Nature BOOK LOOK – The Mushroom Fan Club by Elise Gravel

 


 ~ ~ ~ BOOK LOOK ~ ~ ~


The Mushroom Fan Club

by Elise Gravel


Karen’s P.L.A.Y. previews and companion activity adventures.


 P.L.A.Y.ful story preview:

Simple Mushroom Mastery and Mycologists in the Making

*Must have an enthusiastic favorite adult to advise kiddos on this adventure.

P.L.A.Y.-filled companion activity adventures:

  • Challenge: Are there mushrooms you’ve seen in a nearby forest that are also in this book? What are they? Can you draw or photograph them?
  • Super Challenge: How do you think they came up with such a variety of fun mushroom names and who do you think got to name them?
  • Super-Duper Challenge: Before looking up your next mushroom find be sure to create your own crazy name first and record it in your nature discovery notebook – eyes and all!
  • Super-Duper-Stellar Challenge: Solve this mystery . . .  are mushrooms fungi or are fungi mushrooms?
  • Curiosity REMINDER: As beginners it is best to look with your eyes not your hands so as not to disturb the mushrooms. And ALWAYS check with a person who has experience foraging for mushrooms before even considering eating them. 

Fungi Finding is FUN!


More of my latest forest fungi finds:


Purchase HERE P.L.A.Y. Nature Alliteration Adventure Guide Books

Toad BOOK LOOK #14: Life Cycle + The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad (Annotated)

Toad Life Cycle

Beautiful Drawings in Black & White

Toad Life Cycle by S.H. Gage – Cornell Nature Study Leaflet 1904

Toad Life Cycle Circular by S.H. Gage – Cornell Nature Study Leaflet 1904


P.L.A.Y. Adventure Time 

These simplistic and beautiful drawings of “Old Mr. Toad” are from over 100 years ago and are still just as accurate today.

Time to take a moment and pull out your own nature journal and sketch your observations of toads and tadpoles.

Use a local habitat or the photos and videos provided on P.L.A.Y. and P.L.A.Y. on Pinterest as great ways to engage with this topic year round.


 ~ ~ ~ BOOK LOOK ~ ~ ~


The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad (Annotated):

A P.L.A.Y. Nature Activity Story Book 

by Karen L. Willard

Join Peter Rabbit and friends on adventures discovering all about Old Mr. Toad and his days spent in and out of the water!

See sample story pages + purchase HERE

More Tadpoles + Toads in motion at PINTEREST HERE.

Bird BOOK LOOK – Curiosity Projects -The Burgess Bird Book for Children (Annotated)


P.L.A.Y. in Place Curiosity


Missed Chapter 1? Begin Online for FREE HERE

So now that you have read the 45 chapters in The Burgess Bird Book for Children (Annotated) series provided by P.L.A.Y. online, what’s next?

Time to make use of your family’s interests generated from this adventure story with Peter Rabbit and his feathered friends to create new leaping off points into projects and activities that can easily be done at home.

Below are some sample curious questions to help get you started.

Be sure to have each family member generate their own list of what they enjoyed most  and what they’d like to explore further as this keeps everyone engaged and motivated.

Curiosity propels us forward into new ideas as well as digging deeper into topics that were only covered at the surface level. All super life learning moments!


P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects + Activities


  1. Parts of a Bird: Our feathered friends have eyes, throat, shoulders, and a belly just like us. What other parts make up the bird anatomy that is different from humans?
  2. Beak Shape: What are the uses of a bird beak? Can you list them? What different types of shaped beaks are there and what are their clever uses? Dig deep!
  3. Bird Size Silhouettes: How does the outline or shape of a bird (their silhouette) help in identifying from a distance? What characteristics can you tell from a silhouette?
  4. Bird Songs + Calls: Can you track the songs of the birds that live just outside your windows? Who do you hear singing on a spring morning? Who do you hear on a summer’s eve? Do you hear more high notes or low notes? Slow notes or fast? Loud notes or soft notes? Can you duplicate the song you hear on a flute or by whistling? What are bird song mnemonics? Example: Chick-a-dee-dee-dee
  5. Feathers: What purpose do they serve beyond flying? Why is there a variety in colors? How do they vary in size? Do they vary in shape?
  6. Ornithologists: Who are they? Look into what the study of birds was like in the late 1800’s vs. how current day scientists engage with this work.
  7. Birds Can Be: Make a list of what birds can be. Example – seed spreaders, morning wake-up alarms, winged dancers, egg layers, singers, etc.
  8. Bird Watchers: Over 40+ million people in the United States consider themselves birders. How do folks engage with the study of our feathered friends even when they are not scientists by profession?  What is a hobbyist vs. a citizen scientist? Can all birders see activity in their local habitat year round in the United States?
  9. A great winter bird project in New England for the whole family is to engage with Project Feeder Watch by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It is helpful to prepare before the first frost if you need to put poles in the ground and certainly before the first winter storm blankets the ground with snow.
  10. Bonus! How many books can you name with a bird in the title? How many songs can you name that have a bird mentioned in it? What artwork have you seen with birds as a theme?

P.L.A.Y. in Place:

Read, Get Curious, and Enjoy the Journey!

If you haven’t already purchased one or two basic Bird ID books to have on hand in your home you might like to give these two a try.


National Audubon Society

The Sibley Guide to Birds

Written and Illustrated by David Allen Sibley

This guide edition copyright 2000 has been used extensively by my son for identifying birds in his photography as well as by other family members simply looking out our windows. This volume is very thorough in covering birds across the United States and specifically here in New England providing standard deviations to help distinguish between any differences.


