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The Great Backyard Bird Count 2019 starts next weekend. It is a family-friendly citizen science event, and a longtime favorite of ours. Birders -- novice and experienced alike -- identify and count birds, then report their findings using eBird (instructions are on the website). This gives ornithologists a "snapshot" of where birds are around the world.

To get inspired, you might want to pick up one of bird lover and author Sneed B. Collard III's wonderful books about birds (Follow links to my reviews)

Plus, visit his, Father-Son Birding blog.

To keep interest high, after the event keep a look out for Sneed B. Collard III's new book Birds of Every Color with his son, Braden Collard. It is coming out in March, just in time for spring migration birding.

 

Right up front, this isn't a concept book about colors. Instead, it delves deeply into the whys and hows of the fascinating array of bird feather hues.

For example, one page explains how birds get certain pigments from the food they eat and another explains about melanins, brown and black pigments that birds and other animals manufacture internally. Ever hear of psittacofulvins? You'll find out about those, too.

 

Public domain photograph of a male cardinal from Publicdomainpictures

Look closely and you will see bird colors may be different from place to place, season to season, and even between individual birds. Did you know that the extensiveness of the black bib of house sparrows. and the black and white patches on the heads of chickadees reflect their status in the flock?

The backmatter contains a two-page spread with twelve photographs of different bird species and challenges the reader to figure out how many different colors each has. Also included is a glossary of "Colorful Words," plus "About the Author." On the next page we learn "About the Photographs," which were taken by either Sneed or his son, Braden. Cool!

Birds of Every Color will enthrall budding ornithologists and nature lovers in general. Look for a copy next month or pre-order it now.

Related:

Age Range: 5 - 10 years
Publisher: Bucking Horse Books (March 1, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1732875308
ISBN-13: 978-1732875302

 

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher. 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. Note: this is a new link as of 1/2019.

Snails are fascinating creatures that are often overlooked. When I discovered the children's book Snails Are Just My Speed! by Kevin McCloskey on a list of great science and nature books from 2018, I knew I needed to get my hands on it.

Part of the Giggle and Learn series, this title combines fun illustrations with serious information about snails.

The first thing I love is that Keven McCloskey put the eyes where they should be, on the eye stalks or tentacles. Yes!

The second thing I love is that he puts in a lot of mucus for the "ick, gross" factor, but also adds useful information, like humans make mucus too, but it is mostly on the inside.

The thing I love most? The awesome lesson on how to draw a snail in the back! (Turn the page for useful tips for parents and teachers about "How To Read Comics With Kids.")

The books in this series are marketed as beginning readers, which may discourage some older children from picking them up. That would be too bad because they have potential to appeal to a larger range of ages.

Snails Are Just My Speed! should fly off the shelves. Check out a copy today!

Age Range: 4 - 7 years
Publisher: TOON Books (May 1, 2018)
ISBN-10: 194314527X
ISBN-13: 978-1943145270

Snails can be humorous? Yes, they can.

This is me on Monday morning.

Do I have to get up?

Argh, it is too bright out.

Okay, if I must get up I will.

Now, where did I put my coffee?

If you want some more serious science try our previous posts:

Adult readers might be interested in the memoir that Kevin McCloskey says inspired him, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. It reveals how her long recovery from a devastating illness was helped by observing a snail.

 

Publisher: Green Books; Later prt. edition (September 1, 2010)
ISBN-10: 1900322919
ISBN-13: 978-1900322911

Groundhog Day is February 2, which is right around the corner. To get ready to celebrate, let's take a look at a new book about groundhogs that just came out last month, The Amazing Groundhogs of Woodchuck Wonderland by Susan Sam and Joseph Sam.

Susan and Joseph Sam are passionate proponents for groundhogs. Their website Woodchuck Wonderland™ has long been an inspirational source of information, photographs, and videos that come from years of studying these often-ignored rodents. Now they have published a 36-page paperback that will delight children of all ages.

First up in the book, they present Wilhelmina, a special woodchuck that first introduced them to the joys of observing woodchuck behavior. Next they discuss what a woodchuck (or groundhog) is -- technically large squirrels of the marmot family -- and describe their life cycles, including hibernation.

Did you know baby groundhogs were called chucklings?

The rest of the book reveals what woodchucks eat and all sorts of interesting facts about them, all illustrated with large color photographs. The Sam's call themselves "The People" in the text and admit at times that the woodchucks' activities are at odds with their own.

Last year I looked for a books about groundhogs for a young relative who had developed an interest in them and the pickings were slim. The Amazing Groundhogs of Woodchuck Wonderland is a much-needed book that fills a special niche. Dig up a copy today!

Suggested Activities to Accompany the Book:

I. Hibernation Information and Activities

What is hibernation?

When it is cold outside and/or food supplies are low, certain animals are able to slow their heart rates and breathing rates, lower their body temperatures, and go into an extended resting state.

Rodents, in particular, are known to hibernate.

1. Hibernation Information Research

Make a list of animals that hibernate. What do animals that hibernate have in common? How are they different?

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources hibernation page is a good place to start.

2. Heart Rates and Breathing Rates

Gather:  Watch or other timing device that will measure one minute in seconds.

Teach children how to find their pulse (details at Women's and Children's Health Network). Count the pulse for one minute.

Most children at rest should have counts around 60-100 beats per minute (faster than adults). Have them walk around or do some exercises in place. Then count again. If they are struggling to count for a minute, have them count for 15 seconds and multiply by 4.

Now explain that in bears the number of heart beats go from 84 in an active bear to 19 beats per minute in a hibernating bear (ScienceDaily). Other animals my drop to 4 or 5 beats per minute. That is slow!

3. Getting Ready to Hibernate

Animals that hibernate must put on a heavy layer of fat to act as an energy reserve while they are not active or feeding. How do they do it?

Did you know that one source of food for bears is moths? Studies have shown that bears in Yellowstone Park eat as many as 40,000 moths a day in preparation for hibernation (Smithsonian). The moths themselves have big fat reserves they have stored for their own preparation for overwintering.

Woodchucks eat mostly plants. What kinds of plants might be best for the woodchucks to eat if they want to make fat?

What does this groundhog have in its front paw? Can you see?

It is picking up fruit from under a mulberry tree. It has an ability to grasp its food like other members of the squirrel family.

If you are lucky enough to live where woodchucks occur, observe what they eat. Does what they eat change as they approach the time to hibernate?

Visit TeachHub for more classroom activities about hibernation.

II. Past Groundhog Day Science Links:

Groundhog Day Science - Groundhogs and Shadows

Groundhog Day Information and Poem

And don't forget, The Amazing Groundhogs of Woodchuck Wonderland.

Paperback: 36 pages
Publisher: Independently published (December 11, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1731288786
ISBN-13: 978-1731288783