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Continuing with the bird theme, let’s build a bird nest. But not just a small one, how about building a child-sized bird nest?

Growing With Science Nest

Building a nest is a fun activity for this time of year because there are usually a lot of leaves and branches around. I’ve done this activity with six-year-old children, but it is appropriate for almost any age. It would be best if you could do it outdoors, although some of the materials could be used inside if necessary.

First gather materials to create nests. I recommend using items you can recycle or compost. Here are some suggestions:

  • Cardboard strips
  • Hay or straw (pet supply or craft stores)
  • Grapevines (craft stores)
  • Shredded paper
  • Fallen leaves
  • Branches

The first year I did this activity I was lucky to find two actual nests that had blown out of a tree. Of course you know not to take bird nests out of trees, because birds sometimes reuse their nests. I always leave the nests outside near where I found them so birds can reuse the materials. Gather pictures of bird nests from books and magazines, too. Birds and Blooms magazine often has pictures of bird nests.

bird nest

I showed the nests to the children and talked about some of the reasons birds build nests.

  • Place to raise young
  • Shelter from adverse weather
  • Place to rest

You can also read a great book about nests (see below).

Now have the children build their own human-sized nest. They can work in groups, too. Be prepared for messy fun.

Note:  If you are working with a number of children, they may remove materials from the nests of others. Decide how you want to deal with this in advance. I told them that birds in nature really do take materials from other birds’ nests. Eventually they decided to leave one member of a group in the nest while the others went to gather supplies, just how birds sometimes handle the problem.

Make sure you have your camera ready. You will find there are many creative ways to make nests. Take pictures of your “birds” sitting in their nests.

Reward your “birds” with some bird-themed treats. Easy snack nests can be made by melting butterscotch chips in the microwave (see package for instructions) and mixing with crispy chow mien noodles. After it is cool enough to handle, shape into nests.

Related Books (Contain affiliate links to Amazon):

Birds Build Nests
by Yvonne Winer is our absolute favorite book about birds and bird nests. It has fabulous illustrations of many different birds and their nests.


How and Why Birds Build Nests (How and Why Series) by Elaine Pascoe, Joel Kupperstein, Editor and Dwight Kuhn, Photographer


Birds & Blooms

Ever heard of a sharpshooter insect? Sharpshooter is the common name of a group of large leafhoppers. They are elongate, shaped like a torpedo, and feed on plants by sucking the juices.

Sharpshooters may have gotten their name from the fact these insects slip to the underside of a twig whenever someone approaches, in order to hide. They have relatively large eyes, and in the past I have had no luck getting one to sit still long enough for a photograph. I would spot one, and then -shuffle, shuffle- it was on the far side of the twig.

For some reason, this morning I found a whole group feeding who were more than willing to pose for me. Maybe because it was slightly windy and they knew I’d have trouble getting a good focus. ☺

smoke tree sharpshooter

These are adults and nymphs of the smoke tree sharpshooter, Homalodisca lacerta.

The nymphs are beige and lack wings.

smoke tree sharpshooter

The adults have bright red splotches on their wings and wild wavy patterns on their head.

smoke tree sharpshooter

Check out those eyes.

smoke tree sharpshooter

And as for shooting, these insects eject a stream of honeydew while they are feeding. If there are quite a few in a tree, it actually can look like a fine mist of rain on a sunny day.

These are both males. The females create prominent white spots on the sides of their wings. No one knows for sure why they do this.

We have been noticing something weird on our back patio. We’ve been finding bits of glass.

Most of them are glass beads that look like they came off of a mosaic.

glass bit

I originally thought the kids behind us were throwing them over the fence for some reason. They’d have to have good aim to get all the way to the patio.

glass bit

But then I found this glass chip. The kids over the back fence a young, and I didn’t think their parents would let them play with hunks of broken glass.

I have a much better idea who is the culprit now.

Here is a clue:

feather

The second clue is that we have a pot of water that collects condensed water from our air conditioning system. In the summer the pot is full because of constant dripping, and we have to empty it every day. Fresh, cold water…

Look for the answer in an upcoming post. Edit: Update post is here.