The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The Backyard Birdsong Guide to Eastern and Central North America: A Guide to Listening

by Donald Kroodsma

This book has a matching audio recording of 75 bird songs and calls to help you ID what you are hearing outdoors with a family friendly format.


P.L.A.Y. in Place Online Resources


Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:


Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

P.L.A.Y. has provided this new online version of all 45 chapters of this updated and annotated 100+ year old public domain classic to:

  • be suitable for the 21st century family by having the Thornton Burgess woodland characters evolve to model mindfulness and loving kindness
  • highlight and bring awareness to the New England nature settings and offer an opportunity to learn more about birds and other woodland animals through this story adventure
  • create story extension moments through P.L.A.Y. suggested activities and investigations for making new nature connections generated by the reader’s own curiosity
  • encourage families to keep their own nature notebooks for drawing, writing, painting, and recording their own local daily outdoor P.L.A.Y. adventures.

P.L.A.Y. Time – Pass it on!

Bird BOOK LOOK – Summary – The Burgess Bird Book for Children (Annotated)


Peter Rabbit has taken us on quite the adventures in the past 45 chapters in this New England setting by introducing us to all of his feathered friends and learning about their habits and interactions throughout the Old Orchard, Green Forest, and beyond.


*If you missed Chapter 1 begin Online for FREE HERE


Having completed your reading of The Burgess Bird Book for Children (Annotated) now would be a great time to make use of your family’s interests generated from this story and use them as a leaping off point to make more discoveries about the natural world. Have each family member make a short list of what they enjoyed most or what they are still curious about for further exploring. Dig in!

Below is a list of some top online resources and books to look up at your local library for more great birding adventures. Enjoy!


P.L.A.Y. in Place Online Resources


Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:


P.L.A.Y. in Place:

Read, Get Curious, and Enjoy the Story!


Into the Nest: Intimate Views of the Courting, Parenting, and Family Lives of Familiar Birds

by Laura Erickson & Marie Read

This book is a fantastic compliment to the Burgess Bird Book story as it goes into great depth about all the habits of 25 bird species that were mentioned throughout Peter Rabbits adventures. Filled with gorgeous color photos you get to meet “Jenny Wren and her family” and countless other feathered friend real life “characters”. This is a top pick!


What It’s Like To Be A Bird:

From Flying to Nesting, Eating to Singing, What Birds Are Doing, And Why 

by David Allen Sibley

David Sibley’s latest book is also great for the entire family with fantastic color illustrations of most all the birds mentioned in the Burgess Bird Book and engaging details that keep curious folks coming back for more. This too is a top pick and comes highly recommended by my 20 year old son who has taken on bird photography just in the past year. Visit my son’s collection of New England bird nature photos HERE.


My Side of the Mountain

by Jean Craighead George

Ready to settle into another great read aloud (or solo read)? How about a story that highlights both spending time outdoors, befriending a bird, and showing how to connect to nature and make peace with feeling lonely at times? This classic has it all!


Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

P.L.A.Y. has provided this new online version of all 45 chapters of this updated and annotated 100+ year old public domain classic to:

  • be suitable for the 21st century family by having the Thornton Burgess woodland characters evolve to model mindfulness and loving kindness
  • highlight and bring awareness to the New England nature settings and offer an opportunity to learn more about birds and other woodland animals through this story adventure
  • create story extension moments through P.L.A.Y. suggested activities and investigations for making new nature connections generated by the reader’s own curiosity
  • encourage families to keep their own nature notebooks for drawing, writing, painting, and recording their own local daily outdoor P.L.A.Y. adventures.

P.L.A.Y. Time – Pass it on!

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 45 – Northern Goshawk + Great Horned Owl


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



CHAPTER 45 – Peter Sees Two Feathered Hunters


While it is true that Peter Rabbit likes winter, it is also true that life is not easy for him that season. In the first place he has to travel about a great deal to get sufficient food, and that means that he must run more risks. There isn’t a minute of day or night that he is outside of the dear Old Briar-patch when he can afford not to watch and listen for danger. You see, at this season of the year, Reddy Fox often finds it difficult to get a good meal. He is hungry most of the time, and he is forever hunting for Peter Rabbit. With snow on the ground and no leaves on the bushes and young trees, it is not easy for Peter to hide. So, as he travels about, the thought of Reddy Fox is always in his mind.

However, there are others whom Peter fears even more, and these wear feathers instead of fur coats. One of these is Terror the Goshawk. Peter is not alone in his fear of Terror. There is not one among his feathered friends who will not shiver at the mention of Terror’s name. Peter will not soon forget the day he discovered that Terror had come down from the Far North, and was likely to stay for the rest of the winter. Peter went hungry all the rest of that day.

You see it was this way: Peter had gone over to the Green Forest very early that morning in the hope of getting breakfast in a certain swamp. He was hopping along, lipperty-lipperty-lip, with his thoughts chiefly on that breakfast he hoped to get, and at the same time with ears and eyes alert for possible danger, when a strange feeling swept over him. It was a feeling that great danger was very near, though he saw nothing and heard nothing to indicate it. It was just a feeling, that was all.

Now Peter has learned that the wise thing to do when one has such a feeling as that is to seek safety first and investigate afterwards. At the instant he felt that strange feeling of fear he was passing a certain big, hollow log. Without really knowing why he did it, he dived into that hollow log, and even as he did so there was the sharp swish of great wings. Terror the Goshawk had missed catching Peter by a fraction of a second.


