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The penstemons are flowering.

They are a favorite.

Hummingbirds love them.

So do solitary bees. In fact, the stalks are abuzz with bees.

The digger bees and sweat bees land, and crawl right into the flower in no time.

This is the usual view of a bee visiting a flower. The nectaries are at the base, so the bees push their heads deep inside and suck up the nectar with their long tongues.

Then the bee is off to the next flower.

If you are interested in helping bees and hummingbirds, penstemons are great plants to grow.

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For STEM Friday let's take a look at a beautiful new picture book, On Gull Beach by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Bob Marstall.

In this book, youngsters learn about seagulls and other inhabitants of a Massachusetts beach.

The story follows a young boy as he explores the seashore. Along the way, he spots a sea star. Before he can reach it, however, a seagull picks it up and flies away. Find out what he discovers as he chases the gull along the beach.

Jane Yolen's simple, but expertly-crafted rhyming text and Bob Marstall's exceptional illustrations make a delightful combination. Plus, you can't go wrong with the people of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology backing it.

The back matter includes more detailed information about gulls, other shorebirds, sea stars, and different types of crabs. Included are small color photographs of the different animals, plus QR Codes that will take you to sound files. There is also a sidebar about "How You Can Help Our Beaches and Wildlife."

Young birdwatchers will love On Gull Beach. It would also be a great choice for a trip to the beach, either in real life or in the reader's imagination. Enjoy a copy today!

Age Range: 4 - 11 years
Publisher: Cornell Lab Publishing Group (March 27, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1943645183
ISBN-13: 978-1943645183

Related Seagull Science Activities

1. Identifying Birds

Encourage children to learn how to identify birds. When children can tell different birds apart, they pay more attention to the birds they see.

Identifying birds requires learning to recognize body shapes, learning the names of body parts, plus honing observation skills. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has some tips and resources to get started.

 

The type of seagulls featured in the book are herring gulls. As you can see from the illustrations, herring gulls have robust white bodies, light gray on their wings, pink legs and feet, yellow eyes, and they have a red spot towards the tip of their yellow lower beak.  The All About Birds website has more details and photographs of herring gulls.

 

Is this a herring gull? Check the characteristics listed above. Does it match?

Nope. There are more than 20 species of gulls in North America.  This is an immature Heermann's gull (Larus heermanni).

2. Questions and Answers: Seagulls

Q: How are the feet of seagulls different from those of the song birds in your community?

A: The seagulls have webbed feet for swimming.

Q: What sounds do seagulls make?

Seagulls make a number of different sounds depending on circumstances. They have alarm calls, courtship calls, sounds to defend territories, and sounds when they feed their chicks. All About Birds has some seagull sound recordings.

Q: Why do seagulls have dots on their beaks?

A: Seagull chicks peck the dot on the beak as a signal they want to be fed.

Q:  Are seagulls only found at the beach?

A:  No. Seagulls are also found inland, around rivers and lakes, and even in agricultural fields. They are common around landfills.

Q:  Do seagulls really eat sea stars like in the book?

A:  Seagulls eat many different creatures at the beach, including sea stars, crabs, and fish. Those found at the landfill are feeding on trash.

Here are some clever gulls eating snails.

No matter how you crack it, seagulls are interesting animals.

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Earlier titles in the On Bird Hill and Beyond series:
On Bird Hill (2016) by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Bob Marstall

On Duck Pond (2017) by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Bob Marstall

See our growing list of children's books for young birdwatchers at Science Books for Kids.

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher's representatives for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

A writing friend recently introduced me to the cutest fiction picture book about a snail, Escargot by Daska Slater and illustrated by Sydney Hanson.

You can see for yourself. Sophia reads the entire book in this video:

Although I usually feature nonfiction, fiction children's books like this one may also inspire us to investigate scientific questions.

For example:

Do snails eat carrots?

Yes, they do. When we raised them years ago, our brown garden snails ate carrots. It was easy to find videos of other kinds of snails eating carrots, too.

What is a snail's mouth like?

A snail scrapes off food with a radula, which has teeth like a saw blade.

Do snails really have eyes?

Yes, but not where they are shown in the book.

The snail eyes are the black spots at the ends of the upper feelers or tentacles.

What are those other things sticking out of a snail's head?

The lower feelers or tentacles help the snail taste or smell its food.

Where do snails come from?

 

Adult snails lay eggs.

Tiny baby snails hatch out of the eggs, complete with tiny shells. Their shells get bigger as they grow.

Would a snail really like vinaigrette on its salad?

No, the vinegar in the vinaigrette could harm a snail.

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Did reading the book Escargot give you any questions about snails? If so, we'd love to hear them.