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Want to learn more about your local birds? One of our favorite bird-related activities, the Great Backyard Bird Count, is coming up next month:  February 13-16, 2015.


The bird count is a prime example of a child-friendly citizen science project. Basically all you need to do is count the birds you see over 15 minutes and then report them on the website. Although it is called "backyard," you can count anywhere you find birds, including parks, preserves or fields.

There is plenty of information and instructions about getting started at the website.

Related Activities:

We recommend picking up some good informational books about birds to share. For example, Capstone Press has a number of books for beginning readers, including the titles in the Birds of Prey Series.

Peregrine Falcons by Melissa Hill and Gail Saunders-Smith, PhD, Consultant Editor

Did you know that peregrine falcons are the fastest animals on the planet? They can reach speeds of over 200 mph when diving. They are found throughout the world, except at temperature extremes (hot tropics and coldest polar regions). Learn more about these incredibly fascinating birds.

Age Range: 4 - 8 years
Publisher: Capstone Press (February 1, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1491423102
ISBN-13: 978-1491423103

Older children might enjoy reading about Fire Birds by Sneed B. Collard III.

Fire Birds reveals the work of biology professor Dick Hutto, who has been investigating what happens to bird species after a forest fire. He found that some kinds of birds increase in number due to increased nest sites and food. He has come up with a list of 15 species that are closely associated with recently burned forests, which he calls "Fire Birds." Can you guess what they might be?

(This title was previously reviewed at our sister blog, Wrapped in Foil.)

Ages: 8+
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Bucking Horse Books (December 10, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0984446079
ISBN-13: 978-0984446070

Looking for more children's books about birds? Try Taking Flight: a List of Children’s Books About Bird Migration at Science Books for Kids or...


...the list of children's books for young birdwatchers at Science Books for Kids


You may also want to click the bird activities category here at Growing with Science for more posts relating to birds, as well as our For the Birds Pinterest page.

The Cornell Lab FeederWatch Project has even more educator resources.

We would love to hear if you participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. What kinds of birds do you see in your backyard?


Disclosure: Fire Birds book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. 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 not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

While much of North America has had cold and snow, here it was warm enough that some local bumble bees were collecting pollen and nectar from desert mallow flowers. Unfortunately the bees were landing and leaving so fast that I wasn't able to get a photograph, so this one from the East Coast will have to do.


What can you do while it is too cold to do much insect watching? It is a perfect time to pull out the field guides and learn more about a group that is interesting to you.

Bumble Bee Identification

Take for example the bumble bees. They are important pollinators and easy to spot because of their large size.

This video shows some of the benefits of encouraging bumble bees.

If you are interested in learning more about the different types of bumble bees in your area, the USDA Forest Service and The Pollinator Partnership recently have created two identification guides for bumble bees: Bumble Bees of the Eastern United States by Sheila Colla, Leif Richardson and Paul Williams and Bumble Bees of the Western United States by Jonathan Koch, James Strange and Paul Williams

The two guides can be downloaded as free .pdfs at The Xerces Society (scroll to bottom of page).

(There are free downloadable bumble bee posters at the USDA Forest Service, too -scroll down.)


Looking through the Bumble Bees of the Eastern United States guide, I believe the bumble bee above on the thistle flower is Bombus impatiens, the common eastern bumble bee.

Ready to take your studies to a new level? Try a citizen science project.

Bumble Bee Citizen Science Opportunities

1. Bumble Bee Watch Citizen Science

This group is looking for individuals interested in taking photographs of their local bumble bees and uploading the photographs to the Bumble Bee Watch website.  Once you have uploaded your photos, experts will verify the identity the bumble bees for you. The website also has tips for what you can do to help conserve bumble bees, like grow a pollinator garden.

2. Bumble Boosters

Based at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, this project involves testing designs for artificial bumble bee nest boxes and also tracking bumble bee queens, again via photographs.

If you decide to participate in one of these projects, or if you know of other bumble bee citizen science projects, be sure to let us know!

Usually we have the Bug of the Week series on Wednesdays, but since we are going with an ocean science theme this week, let's take a look at a group of marine invertebrates, the jellyfish, instead



Jellyfish live in oceans throughout the world. They can be a variety of shapes and colors.


In general, jellyfish have a bowl-shaped main body called the bell. They also have slender tentacles that usually contain the stinging cells or nematocysts. The jellyfish in the photograph above have long, slender strand-like tentacles, but some species have only a tiny fringe of tentacles along the edge of the bell, or even no tentacles at all. The frilly, lighter colored parts are the oral arms, which help capture and move prey.

Jellyfish range in size from those having a bell about 2 cm in diameter to some that are over 40 cm in diameter.

You can see some of the diversity of sizes and shapes in this video:

One concern that marine scientists have, which was mentioned at the end of the video, is that as the numbers of predators of jellyfish rapidly decline that jellyfish will become much more abundant and have more frequent blooms (see for example, this infographic).

Jellyfish Craft Activity

Learn about jellyfish anatomy by making a jellyfish model.




  • Coffee filters
  • Markers
  • Construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Yarn
  • Tape, glue and or stapler

Color the coffee filter with markers. It will represent the bell. If you have time, wetting the coffee filters will allow the marker inks to run and bleed together, making an interesting effect. If you wet them, allow the coffee filters to dry (on paper towels or wax paper to prevent the ink from staining other surfaces).

Fold the construction paper lengthwise. Have the children either cut strips to be the oral arms, or cut arm shapes as shown in the example, depending on their skill with scissors. Cut the yarn into 10 to 16 inch lengths, 6 or as many as desired.

Staple, glue or tape the oral arms into the center of the coffee filter "bell." Tape, staple or glue the yarn to the edge of the coffee filter to form the tentacles. You may want to attach another piece of string or yarn to the top and center of the coffee filter for hanging.

If your children are familiar with a particular type of jellyfish, modify the pattern accordingly.


Are you going to a beach sometime this year? Are you interested in learning more about jellyfish? If so, you might want to look into the citizen science opportunity known as JellyWatch.


This post is part of our ocean science series. Visit the landing page for links to all the related posts.