Hollowed out log for hiding.


With his heart thumping as if it were trying to pound its way through his ribs, Peter peeped out of that hollow log. Terror had alighted on a tall stump only a few feet away. To Peter in his fright he seemed the biggest bird he ever had seen. Of course he wasn’t. Actually he was very near the same size as Redtail the Hawk, whom Peter knew well.

His back was bluish. His head seemed almost black. Over and behind each eye was a white line. Underneath he was beautifully marked with wavy bars of gray and white. On his tail were four dark bands. And Peter could see the eyes that were fixed on the entrance to that hollow log. Peter shivered as if with a cold chill.

“I hope,” thought Peter, “that Mr. and Mrs. Grouse are nowhere about.” You see he knew that there is no one that Terror would rather catch than a member of the Grouse family.

Terror did not sit on that stump long. He knew that Peter was not likely to come out in a hurry. Presently he flew away, and Peter suspected from the direction in which he was headed that Terror was going over to visit Farmer Brown’s hen yard. Of all the members of the Hawk family there is none more bold than Terror the Goshawk. He would not hesitate to seize a hen from almost beneath Farmer Brown’s nose. He is well named, for the mere suspicion that he is anywhere about strikes terror to the heart of all the furred and feathered folks. He is so swift of wing that few can escape him.


Barnyard hen is dinner for a Goshawk.


All that day Peter remained hidden in that hollow log. He did not dare put foot outside until the Dark Shadows began to creep through the Green Forest. Then he knew that there was nothing more to fear from Terror the Goshawk, for he hunts only by day. Once more Peter’s thoughts were chiefly of his stomach, for it was very, very empty.

However, it was not intended that Peter should fill his stomach at once. He had gone only a little way when from just ahead of him the silence of the early evening was broken by a terrifying sound “Whooo-hoo-hoo, whooo-hoo!” It was so sudden that Peter had all he could do to keep from jumping and running for dear life. He knew that voice and he knew, too, that safety lay in keeping perfectly still. So with his heart thumping madly, as when he had escaped from Terror that morning, Peter sat as still as if he could not move.

It was the hunting call of Hooty the Great Horned Owl, and it had been intended to frighten some one into jumping and running, or at least into moving ever so little. Peter knew all about that trick of Hooty’s. He knew that in all the Green Forest there are no ears so wonderful as those of Hooty the Owl, and that the instant he had uttered that hunting call he had strained those wonderful ears to catch the faintest sound which some startled little sleeper of the night might make. The rustle of a leaf would be enough to bring Hooty to the spot on his great silent wings, and then his yellow eyes, which are made for seeing in the dusk, would find his prey.

So Peter sat still, fearful that the very thumping of his heart might reach those wonderful ears. Again that terrible hunting cry rang out, and again Peter had all he could do to keep from jumping. He did not jump though, and a few minutes later, as he sat staring at a certain tall, dead stub of a tree, wondering just where Hooty was, the top of that stub seemed to break off, and a great, broad winged bird flew away soundlessly like a drifting shadow. It was Hooty himself. Sitting perfectly straight on the top of that tall, dead stub he had seemed a part of it. Peter waited some time before he ventured to move. Finally he heard Hooty’s hunting call in a distant part of the Green Forest, and knew that it was safe for him to once more think of his empty stomach.


Icy babbling brook in winter


Later in the winter while the snow still lay in the Green Forest, and the ice still bound the Laughing Brook, Peter made a surprising discovery. He was over in a certain lonely part of the Green Forest when he happened to remember that near there was an old nest which had once belonged to Redtail the Hawk. Out of idle curiosity Peter ran over for a look at that old nest. Imagine how surprised he was when just as he came within sight of it, he saw a great bird just settling down on it. Peter’s heart jumped right up in his throat. At least that is the way it seemed, for he recognized Mrs. Hooty.

Of course Peter stopped right where he was and took the greatest care not to move or make a sound. Presently Hooty himself appeared and perched in a tree near at hand. Peter has seen Hooty many times before, always as a great, drifting shadow in the moonlight. Now he could see him clearly. As he sat bolt upright he seemed to be of the same height as Terror the Goshawk, although with a very much bigger body. If Peter had known it, his appearance of great size was largely due to the fluffy feathers in which Hooty was clothed. Like his small cousin, Spooky the Screech Owl, Hooty seemed to have no neck at all. He looked as if his great head was set directly on his shoulders. From each side of his head two great tufts of feathers stood out like ears or horns. His bill was sharply hooked. He was dressed all in reddish-brown with little buff and black markings, and on his throat was a white patch. His legs were feathered, and so were his feet clear to the great claws.

Above all else it was on the great, round, yellow eyes that Peter kept his own eyes. He had always thought of Hooty as being able to see only in the dusk of evening or on moonlight nights, and somehow he had a feeling that even now in broad daylight Hooty could see perfectly well, and he was quite right.

For a long time Peter sat there without moving. He dared not do anything else. After he had recovered from his first fright he began to wonder what Hooty and Mrs. Owl were doing at that old nest. His curiosity was aroused. He felt that he simply must find out. By and by Hooty flew away. Very carefully, so as not to attract the attention of Mrs. Owl. Peter went back the way he had come. When he was far enough away to feel reasonably safe, he scampered as fast as ever he could. He wanted to get away from that place, and he wanted to find some one of whom he could ask questions.

