Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 17 – Blue Jay + Crow


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



Chapter 17 – More Robbers


By the sounds of rejoicing among the feathered folks of the Old Orchard Johnny Woodchuck knew that it was quite safe for him to come out. He was eager to tell Skimmer the Tree Swallow how glad he was that Mr. Blacksnake had been driven away before he could get Skimmer’s eggs. As he poked his head out of his doorway he became aware that something was still wrong in the Old Orchard. Into the glad chorus there broke a note of distress and sorrow. Johnny instantly recognized the voices of Welcome Robin and Mrs. Robin. There is not one among his feathered neighbors who can so express worry and sorrow as can the Robins.

Johnny was just in time to see all the birds hurrying over to that part of the Old Orchard where the Robins had built their home. The rejoicing suddenly gave way to cries of distress. It appeared that there was just as much excitement over there as there had been when Mr. Black Snake had been discovered trying to rob Skimmer and Mrs. Skimmer. It couldn’t be Mr. Black Snake again, because Farmer Brown’s boy had chased him in quite another direction.

“What is it now?” asked Johnny of Skimmer, who was still excitedly discussing with Mrs. Skimmer their recent fright.

“I don’t know. I’ll go find out,” replied Skimmer and darted away.

Johnny Woodchuck waited patiently. The excitement and chattering among the birds seemed to increase and grow louder. The voices of Welcome and Mrs. Robin were mournful, as if they were heartbroken.

Presently Skimmer came back to tell Mrs. Skimmer the news.

“The Robins have lost their eggs!” he cried excitedly. “All four have been broken and eaten. Mrs. Robin left them to come over here to help drive away Mr. Black Snake, and while she was here someone ate those eggs. Nobody knows who it could have been, because all the birds of the Old Orchard were over here at that time. It might have been Chatterer the Red Squirrel, or it might have been Sammy Jay, or it might have been Creaker the Grackle, or it might have been Clever the Crow. Whoever it was just took that chance to sneak over there and rob that nest when there was no one to see him.”


Mr. + Mrs. Robin lost their eggs! (illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes)


Just then from over towards the Green Forest sounded a mocking “Caw, caw, caw!” Instantly the noise in the Old Orchard ceased for a moment. Then it broke out afresh. There wasn’t a doubt now in any one’s mind. Clever the Crow was the robber.

“Caw, caw, caw!” shouted Clever from the distance.

All the birds were busy chattering as they gathered around Welcome and Mrs. Robin trying to comfort them and it was some time before they broke up and returned to their own homes and duties. Almost at once there was another cry of distress. Mr. and Mrs. Chebec had been robbed of their eggs! While they had been tending to the home of the Robins, a thief had taken the chance to steal their eggs and get away.

Of course all the birds hurried over to sympathize with the Chebecs now too. They knew it couldn’t have been Clever this time because they had heard Clever cawing over on the edge of the Green Forest. In the midst of the excited discussion as to who did this, Weaver the Orchard Oriole spied a blue and white feather on the ground just below Chebec’s nest.

“It was Sammy Jay! There is no doubt about it, it was Sammy Jay!” he cried.


Blue Jay feather found in the forest.


At the sight of that telltale feather all the birds knew that Weaver was right, and led by Scrapper the Kingbird they began a noisy search of the Old Orchard for the sneaky robber. However Sammy wasn’t to be found, and they soon gave up the search, none daring to stay longer away from his own home lest something should happen there. Welcome and Mrs. Robin continued to cry mournfully, while little Mr. and Mrs. Chebec bore their trouble almost silently.

“There is one thing about it,” said Mr. Chebec to his sorrowful little wife, “that egg of Sally’s went with the rest, and we won’t have to raise that orphan.”

“That’s true,” she said. “There is no use crying over what can’t be helped. Come on, Chebec, let’s look for a place to build another nest. Next time I won’t leave the eggs for a minute.”

Meanwhile Jenny Wren’s tongue was fairly flying as she chattered to Peter Rabbit, who had come up in the midst of the excitement and of course had to know all about it.

“Clever the Crow and his cousin Sammy Jay belong to a family of robbers,” declared Jenny.

