Friday, March 27, 2009

Outdoor Hour Challenge: Birds-Robin, Cardinal, and House Finch

Our bird study didn’t go quite like I had planned, but we had fun. We’ve had TONS of cardinals at our feeder lately, so I thought I’d focus on cardinals for our bird study. As I was finishing up the final preparations to begin our study, it seemed there were even more of them out there than usual, so I had high hopes for a successful day of observation.

We started out reading and discussing what we learned from the pages on birds in the Handbook of Nature Study, then examined bird feathers, and listened to the cardinal’s song on the iBird app on my iPod Touch hooked up to speakers. It was worth the price of the app just to watch our cats run to all the windows to look for the source of the sound. And it was great to see the kids’ delighted smiles when they heard the exact same song from real birds when they walked out the door.

At first I thought it might be best to do our cardinal observing from inside, so we didn’t scare them off, but then I remembered it was supposed to be the “Outdoor Hour”, so to help my noisy bunch remember to “observe quietly” when outside, we watched a short video on deer (at and I pointed out how deer make no sounds but are always listening, and how they raise their white-tails to alert their friends when there is something to see instead of shouting. Then we made “deer ear” headbands and white flags on sticks. Fully accessorized, the kids crept outside with their nature journals. They were supposed to be “quiet as deer” and to raise their white flags when they saw a bird. And it worked! They sat outside observing quietly for a good 20-30 minutes - an almost unheard-of feat for my loud wiggle-worm of a son and my very bouncy preschooler. It was even more amazing considering that as soon as we all sat down outside EVERY cardinal mysteriously disappeared. We could hear them (now that we were experts on the cardinal song) but nary a one came to the feeder, or anywhere within viewing distance, for the entire half-hour we were outside. So my pre-made coloring and information page on the cardinal didn’t get much use, but we did see lots of chickadees and titmice, and the kids really seemed to enjoy being outside, and being still. My son, the gamer, even commented that he really loved “connecting with nature”. Finally the kids did grow weary of birdwatching, and decided to swipe some sunflower seeds from the feeder and go plant them in the garden instead, but at least we were outdoors. And of course, the cardinals all returned as soon as we went back inside, but by then the interest was gone. Still, I can’t complain - it was a really fun experience overall, and much better than doing a math lesson on a beautiful day like today.

I am so excited to have this and many other nature study assignments to look forward to at The Outdoor Hour blog. What a wonderful idea! Check them out here.


  1. What a great entry!!! I love your quiet as deer exercise and the white flags are a perfect idea! Thanks so much for sharing your study.

    I would love to share a couple of your photos for the Outdoor Hour Photo of the Week. Please let me know if that is okay.

    Excellent study and your bird photos are gorgeous.

    Barb-Harmony Art Mom

  2. Wonderful pictures! Thanks for sharing your bird study!

  3. The "quiet as a deer" idea is fantastic! I'll have to remember that one.


  4. So cute and so creative! I love the photo of all the "deer" sitting in a row. :-)

  5. Awesome photos! We are SO going to use your deer-hat idea!

  6. What a great idea! We are going to have to do this in our homeschool, too. I love your blog!!!


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