Presently he met his cousin, Jumper the Hare, and at once in a most excited manner told him all he had seen.

Jumper listened until Peter was through. “If you’ll take my advice,” he said, “you’ll keep away from that part of the Green Forest, Cousin Peter. From what you tell me it is quite clear to me that the Owl Family have begun nesting.”

“Nesting!” exclaimed Peter. “Nesting! Why, gentle Mistress Spring will not get here for a month yet!”


Winter Wonderland


“Hooty the Great Horned Owl doesn’t wait for Mistress Spring,” said Jumper. “He and Mrs. Owl believe in getting household cares out of the way early. Along about this time of year they hunt up an old nest of Redtail the Hawk or Clever the Crow or Chatterer the Red Squirrel, for they do not build a nest themselves. Then Mrs. Owl lays her eggs while there is still snow and ice. Why their youngsters don’t catch their death from cold when they hatch out is more than I can say. They simply don’t. I’m sorry to hear that the Owl Family have a nest here this year. It means a bad time for a lot of little folks in feathers and fur. I certainly shall keep away in from that part of the Green Forest, and I advise you to.”

Peter said that he certainly should, and then started on for the dear Old Briar-patch to think things over. The discovery that already the nesting season of a new year had begun turned Peter’s thoughts towards the coming of sweet Mistress Spring and the return of his many feathered friends who had left for the far away South so long before. A great longing to hear the voices of Welcome Robin and Winsome Bluebird and Little Friend the Song Sparrow swept over him, and a still greater longing for a bit of friendly chatting with Jenny Wren. In the past year he had learned so much about his feathered neighbors, and there were still so many things he wanted to know, things Jenny Wren and others could tell him. He couldn’t wait to begin the year anew with more questions and curiosity about his feathered friends and all of the creatures in the great Green Forest, and beyond.



P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects


Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:


Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

P.L.A.Y. has provided a new online version of all 45 chapters of this updated and annotated 100+ year old public domain classic to:

  • be suitable for the 21st century family by having the Thornton Burgess woodland characters evolve to model mindfulness and loving kindness
  • highlight and bring awareness to the New England nature settings and offer an opportunity to learn more about birds and other woodland animals through this story adventure
  • create story extension moments through P.L.A.Y. suggested activities and investigations for making new nature connections generated by the reader’s own curiosity
  • encourage families to keep their own nature notebooks for drawing, writing, painting, and recording their own local daily outdoor P.L.A.Y. adventures.

P.L.A.Y. Time – Pass it on!

Toad BOOK LOOK #13: Solo Song + The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad (Annotated)

What is this female toad listening for?

Visit Pinterest to see this video of a female toad listening to mating calls in the river.


Why does the male toads throat bubble or bulge out as he sings his solo song?

Visit PINTEREST to see a video of a male toad’s mating song down at the river.


P.L.A.Y. Adventure Time 

  • Time to dig deeper into the questions above and get curious and generate some thoughts of your own. Talk with your family and make a list of observations.
  • Watch the videos together and make note of more details you can extract. What more would you like to know? Make a list.

 ~ ~ ~ BOOK LOOK ~ ~ ~


The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad (Annotated):

A P.L.A.Y. Nature Activity Story Book 

by Karen L. Willard

Join Peter Rabbit and friends on adventures discovering all about Old Mr. Toad and his days spent in and out of the water!

See sample story pages + purchase HERE

More Tadpoles + Toads in motion at PINTEREST HERE.

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 44 – Pine Grosbeak + Common Redpoll


Bird Book for HOMESCHOOLING



Jumper the Hare didn’t have time to reply to Peter Rabbit’s question when Peter asked if there was any one else besides the Crossbills who had come down from the Far North.

“I’ve come from the North,” said a voice from a tree just back of them.

It was so unexpected that it made both Peter and Jumper hop in startled surprise. Then they turned to see who had spoken. There sat a bird just a little smaller than Welcome Robin, who at first glance seemed to be dressed in strawberry-red. However, a closer look showed that there were slate-gray markings about his head, under his wings and on his legs. His tail was brown. His wings were brown, marked with black and white and slate. His bill was thick and short.

“Who are you?” asked Peter.


Sumac in the fall in full foliage flare!


“I’m Piny the Pine Grosbeak,” replied the stranger.

“Oh,” said Peter. “Are you related to Rosebreast the Grosbeak who nested last summer in the Old Orchard?”

“I certainly am,” replied Piny. “He is my very own cousin. I’ve never seen him because he never ventures up where I live and I don’t go down where he spends the winter, however all members of the Grosbeak family are cousins.”

“Rosebreast is very lovely and I’m very fond of him,” said Peter. “We are very good friends.”

“Then I know we are going to be good friends,” replied Piny. As he said this he turned and Peter noticed that his tail was distinctly forked instead of being square across like that of Welcome Robin. Piny whistled, and almost at once he was joined by another bird who in shape was just like him, although they were dressed in slaty-gray and olive-yellow, instead of the bright red that he himself wore. Piny introduced the newcomer as Mrs. Grosbeak.

“Lovely weather, isn’t it?” she said. “I love the snow. I wouldn’t feel at home with no snow about. Why, last spring I even built my nest before the snow was gone in the Far North. We certainly hated to leave up there, and yet food was getting so scarce that we had to. We have just arrived. Can you tell me if there are any cedar trees or ash trees or sumacs near here?”


