After decades of declining numbers, ospreys are on the rise again. Discover more about how people are helping ospreys recover with the new picture book, Swoop and Soar: How Science Rescued Two Osprey Orphans and Found Them A New Family In The Wild by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp.
In the first part of the book, we hold our breaths following the perilous journey of two newly-hatched osprey chicks. One night a storm destroys Swoop and Soar’s nest and the chicks fall to the ground. Nearby, another osprey family has lost their offspring, but still come back to their nest. With a little help from Jane, will the new family adopt the homeless chicks?
What comes after is not so much back matter as a second fascinating book about ospreys and how biologist Jane Veltkamp works hard to rescue them.
The illustrations are glorious full color photographs. The text matches the illustrations perfectly. Some of the photographs will make you ask, “How did they get that?”
With Swoop and Soar, get hooked by the nail-biting story of the chicks, then stick around for some amazing information about ospreys. Highly recommended!
Activity: Check the status of ospreys where you live.
Growing up in western New York state, we rarely saw ospreys even though we had ponds and lakes everywhere. Now, a few decades later, it is common to find the huge osprey nests atop utility poles. It is wonderful that the birds are on the rebound.
Check with your local Audubon Society or bird watching organization to find out whether ospreys are found in your area. Take a trip to look for them.
Disclosure: An e-ARC of this book was provided by the publisher 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.
During a recent quiet morning walk I spotted something unexpected,
a great horned owl napping in a cottonwood tree!
I had some questions, so when I got back home I pulled out the new children’s informational book Great Horned Owlsby Melissa Hill and Gail Saunders-Smith, PhD (Consultant Editor) to find out more (It is Nonfiction Monday, after all.)
Are great horned owls common in the desert? Checking the map of where great horned owls live, it turns out they are found throughout North America and parts of South America. There is even a photograph showing a great horned owl nesting in a saguaro cactus. Another source suggests that great horned owls catch and eat scorpions, which makes sense since they are both active at night. Great horned owls do live in the desert.
Looking at the large photographs in the book, it was also surprising to see that the feathers of the great horned owl vary in color. Some great horned owls are predominately dark like the one in my photograph, some have more reddish-brown feathers, and others are quite pale in color. All have the tall tufts of feathers on their heads, however, that give them the name “horned.”
Did you know that owls don’t build their own nests? It turns out they use cavities in trees, nests built by other large birds, or even nests built by squirrels as places to lay their eggs. After laying, the female incubates the eggs for about a month, while the male brings her food. Once the baby owls hatch, both parents feed them.
Great Horned Owls helps early readers learn new vocabulary while exploring age-appropriate facts about these fascinating nocturnal creatures. Reading it will allow them to become as wise as owls!
Disclosure: These books were provided by the publisher 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 or cover links 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.
If you are already familiar with Chicago Review Press books for kids, you will recognize the format. Each section reveals information about a topic, such as feathers, and then provides suggestions for making observations and for appropriate hands-on activities to reinforce learning.
Birdology gives an introduction to many aspects of bird biology, such as their anatomy and special characteristics, where to look for them, what they eat, bird migratory behavior, etc. In the final section it explores common careers that involve working with birds.
The author is very careful to point out that it is illegal to collect or possess feathers, nests or eggs of wild birds. All the activity suggestions keep this important consideration in mind.
Educators will be interested in the Teacher’s Guide and Resources in the back matter. Monica Russo is an experienced teacher, which is evident because the Teacher’s Guide includes suggestions for how to accommodate a student who is afraid of birds. That is not something a beginning teacher is likely to have encountered.
Kevin Byron’s photographs are inspiring (see activity suggestion below). You almost wish more space had been devoted to them, although that might have left less room for the fabulous activities. See what I mean by checking out the barn swallow in flight on page 76.
Birdology is a must have book for beginning ornithologists, and basically any older child interested in science and nature. It would be wonderful paired with a citizen science project such as the Great Backyard Bird Count. Educators will also want a copy for ideas for quick projects that are appealing and well-designed, and that could work with multi-aged groups.
Age Range: 7 and up
Publisher: Chicago Review Press (January 1, 2015)
Related activity suggestions:
1. Anting by birds
Imagine you are watching some big black birds called crows. Suddenly one spies an ant mound, runs over to it and starts flopping around on it while ruffling its wings. Then it grabs some of the ants and starts thrusting them up into its feathers. What is wrong with this crow? Has it eaten some bad food? What is it doing?
In fact, the bird is using the ants’ defensive chemicals as a personal bug killer. Birders call this behavior “anting.”
Birds can be host to various itchy lice and mites. Scientists have long thought that by anting birds kill these parasites, but few are willing to do the experiments to prove it. However, one man actually took the lice off several birds he had observed anting and compared them to the lice on some birds that hadn’t anted. He found many of the lice from the anting birds died, but only a few from the non-anting birds.
When the birds actively pick up the ants and wipe their wings with them, it is called active anting. Other birds simply squat or lie on an anthill shaking their wings and tails, and stirring up the ants. This behavior is called passive anting.
You can see an example of passive anting in the following video (there is background music):
Doesn’t the behavior look odd at first?
When you are watching birds, be sure to keep your eye out for birds that are anting. Document your observations in a nature notebook, sketchbook, with photographs, or with video and then share them with others.
2. Bird Photography
Birds are often small and active, but with patience and experience, children can learn how to photograph birds.
With any camera, start with larger birds that are easy to spot and are not likely to fly away. Water birds might be a good choice.
Think about the background. Again, water birds make this easier because the water is generally uniform and gives good contrast.
See how much easier it is to spot the mallard in the top photograph, where the heron gets lost in the second photograph?
No pesky background in this photograph.
Add interest to a photograph by concentrating on the head and eye of the bird. If you study Kevin Byron’s photographs, you will see he does this.
Encourage your budding photographers to keep records of what kinds of birds they photograph, where and when the photograph was taken, what the birds were doing, etc.
Talk about the photographs, too. Compare the beak of the heron versus the goose. Do you know what each kind of bird eats? (Herons eat fish whereas geese graze on vegetation.) Who knows what else you might discover!
Previous Growing With Science posts with bird-related activities:
Disclosures: The book above was from our local library. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.
Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.