“Wait a minute,” cried Peter. “Do you mean to say that Clever the Crow and Sammy Jay are cousins?”

“Yes, they are cousins,” exclaimed Jenny. “They don’t look much alike, however they belong to the same family. How Sammy Jay can do such a thing as eating another’s eggs I don’t understand. He does do a lot of good by eating caterpillars and other bugs. Also there are no sharper eyes anywhere than those of Sammy Jay, and I’ll have to say this for him, that whenever he discovers any danger he always gives us warning. He has saved the lives of a good many of us feathered folks in this way. If it wasn’t for this habit of stealing our eggs I wouldn’t have a word to say against him. They say Clever the Crow does some good by eating white grubs and some other bugs, however he is also just as fond of young birds as he is of eggs.”


Blue Jay by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


Remembering her household duties, Jenny Wren disappeared inside her house in her usual abrupt fashion. Peter, meanwhile, stayed for a bit and then finding no one who had the time to talk to him he suddenly decided to go over to the Green Forest to look for some of his friends there. He had gone only a little way in the Green Forest when he caught a glimpse of a blue form stealing away through the trees. He knew it in an instant, for there is no one with such a coat as Sammy Jay. Peter glanced up from where Sammy had flown and there he saw a nest in the fork of a tree halfway up. “I wonder,” thought Peter, “if Sammy was stealing eggs there, or if that is his own nest.” Then he started after Sammy as fast as he could go, lipperty-lipperty-lip. As he ran he happened to look back and was just in time to see Mrs. Jay slip on to the nest. Then Peter knew that he had discovered Sammy’s home. He chuckled as he ran.

“I’ve found out your secret, Sammy Jay!” cried Peter when at last he caught up with Sammy.

“Then I hope you’ll be kind enough to keep it to yourself,” said Sammy, looking not at all pleased.

“Certainly,” replied Peter. “I wouldn’t think of telling anyone.”

Peter sat studying Sammy Jay for a moment noticing that he is just a bit bigger than Welcome Robin. His back is grayish-blue. His tail is a bright blue-crossed with little black bars and edged with white. His wings are blue with white and black bars. His throat and breast are a soft grayish-white, and he wears a collar of black. On his head he wears a pointed cap, a very convenient cap, for at times he draws it down so that it is not pointed at all.

“Why did you steal Mrs. Chebec’s eggs?” asked Peter abruptly.

Sammy didn’t look the least bit put out. “Because I like eggs,” he replied promptly. “If people will leave their eggs unguarded they must expect to lose them. How did you know I took those eggs?”

“Never mind, Sammy; never mind. A little bird told me,” Peter said mischievously.

Sammy opened his mouth for a sharp reply and then instead he uttered a cry of warning. “Run, Peter! Run! Here comes Reddy Fox!” he cried.

Peter shot under a great pile of brush. There he was quite safe. While he waited for Reddy Fox to go away he thought about Sammy Jay. “It’s funny,” he mused, “how so much good and so much bad can be mixed together. Sammy Jay stole Chebec’s eggs, and then he saved my life. I just know he would have done as much for Mr. and Mrs. Chebec, or for any other feathered neighbor. He can only steal eggs for a little while in the spring. I guess on the whole he does more good than harm.”


In the Green Forest, where Sammy the Blue Jay lives, there are trees of all sorts, shapes, and sizes.


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 –  Blue Jay
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  American Crow
  • Nature journal coloring pages at Cornell Common Feeder Birds FREE (page W38 Blue Jay + W40 American Crow).
  • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this conversation going are available for the American Crow (p. 124-127) ) in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock offered FREE online HERE.
  • Another option is to get a copy of Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book by Lisa Bonforte and some colored pencils to complete the drawings of a Blue Jay (p5) and a Common Crow (p16).

  • Also a copy of Audubon’s Birds of America Coloring Book by Paul E. Kennedy with a Blue Jay on page 22.

FYI -These coloring books are an excellent companion for this bird story series.


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 14 – Bobwhite + Meadowlark


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



Chapter 14 – Bob White and Carol the Meadow Lark


“Bob–Bob White! Bob–Bob White! Bob–Bob White!” clear and sweet, that call floated over to the dear Old Briar-patch until Peter could stand it no more. He felt that he just had to go over and pay an early morning call on one of his very best friends, who at this season of the year delights in whistling his own name–Bobwhite.

