Notes from the Naturalist Week 32:The Nature Preschool at HCMA

Can you imagine the surprise on my face this morning when I pulled up to the Slim Baker parking lot and was greeted by a log truck and a large excavator! Oh my! We quickly pulled together our “Plan B” and back down to HCMA I went. But before I left, as I waited for the last few families to arrive and instruct them on our new plan, I was serenaded by the lovely songs of birds (with the excavator humming away in the background!). In comparison to last week, it is quite evident that many more birds have arrived from their long journey from afar.

I am not sure if it’s the new subject of study or just the sweet presence of birds, but the children were so excited to dive into this new unit. Several children kept talking and asking about different birds….oh how my heart burst with excitement to hear their EXCITEMENT. We talked about “Birding” and using a pair of binoculars to seek out the birds we hear. We read a cute book on “word phrases” that we as humans interpret from that what we hear in a bird’s song or call. And we talked about the different types of songs, calls and nests.

As the birds migrate north they are in search of the perfect nesting habitat while also in search of areas with an abundance of insects and plants. Once the season changes and food drops off, they will once again migrate south to warmer climates. “Migrating birds can cover thousands of miles in their annual travels, often traveling the same course year after year with little deviation. First-year birds often make their very first migration on their own. Somehow they can find their winter home despite never having seen it before, and return the following spring to where they were born.”

“The secrets of their amazing navigational skills aren’t fully understood, partly because birds combine several different types of senses when they navigate. Birds can get compass information from the sun, the stars, and by sensing the earth’s magnetic field. They also get information from the position of the setting sun and from landmarks seen during the day. There’s even evidence that sense of smell plays a role, at least for homing pigeons.” –

Before heading back down to HCMA, I recorded a short video on the birds that I heard. In the clip you can hear a Yellow Warbler and an Oven Bird. Many more were singing their hearts out but with the hum of the excavator it was hard to decipher who was out there. For many of us as we learn to recognize the birds around us, we first learn their song, followed by physical identification. I taught myself by listening to Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs CD set. My personal favorite bird guide is The Sibley Guide to Bird Identification but you could use any book that you feel works best for you and your family. There are also many great apps out there as well and Audubon has one that is fantastic. The app will give you an instant opportunity to dial in what and who you are hearing.

The silly book we read today is titled “Bird Talk” by Ann Jonas. She writes, “based on words used by the people who study birds to help us hear and remember birds songs, the words they use are called Memory Phrases”. Remember I told you I heard an Oven Bird and a Yellow Warbler. The memory phrase for Oven Bird is: Teacher-Teacher-Teacher (rising in pitch each time). And the memory phrase for Yellow Wrabler is: sweet, sweet, sweet, little more sweet. For more information on birds and to listen to bird songs and calls visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at: I must warn you that you may become addicted to birding, it’s a fun activity to do in the woods!