature Study Science project like this one is the joy of observing nature.  Our children have really developed the habit of attention this year as they watch closely for many species of birds, squirrels in our yard.  We are so blessed to have them come so close and to such a huge window!  I never knew when we built that (expensive!) deck that it would be one of the greatest gifts to our home and homeschool!  What joy!

This school week, we observed 12 Dark-eyed Juncos all at the same time on our deck.  The kids were bouncing with joy and awe!  We also observed a Downy Woodpecker, a male and female Cardinal, several Chickadees, and a White-breasted Nuthatch all at ONE time!  It was so neat!

*As a side note, it was a windy day when we hung the feeders and we did chose to string them down to the bannister of the deck.  This helped the birds to land without the feeders swinging out from under them.

Hope you are having a breath-taking week, friends.

{Winter} Backyard Bird Studies & Bird Nature Journal pages (Charlotte Mason Monday)

Monday, March 2, 2015

We have been truly enjoying our ongoing study of Backyard Birds.  We were originally inspired by our launch into the Coping with the Cold NaturExplorers Unit, which I reviewed here.  From there, we dove right in to a winter birding frenzy.  Our children have been studying birds for about a year now, and the amount of knowledge and passion they have developed is astounding!  

We've a few main goals we've implemented in order to really enjoy a rich Winter Birds Nature Study  in our home this Winter:

1. Get outside and go for nature walks as much as possible (preferably daily)
2. Create, purchase, and set up various bird feeders in our backyard in a location that is easily seen and observed, keep them full of good quality seed
3. Talk about our observations both in the backyard and on nature walks
4. Create intentional Nature Journal pages (includes our Winter Backyard Birds life list, bird pages, and pages about various science concepts related to birds)
5. Read lots and lots of wonderful living books about winter and birds
6. Enjoy picture study and artist study (we've been studying Robert Bateman)
7. Listen for and identify various calls and songs of local birds.

Here's how we created some of our Winter Backyard Bird Pages for our Nature Journals:

It isn't difficult to create simple (but beautiful!) Bird Nature Journal pages.   I thought I'd share how we've been using our Nature Journals as a part of our daily studies.  The children's Nature Journals are truly developing into masterpieces of beautiful art combined with valuable information and inspiration.  They show great pride in their work and are stretching their skills in many ways.

Charlotte Mason was a huge advocate of children keeping a Nature Journal (sometimes called a Nature Notebook) and we have really adopted this art over the past few years.

We include poetry in our Nature Journals by often printing out or copying poems that we enjoy and are related to the topic.  This can also include scripture, which we have also done.

Backyard Winter Bird "life lists":

Simon - age 9

Audrey - age 8

Alex - age 6

Creating Nature Journal Bird Pages:

Our Bird Nature Journal Pages include four main parts: 

1. A Sketch or drawing or painting of the bird, may include female and male if they differ.

One thing I've found very helpful is to print out various sketching and drawing 'helps' for the children to follow when attempting to add sketches to their pages.  This has proven incredibly successful with the boys who tend to find drawing a little more daunting.  

2. A map of where the bird is typically found.

Our maps are basic.  We haven't added seasonal habitats, however, that would be a great addition for many types of birds.

3. Basic information about the bird, such as, food, length, wingspan, and latin name.

Again, we could add quite a bit more information here, however, I've chosen to keep it simple, as we are completing a page per day (typically).  You could add any information you would like! 

4. An original poem.  We have been doing Haiku poems for our Winter Birds.

This helps us combine a little bit of our language arts into our Nature Journal which is fun and quite interesting for the children.  We create the Haiku poems together and they copy them into their Notebooks.

This shows my sketch and coloring of a Cardinal at the top and 6-year-old Alex's sketch to the side.  The instructions for sketching really helped him and he was happy with the results.

Another example of using step-by-step instructions for sketching.

Simon - age 9

Simon- age 9

Audrey - age 8

Audrey - age 8

Audrey often adds additional art to her Nature Journal, here she used creative colours to depict what she sees when she looks out the back winter to where we observe birds.

Including Younger Children in Nature Journaling...

Often times I've struggled with how to include our youngest in all we are doing.  We study all subjects together, and this especially includes Nature Study.  I have come up with a few ways to help Alex (age 6) follow along and also develop the habit of keeping (and taking pride in!) a Nature Journal.

For Alex's Winter 'life list', I printed the names of the birds and gave him space to copy the words as copywork.  He pasted the corresponding print outs of the birds by remembering what their characteristics.

We simplify the copywork for Alex.  For example, the older children copied a long passage that included these words.  He was creative and adding his own drawing of two Cardinals and a bird feeder.

Alex's bird page.  The main difference is that I have simplified the wording or the facts and he has not copied a poem, but instead a simple fact about the bird.

Here Alex thought of his own adjectives to describe a Chickadee instead of copying the Haiku.

 Attracting Backyard Birds and observing them daily...

Making a simple Peanut Butter and Seed Pinecone feeder.

Different types of feeders we use to attract birds- seeds scattered on the ground, a suet feeder, a pinecone feeder, and a basic bird feeder.

I love the great ideas for observing birds found in the Coping with the Cold unit study.  This sheet came with the study- we've started recording the highest amount of certain types of birds that we see at once.

Different feeders will attract various types of birds: the pine cone feeder is loved by the Chickadees, the suet feeder is frequently visited by Woodpeckers and Nuthatches, the basic feeder is favourite to most species, and scattered seed and nuts on the ground attract Mourning Doves, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Chickadees. 

Some of this week's bird viewings... 

Frequent visitors, our favorites - Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal.

It's fascinating to see how these two stick together.  They almost always come to eat together.  See in the photo to the right, Mrs. Cardinal is eating above while Mr. Cardinal looks on.  Makes for very interesting observing for the children.

Our little friend, the Downy Woodpecker.

Isn't she beautiful!?  We're pretty sure this is a female Red-bellied Woodpecker.

See the difference between our two Woodpeckers?

The many, many Mourning Doves!

Getting out with the Birds...

Another really important part of studying Winter Birds is going on walks and finding and observing birds.  We've been blessed to live in a breath-taking area with countless places to find, watch, and even feed the birds!

Here are some snapshots:

And of course, who can forget one of our very favourite 'Backyard Birds', Miss Chancie, the friendliest hen in the world.  *wink*

Links to drawing instructions for sketching simple birds:

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