“I suppose,” muttered Peter, “that Bob has got a nest. I wish he would show it to me. He’s so very secretive about it. Last year I looked for his nest until my feet were sore, and it wasn’t a bit of use. Then one morning I met Mrs. Bobwhite with fifteen babies out for a walk. How she could hide a nest with fifteen eggs in it is more than I can understand.”

Peter left the Old Briar-patch and started off over the Green Meadows towards the Old Pasture. As he drew near the fence between the Green Meadows and the Old Pasture he saw Bob the Bobwhite sitting on one of the posts, whistling with all his might. On another post near him sat another bird very near the size of Welcome Robin. He also was telling all the world of his happiness. It was Carol the Meadow Lark.

Peter was so intent watching these two friends of his that he took no heed to his footsteps. Suddenly there was a whir from almost under his very nose and he stopped short, so startled that he almost squealed right out. In a second he recognized Mrs. Meadow Lark. He watched her fly over to where Carol was singing. Her stout little wings moved swiftly for a moment or two, then she sailed on without moving them at all. Then they fluttered rapidly again until she was flying fast enough to once more sail on them out-stretched. The white outer feathers of her tail showed clearly and reminded Peter of the tail of Sweetvoice the Vesper Sparrow, only of course it was ever so much bigger.

Peter sat still until Mrs. Meadow Lark had alighted on the fence near Carol. Then he prepared to hurry on, for he was anxious to chat with these good friends of his. However, just before he did this he happened to glance down and there, almost at his very feet, he caught sight of something that made him squeal right out. It was a nest with four of the prettiest eggs Peter ever had seen. They were white with brown spots all over them. Had it not been for the eggs he never would have seen that nest, never in the world. It was made of dry, brown grass and was cunningly hidden in a little clump of dead grass which fell over it so as to almost completely hide it. And the thing that surprised Peter the most was the clever way in which the approach to it was hidden. It was by means of a regular little tunnel of grass.


Old farm equipment, with wooden wheels(!), left on the edge of the Green Forest next to the Old Pasture.


“Oh!” cried Peter, and his eyes sparkled with pleasure. “This must be the nest of Mrs. Meadow Lark. No wonder I have never been able to find it, when I have looked for it. It is just luck and nothing else that I have found it this time. I think it is perfectly wonderful that Mrs. Meadow Lark can hide her home. I do hope Jimmy Skunk isn’t anywhere around.”

Peter sat up straight and anxiously looked this way and that way. Jimmy Skunk was nowhere to be seen and Peter gave a little sigh of relief. Very carefully he walked around that nest and its little tunnel, then hurried over toward the fence as fast as he could go.

“It’s perfectly beautiful, Carol!” he cried, just as soon as he was near enough. “And I won’t tell a single soul!”

“I hope not. I certainly hope not,” cried Mrs. Meadow Lark in an anxious tone. “I never would have another single easy minute if I thought you would tell a living soul about my nest. Promise that you won’t, Peter. Cross your heart and promise that you won’t.”

Peter promptly crossed his heart and promised that he wouldn’t tell a single soul. Mrs. Meadow Lark seemed to feel better.

Right away she flew back and Peter turned to watch her. He saw her disappear in the grass, and it wasn’t where he had found the nest. Peter waited a few minutes, thinking that he would see her rise into the air again and fly over to the nest. However he waited in vain. With a puzzled look on his face, he turned to look up at Carol.

Carol’s eyes twinkled. “I know what you’re thinking, Peter,” he chuckled. “You are thinking that it is funny Mrs. Meadow Lark didn’t go straight back to our nest when she seemed so anxious about it. I would have you to know that she is too clever to do anything so foolish as that. She knows well enough that somebody might see her and so find our secret. She has walked there from the place where you saw her disappear in the grass. That is the way we always do when we go to our nest. One never can be too careful these days.”

Then Carol began to pour out his happiness once more, quite as if nothing had interrupted his song.