Sumac berries spell supper for winter birds!


Peter hastened to tell her just where she would find these trees and then rather timidly asked why she wanted to find them.

“Because they hold their berries all winter,” replied Mrs. Grosbeak promptly, “and those berries make very good eating. I rather thought there must be some around here. If there are enough of them we certainly shall stay a while.”

“I hope you will,” replied Peter. “I want to get better acquainted with you. You know, if it were not for you folks who come down from the Far North the Green Forest would be a rather lonely place in winter. There are times when I like to be alone, and I also like to know that there is someone I can call on when I feel lonesome. Did you and Piny come down alone?”

“No, indeed,” replied Mrs. Grosbeak. “There is a flock of our relatives not far away. We came down with the Crossbills. All together we made quite a party.”


A dear old-briar patch off of the meadow in the snowy sunshine.


Peter and Jumper stayed a while to chat with the Grosbeaks. Then Peter thought that it was high time for him to return to the dear Old Briar-patch, and bidding his new friends goodbye, he started off through the Green Forest, lipperty-lipperty-lip. When he reached the edge of the Green Forest he decided to run over to the weedy field to see if the Snowflakes and the Tree Sparrows and the Horned Larks were there. They were, and almost at once Peter discovered that they had company. Twittering cheerfully as he busily picked seeds out of the top of a weed which stood above the snow, was a bird very little bigger than Chicoree the Goldfinch. When Peter looked at him he just had to rub his eyes.

“Goodness gracious!” he muttered, “it must be something is wrong with my eyes so that I am seeing red. I’ve already seen two birds dressed in red and now there’s another. It certainly must be my eyes. There’s Dotty the Tree Sparrow over there; I hear his voice. I wonder if he will look red.”

Peter hopped near enough to get a good look at Dotty and found him dressed just as he should be. That relieved Peter’s mind. His eyes were quite as they should be. Then he returned to look at the happy little stranger still busily picking seeds from that weed top.

The top of his head was bright red. There was no doubt about it. His back was toward Peter at the time and but for that bright red cap Peter certainly would have taken him for one of his friends among the Sparrow family. You see his back was grayish-brown. Peter could think of several Sparrows with backs very much like it. When he looked closely he saw that just above his tail this little stranger wore a pinkish patch, and that was something no Sparrow of Peter’s acquaintance possesses.

Then the lively little stranger turned to face Peter and a pair of bright eyes twinkled mischievously. “Well,” he said, “how do you like my appearance? ”


Green Forest in Winter


“My, how pretty you are!” Peter exclaimed.

The little stranger was pretty. His breast was pink. Below this he was white. The middle of his throat was black and his sides were streaked with reddish-brown. He looked pleased at Peter’s exclamation.

“I’m glad you think I’m pretty,” he said. “I like pink myself. I like it very much indeed. I suppose you’ve already seen my friends, Snipper the Crossbill and Piny the Grosbeak.”

Peter promptly bobbed his head. “I’ve just come from making their acquaintance,” he said. “By the way you speak, I presume you also are from the Far North. I am just beginning to learn that there are more folks who make their homes in the Far North than I had dreamed of. If you please, I don’t believe I know you at all.”

“I’m Redpoll,” was the prompt response. “I am called that because of my red cap. Yes, indeed, I make my home in the Far North. There is no place like it.”

Redpoll called softly and almost at once was joined by another red-capped bird without a pink breast, and with sides more heavily streaked. “This is Mrs. Redpoll,” announced her lively little mate. Then he turned to her and added, “I’ve just been telling Peter Rabbit that as long as he cannot visit our beautiful Far North he must become acquainted with those of us who come down here in the winter. I’m sure he’ll find us very friendly folks.”

“I’m sure I shall,” said Peter. “If you please, do you live altogether on these weed seeds?”

Redpoll laughed a happy laugh. “Hardly, Peter,” he replied. “We like the seeds of the birches and the alders, and we eat the seeds of the evergreen trees when we get them. Sometimes we find them in cones Snipper the Crossbill has opened and hasn’t picked all the seeds out of. Sometimes he drops some for us. Oh, we always manage to get plenty to eat. There are some of our relatives over there and we must join them. We’ll see you again, Peter.”

Peter said he hoped they would and then watched them fly over to join their friends. Suddenly, as if a signal had been given, all spread their wings at the same instant and flew up in a birch tree not far away. All seemed to take wing at precisely the same instant. Up in the birch tree they sat for a minute or so and then, just as if another signal had been given, all began to pick out the tiny seeds from the birch tassels. No one bird seemed to be first. It was quite like a drill, or as if each had thought of the same thing at the same instant. Peter chuckled over it all the way home. And somehow he felt better for having made the acquaintance of the Redpolls. It was the feeling that everybody so fortunate as to meet them on a cold winter’s day is sure to have.


P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects


Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:


Did you miss Chapter 1 – 43? Begin HERE


Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

P.L.A.Y. has provided a new online version of all 45 chapters of this updated and annotated 100+ year old public domain classic to:

  • be suitable for the 21st century family by having the Thornton Burgess woodland characters evolve to model mindfulness and loving kindness
  • highlight and bring awareness to the New England nature settings and offer an opportunity to learn more about birds and other woodland animals through this story adventure
  • create story extension moments through P.L.A.Y. suggested activities and investigations for making new nature connections generated by the reader’s own curiosity
  • encourage families to keep their own nature notebooks for drawing, writing, painting, and recording their own local daily outdoor P.L.A.Y. adventures.

