We love natural history at the River Houses, and one of the simplest and most educational ways to introduce your homeschool students to natural history is by keeping a simple bird list for your backyard or local area. Spring is on its way, so this is the perfect time to start.
The eBird service sponsored by Cornell University is a great place to keep track of all your bird sightings. I use eBird, and you and your students should sign up and give it a try:
eBird allows you to specify a location (your backyard, for example, or a local natural area), and then add regular lists of birds seen at that location. To build up an effective list (the most useful for educational purposes) you should set aside a small block of time — 15 minutes or 30 minutes, say — and count all the birds you see during that time. It may be only five birds, or it may be fifty, but by keeping a total count for a specific period of time every week, eBird can automatically build up a profile of your location, showing when different species arrive, when they depart, and how frequent they are. That’s a valuable picture of the natural world that your students can learn from.
Here’s a small local park I’m watching — if you come back to this page week after week you’ll see the annual picture begin to develop as more and more species arrive this spring:
If you and your students get really ambitious you can even add pictures and sounds to your eBird records.
What nature notes have you taken in your homeschool lately?
❡ Books in the running brooks: Our recommended River Houses reference library (riverhouses.org/books) includes an excellent bird guide that would serve your homeschool well. Many other similar guides are also available — find one that is a good fit for your family and take it with you on all your outings, whether far afield or just to the backyard.