Peter watched Carol the Meadow Lark and saw his beautiful yellow throat and waistcoat, with a broad black crescent on his breast. There was a yellow line above each eye. His back was of brown with black markings. His sides were whitish, with spats and streaks of black. The outer edges of his tail were white.

Having found out Carol’s secret, Peter was doubly anxious to find Bob the Bobwhite’s home, so he hurried over to the post where Bob was whistling with all his might.


Meadowlark by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


“Bob!” cried Peter. “I’ve just found Carol’s nest and I’ve promised to keep it a secret. Won’t you show me your nest, too, if I’ll promise to keep that a secret?”

Bob threw back his head and laughed joyously. “You ought to know, Peter, by this time,” he said, “that there are secrets never to be told to anybody. My nest is one of these. If you find it, all right; however I wouldn’t show it to my very best friend, and I guess I haven’t any better friend than you, Peter.” Then from sheer happiness he whistled, “Bob–Bob White! Bob–Bob White!” with all his might.

Peter was disappointed. “I guess,” he said, “I could find it if I wanted to. I guess it isn’t any better hidden than Mrs. Meadow Lark’s, and I found that.”

Bob the Bobwhite, who is sometimes called Quail and sometimes called Partridge, and who is neither, chuckled heartily. “Go ahead, Mr. Curiosity, look all you please,” he said. “You know well enough that you just happened to find Carol’s nest. If you happen to find mine, I won’t have a word to say.”

Bob took a long breath, tipped his head back until his beak was pointing right up in the blue, blue sky, and with all his might whistled his name, “Bob–Bob White! Bob–Bob White!”

As Peter looked at him it came over him that Bob was the plumpest bird of his acquaintance. He was so plump that his body seemed almost round. The shortness of his tail added to this effect, for Bob has a very short tail. The upper part of his coat was a handsome reddish-brown with dark streaks and light edgings. His sides and the upper part of his breast were of the same handsome reddish-brown, while underneath he was whitish with little bars of black. His throat was white, and above each eye was a broad white stripe. His white throat was bordered with black, and a band of black divided the throat from the white line above each eye. The top of his head was mixed black and brown.

Suddenly Bob stopped whistling and looked down at Peter with a twinkle in his eye. “Are you going to look for that nest, Peter?” he asked.


Bobwhite by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


“Yes,” replied Peter although he knew that Bob knew that he hadn’t the least idea where to look. It might be somewhere on the Green Meadows or it might be in the Old Pasture; Bob hadn’t given the least hint. Peter had a feeling that the nest wasn’t far away and that it was on the Green Meadows, so he began to look, running aimlessly this way and that way.

It was very warm down there on the Green Meadows, and Peter grew hot and tired. He decided to run up in the Old Pasture in the shade of an old bramble tangle there. Just the other side of the fence was a path made by the cows and often used by Farmer Brown’s boy and Reddy Fox and others who visited the Old Pasture. Along this Peter scampered, lipperty-lipperty-lip, on his way to the bramble tangle. He didn’t look either to right or left. It didn’t occur to him that there would be any use at all, for of course no one would build a nest near a path where people passed to and fro every day.

And so it was that in his happy-go-lucky way Peter scampered right past a clump of tall weeds close beside the path without the least suspicion that cleverly hidden in it was the very thing he was looking for. With laughter in her eyes, little Mrs. Bobwhite, with sixteen white eggs under her, watched him pass. She had chosen that very place for her nest because she knew that it was the last place anyone would expect to find it. The very fact that it seemed the most dangerous place she could have chosen made it the safest.


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 –  Northern Bobwhite
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Eastern Meadowlark
  • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this conversation going are available for Eastern Meadowlark (p. 80-82) in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock offered FREE online HERE.
  • Another option is to get a copy of Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book by Lisa Bonforte and some colored pencils to complete the drawing of a Bobwhite (p6).

  • Also a copy of Audubon’s Birds of America Coloring Book by Paul E. Kennedy with a Meadowlark on page 26.

FYI -These coloring books are an excellent companion for this bird story series.