P.L.A.Y. Time – Pass it on!

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 43 – Ruffed Grouse + Crossbill


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



 CHAPTER 43 ~ Odd Feet and an Odd Bill


Rabbit tracks in the snow.


Peter Rabbit had gone over to the Green Forest to call on his cousin, Jumper the Hare, who lives there altogether. He had no difficulty in finding Jumper’s tracks in the snow, and by following these he at length came up with Jumper. The fact is, Peter almost bumped into Jumper before he saw him, for Jumper was wearing a coat as white as the snow itself. Squatting under a little snow-covered hemlock tree he looked like nothing more than a little mound of snow.

“Oh!” cried Peter. “How you startled me! I wish I had a winter coat like yours. It must be a great help in avoiding predators.”


Rabbit tracks on the move in the snow heading through the meadow.


“It certainly is, Cousin Peter,” cried Jumper. “Nine times out of ten all I have to do is to sit perfectly still when there was no wind to carry my scent. I have had Reddy Fox pass within a few feet of me and never suspect that I was near. I hope this snow will last all winter. It is only when there isn’t any snow that I am particularly worried. Then I am not easy for a minute, because my white coat can be seen a long distance against the brown of the dead leaves.”

Peter chuckled. “That is just when I feel safest,” he replied. “I like the snow, although this brown-gray coat of mine certainly does show up against it. Don’t you find it pretty lonesome over here in the Green Forest with all the birds gone, Cousin Jumper?”


Ruffed Grouse by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


Jumper shook his head. “Not all have gone, Peter,” he said. “Strutter the Grouse and Mrs. Grouse are here, and I see them every day. They’ve got snowshoes now.”

Peter blinked his eyes and looked rather perplexed. “Snowshoes!” he exclaimed.

“I don’t understand what you mean,” said Peter.

“Come with me,” replied Jumper, “and I’ll show you.”

So Jumper led the way and Peter followed close at his heels. Presently they came to some tracks in the snow. At first glance they reminded Peter of the odd tracks Farmer Brown’s ducks made in the mud on the edge of the Smiling Pool in summer. “What funny tracks those are!” he exclaimed. “Who made them?”

“Just keep on following me and you’ll see,” replied Jumper.

So they continued to follow the tracks until presently, just ahead of them, they saw Strutter the Grouse. Peter opened his eyes with surprise when he discovered that those odd tracks were made by Strutter.

“Cousin Peter wants to see your snowshoes, Strutter,” said Jumper as they came up with him.


Snow coated trees and lone pathway leading to the magical meadow where curious rabbits go lip-lip-liperty-lip!


Strutter’s bright eyes sparkled. “He’s just as curious as ever,” he said. “Well, I don’t mind showing him my snowshoes because I think myself that they are really quite wonderful.” He held up one foot with the toes spread apart and Peter saw that growing out from the sides of each toe were odd little horny points set close together. They quite filled the space between his toes. Peter recalled that when he had seen Strutter in the summer those toes had been smooth and that his tracks on soft ground had shown the outline of each toe clearly. “How funny!” exclaimed Peter.

“There’s nothing funny about them,” responded Strutter. “If Old Mother Nature hadn’t given me something of this kind I certainly would have a hard time of it when there is snow on the ground. If my feet were just the same as in summer I would sink right down in when the snow is soft and wouldn’t be able to walk about at all. Now, with these snowshoes I get along very nicely. You see I sink in however very little.”

He took three or four steps and Peter saw right away how very useful those snowshoes were. “My!” he exclaimed. “I wish Old Mother Nature would give me snowshoes too.” Strutter and Jumper both laughed and after a second Peter laughed with them, for he realized how impossible it would be for him to have anything like those snowshoes of Strutter’s.

“Cousin Peter was just saying that he should think I would find it lonesome over here in the Green Forest. He forgot that you and Mrs. Grouse stay all winter, and he forgot that while most of the birds who spent the summer here have left, there are others who come down from the Far North to take their place,” said Jumper.

“Who, for instance?” asked Peter.


Red Crossbill by Louis Aggasiz Fuertes


“Snipper the Crossbill,” replied Jumper promptly. “I haven’t seen him yet this winter, though I know he is here because only this morning I found some pine seeds on the snow under a certain tree.”

“Maybe those seeds might have just fallen or Chatterer the Red Squirrel might have dropped them,” said Peter.

“This isn’t the season for seeds to just fall, and I know by the signs that Chatterer hasn’t been about,” replied Jumper. “Let’s go hop over there and take a look.”

Once more he led the way and Peter followed. As they drew near that certain pine tree, a short whistled note caused them to look up. Busily at work on a pine cone near the top of a tree was a bird about the size of Billy the House Sparrow. He was dressed all in dull red with brownish-black wings and tail.

“See, there’s Snipper this very minute,” said Jumper. “And over in that next tree are a lot of his family and relatives. Also do you see in what a funny way they climb about among the branches. They don’t flit or hop, they just climb around. I don’t know of any other bird anywhere around here that does that.”

Just then a seed dropped and landed on the snow almost in front of Peter’s nose. Almost at once Snipper himself followed it, picking it up and eating it with as much unconcern as if Peter and Jumper were a mile away instead of only a foot or so. The very first thing Peter noticed was Snipper’s bill. The upper and lower halves crossed at the tips. That bill looked very much as if Snipper had struck something hard and twisted the tips over.

“How did your bill get twisted like that?” asked Peter.


