Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Backyard Classroom - Winter/Spring Feeder Watch

A lot of our science work takes place right in our backyard, and usually in the summer months.  However, winter provides plenty of opportunities for outdoor scientific discoveries as well, even when dropping temperatures drive us back indoors.  This last week, for instance, has been dedicated to observations (made from the comforts of our warm, and cozy couch) of a feathered feeding frenzy taking place outside our living room windows.

With the latest blast of wintry weather, we filled our feeder (a small platform variety) with seeds, and added a couple of hanging suet cages to our fence.

Binoculars were placed at ready in the windowsills, with a couple of our favorite birding books in easy reach.

We had visitors almost instantly.  At first, the normal winter crowd of European Starlings, Eurasian Collared-Doves, House Sparrows and Finches...

...Northern Flickers, Dark-Eyed Juncos (soooo cute)...

...and Black-Capped Chickadees.

Then, we were pleasantly surprised by a swarm (they looked just like bees in the air) of Cedar Waxwings. They are year-round birds in our area too, but were new visitors to our neighborhood.

Despite the snow and cold, we also spotted our first Robin of spring.  He's early, but not nearly as early... the Western Meadowlark...

...or Spotted Towhee, which generally don't arrive here until the summer.  The Meadowlark was a special triumph for me, as we often hear them in the summer (mocking me, I'm sure), but until this week, have never spotted one, and the Spotted Towhee was a new bird for our life lists.

The biggest shocker came when a Red-Tailed Hawk swooped in, and snatched a Starling off of one of the feeders, right in front of the children's eyes.  It's not unusual for us to see hawks, but we've never had one in our yard.  They're not small birds.  The whole ordeal was over in seconds.  The hawk flew away with it's dinner, leaving behind a gruesome crime scene...

...and few, slightly more world wise, birding enthusiasts.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Snow Day Unschool-Style

Freezing rain on top of snow canceled schools in our area today.

Map from Wikipedia

It's great to be a homeschooler.