A cone that has released the seeds from within onto the snow below.


Snipper laughed. “It isn’t twisted,” he said. “It is just the way Old Mother Nature made it, and I really don’t know what I’d do if it were any different.”

Peter scratched one long ear, as is his way when he is puzzled. “I don’t see,” he said, “how it is possible for you to pick up food with a bill like that.”

“You see,” said Snipper, “I live very largely on the seeds that grow in pine cones and the cones of other trees. Of course I eat some other food, such as seeds and buds of trees. However, what I love best of all are the seeds that grow in the cones of evergreen trees. If you’ve ever looked at one of those cones, you will understand that those seeds are not very easy to get at. With this kind of a bill it is no trouble at all. I can snip them out just as easily as birds with straight bills can pick up seeds. You see my bill is very much like a pair of scissors.”

“It really is very wonderful,” confessed Peter. “Do you mind telling me, Snipper, why I never have seen you here in summer?”

“For the same reason that in summer you never see Snowflake and Wanderer the Horned Lark and some others I might name,” replied Snipper.

“Give me the Far North every time. I would stay there the year through except that sometimes food gets scarce up there. That is why I am down here now. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go finish my breakfast.”

Snipper flew up in the tree where the other Crossbills were at work and Peter and Jumper watched them finish their breakfast of pine cone seeds.


P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects


Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:


Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

P.L.A.Y. has provided a new online version of all 45 chapters of this updated and annotated 100+ year old public domain classic to:

  • be suitable for the 21st century family by having the Thornton Burgess woodland characters evolve to model mindfulness and loving kindness
  • highlight and bring awareness to the New England nature settings and offer an opportunity to learn more about birds and other woodland animals through this story adventure
  • create story extension moments through P.L.A.Y. suggested activities and investigations for making new nature connections generated by the reader’s own curiosity
  • encourage families to keep their own nature notebooks for drawing, writing, painting, and recording their own local daily outdoor P.L.A.Y. adventures.

P.L.A.Y. Time – Pass it on!

Toad BOOK LOOK #12: Curious Questions + The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad (Annotated)

 Why is the female carrying the male to the water vs. meeting in the water to mate?

Most of the pairs of mating toads that I observed down at the river’s edge were all in the water. One day this pair of toads hopped by on the sandy beach and I couldn’t help wonder why she was carrying him across the land which is much heavier than if she just carried him in the water.

 Visit PINTEREST to see a video of these two toads sitting perfectly still without even blinking as the chorus of toads swells all around them at the river’s edge.

This pair of toads, male on top and female on the bottom, are using the buoyancy factor of the water for the female to easily navigate while the male holds on.


P.L.A.Y. Adventure Time 

What does it feel like to carry someone on your back on land and then to try carrying that same person on your back in water?

This summer, safely so as not to injure you or your loved one, select someone smaller than you and try this experiment.

It provides appreciation for how animals have to navigate naturally and the strength it takes both in and out of the water!


 ~ ~ ~ BOOK LOOK ~ ~ ~


The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad (Annotated):

A P.L.A.Y. Nature Activity Story Book 

by Karen L. Willard

Join Peter Rabbit and friends on adventures discovering all about Old Mr. Toad and his days spent in and out of the water!

See sample story pages + purchase HERE

More Tadpoles + Toads in motion at PINTEREST HERE.

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 42 – Eastern Screech Owl


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



CHAPTER 42 – Peter Learns Something About Spooky


Peter Rabbit likes winter. At least he doesn’t mind it so very much, even though he has to really work for a living. Perhaps it is a good thing that he does, for he might grow too fat to keep out of the way of Reddy Fox. You see when the snow is deep Peter is forced to eat whatever he can, and very often there isn’t much of anything for him except the bark of young trees. It is at such times that Peter gets into mischief, for there is no bark he likes better than that of young fruit trees. Now you know what happens when the bark is taken off all the way around the trunk of a tree. That tree dies. It dies for the simple reason that it is up the inner layer of bark that the life giving sap travels in the spring and summer. Of course, when a strip of bark has been taken off all the way around near the base of a tree, the sap cannot go up and the tree must die.

Now up near the Old Orchard Farmer Brown had set out a young orchard. Peter knew all about that young orchard, for he had visited it many times in the summer. Then there had been plenty of sweet clover and other green things to eat, and Peter had never been so much as tempted to sample the bark of those young trees. Now things were very different, and it was very seldom that Peter knew what it was to have a full stomach. He kept thinking of that young orchard. He knew that if he were wise he would keep away from there. And the more he thought of it the more it seemed to him that he just must have some of that tender young bark. So just at dusk one evening, Peter started for the young orchard.


Winter in the Old Orchard and Green Forest with a cloak of white.


Peter got there safely and his eyes sparkled as he hopped over to the nearest young tree. When he reached it, Peter had a dreadful disappointment. All around the trunk of that young tree was wire netting.

Peter couldn’t get even a nibble of that bark. He tried the next tree with no better result. Then he hurried on from tree to tree, always with the same result. You see Farmer Brown knew all about Peter’s liking for the bark of young fruit trees, and he had been wise enough to protect his young orchard.

At last Peter gave up and hopped over to the Old Orchard. As he passed a certain big tree he was startled by a voice. “What’s the matter, Peter?” said the voice. “You don’t look happy.”


Screech Owl by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


Peter stopped short and stared up in the big apple tree. Look as he might he couldn’t see anybody. Of course there wasn’t a leaf on that tree, and he could see all through it. Peter blinked. He knew that had there been any one sitting on any one of those branches he couldn’t have helped seeing him.

“Don’t look so high, Peter,” said the voice with a chuckle. This time it sounded as if it came right out of the trunk of the tree. Peter stared at the trunk and then suddenly laughed right out. Just a few feet above the ground was a good sized hole in the tree, and poking his head out of it was a funny little fellow with big eyes and a hooked beak.

“You certainly did fool me that time, Spooky,” cried Peter. “I ought to have recognized your voice, and I didn’t.”

Spooky the Screech Owl, for that is who it was, came out of the hole in the tree and without a sound from his wings flew over and perched just above Peter’s head. He was a little fellow, not over eight inches high, and there was no mistaking the family to which he belonged. In fact he looked very much like a small copy of Hooty the Great Horned Owl, so much so that Peter felt a little cold shiver run over him, although he had nothing in the world to fear from Spooky.

His head seemed to be almost as big around as his body, and he seemed to leave no neck at all. He was dressed in bright reddish-brown, with little streaks and bars of black. Underneath he was whitish, with little streaks and bars of black and brown. On each side of his head was a tuft of feathers. They looked like ears and some people think they are ears although they are not. His eyes were round and yellow with a fierce hungry look in them. His bill was small and almost hidden among the feathers of his face, it was hooked just like the bill of Hooty. As he settled himself he turned his head around until he could look squarely behind him, then brought it back again so quickly that to Peter it looked as if it had gone clear around. You see Spooky’s eyes are fixed in their sockets and he cannot move them from side to side. He has to turn his whole head in order to see to one side or the other.

“You haven’t told me yet why you look so unhappy, Peter,” said Spooky.

“Isn’t an empty stomach enough to make any fellow unhappy?” replied Peter.

Spooky chuckled. “I’ve got an empty stomach myself, Peter,” he said, “and it isn’t making me unhappy. I have a feeling that somewhere there is a fat mouse waiting for me.”


Snow edged hole in a tree – perhaps a perch for an owl? Maybe!


Just then Peter remembered what Jenny Wren had told him early in the spring of how Spooky the Screech Owl lives all the year around in a hollow tree, and curiosity made him forget for the time being that he was hungry. “Did you live in that hole all summer, Spooky?” he asked.

Spooky nodded solemnly. “I’ve lived in that hollow summer and winter for three years,” said he.

Peter’s eyes opened very wide. “And till now I never even guessed it,” he exclaimed. “Did you raise a family there?”

“I certainly did,” replied Spooky. “Mrs. Screech Owl and I raised a family of four as fine looking youngsters as you ever have seen. They’ve gone out into the Great World to make their own living now. Two were dressed just like me and two were gray.”

“That’s funny,” Peter exclaimed.

“What’s funny?” Spooky said with suspicion.

“Why that all four were not dressed alike,” said Peter.

“Oh, there’s nothing funny about it,” replied Spooky, and snapped his bill sharply with a little cracking sound. “We Screech Owls believe in variety. Some of us are gray and some of us are reddish-brown.”

Peter nodded as if he quite understood, although he couldn’t understand at all. “I’m ever so pleased to find you living here,” he said politely. “You see, in winter the Old Orchard is rather a lonely place. I don’t see how you get enough to eat when there are so few birds about.”

“Birds!” snapped Spooky. “What have birds to do with it?”

“Why, don’t you live on birds?” asked Peter innocently.

“I should say not. I guess I would starve if I depended on birds for my daily food,” responded Spooky. “I catch a Sparrow now and then, to be sure, usually it is a House Sparrow. However, I live mostly on mice and shrews in winter and in summer I eat a lot of grasshoppers and other insects. If it wasn’t for me and my relatives I guess mice would soon over run the Great World. Farmer Brown ought to be glad I’ve come to live in the Old Orchard and I guess he is, for Farmer Brown’s boy knows all about this house of mine and never disturbs me. Now if you’ll excuse me I think I’ll fly over to Farmer Brown’s young orchard. I ought to find a fat mouse or two trying to get some of the bark from those young trees.”

“Hah!” exclaimed Peter. “They can try all they want to, and they still won’t get any; I can tell you that.”

Spooky’s round yellow eyes twinkled. “It must be you have been trying to get some of that bark yourself,” he said.

Spooky once more chuckled as he spread his wings and flew away so soundlessly that he seemed more like a drifting shadow than a bird. Then Peter started for a certain swamp he knew of where he would be sure to find enough bark to stay his appetite.


P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects


Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:

  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Eastern Screech Owl
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Eastern Screech Owl Camouflage
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – K-12 Education – Dissecting an Owl Pellet
  • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this conversation going are available for Screech Owl (p. 100-104) in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock offered FREE online HERE.

Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

P.L.A.Y. has provided a new online version of all 45 chapters of this updated and annotated 100+ year old public domain classic to:

  • be suitable for the 21st century family by having the Thornton Burgess woodland characters evolve to model mindfulness and loving kindness
  • highlight and bring awareness to the New England nature settings and offer an opportunity to learn more about birds and other woodland animals through this story adventure
  • create story extension moments through P.L.A.Y. suggested activities and investigations for making new nature connections generated by the reader’s own curiosity
  • encourage families to keep their own nature notebooks for drawing, writing, painting, and recording their own local daily outdoor P.L.A.Y. adventures.

P.L.A.Y. Time – Pass it on!