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 4 – Chipping + Vesper Sparrows


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



Chapter 4 – Chippy + Sweetvoice


For a while Jenny Wren was too busy with Mr. Wren building their nest to stop and chat. To Peter it seemed as if they were trying to fill that entire tree trunk. “I should think they had enough stuff in there for half a dozen nests,” muttered Peter. “I do believe they are carrying it in for the fun of working.” And Peter wasn’t far off in this thought, as he was to discover a little later in the season when he found Mr. Wren building another nest for which he had no use.

Finding that for the time being he could get nothing more from Jenny Wren, Peter hopped over to visit Johnny Chuck, whose home was between the roots of an old apple tree in the far corner of the Old Orchard. Peter was still thinking of the Sparrow family; what a big family it was, yet how seldom any of them, excepting Billy the House Sparrow, were to be found in the Old Orchard.

“Hello, Johnny Chuck!” cried Peter, as he discovered Johnny sitting on his doorstep. “You’ve lived in the Old Orchard a long time, perhaps you could tell me something I want to know. Why is it that none of the Sparrow family, excepting Billy, build in the trees of the Old Orchard?”

Johnny Chuck shook his head. “Peter,” he said, “let’s use your ears to solve this one.”

Peter looked confused.

Johnny grinned. “Listen!” said Johnny. And Peter listened. From a tree just a little way off came a clear “Chip, chip, chip, chip.” Peter didn’t need to be told to look. He knew without looking who was over there. He knew that voice to be that of one of his oldest and best friends in the Old Orchard, a little fellow with a red-brown cap, brown back with feathers streaked with black, brownish wings and tail, a gray waistcoat and black bill, and a little white line over each eye. It was Chippy, as everybody calls the Chipping Sparrow, the smallest of the family.

“I forgot all about Chippy,” said Peter. “Now I think of it, I have found Chippy here in the Old Orchard ever since I can remember. I never have seen his nest because I never happened to think about looking for it. Does he build a nest with trash like his cousin, Billy?”

Johnny Chuck laughed. “I should say not!” he exclaimed. “Twice Chippy and Mrs. Chippy have built their nest in this very old apple tree. There is no trash in their nest, I can tell you! It is just as dainty as they are, and not a bit bigger than it has to be. It is made mostly of little fine, dry roots, and it is lined inside with horsehair.”

“What’s that you say?” Peter’s voice sounded as it he suspected that Johnny
Chuck was trying to fool him.

“It’s a fact,” said Johnny, nodding his head gravely. “Goodness knows where they find it these days, and yet find it they do. Here comes Chippy himself; ask him.”


House Sparrow (bottom left) and Chipping Sparrow (top right) by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


Chippy and Mrs. Chippy came flitting from tree to tree until they were on a branch right over Peter and Johnny. “Hello!” cried Peter. “You folks seem very busy. Have you finished building your nest yet?”

“Nearly,” replied Chippy. “It is all done save the horsehair. We are on our way up to Farmer Brown’s barnyard now to look for some. You haven’t seen any around anywhere, have you?”

Peter and Johnny shook their heads, and Peter confessed that he wouldn’t know horsehair if he saw it. He often had found hair from the coats of Reddy Fox and Old Man Coyote and Digger the Badger and Lightfoot the Deer, however hair from the coat of a horse was altogether another matter.

“It isn’t hair from the coat of a horse that we want,” cried Chippy, as he prepared to fly after Mrs. Chippy. “It is long hair from the tail or mane of a horse that we must have. It makes the very nicest kind of lining for a nest.”

Chippy and Mrs. Chippy were gone a long time, and when they did return each was carrying a long black hair. They had found what they wanted, and Mrs. Chippy was in high spirits because, as she took pains to explain to Peter, that little nest would soon be ready for the four beautiful little blue eggs with black spots on one end that she meant to lay in it.


Tree Sparrow by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


As they watched their two little feathered friends putting the finishing touches to their little nest far out on a branch of one of the apple trees Johnny asked Peter “Did you know that they are sometimes called Tree Sparrows?”

“No,” said Peter, “I didn’t.”

“I suppose it is because they so often build their nests in trees,” replied Johnny.

“Chippy shouldn’t be called Tree Sparrow, because he has a cousin by that name,” said Peter.

Johnny Chuck looked as if he doubted that, “I have never heard of him,” he grunted.

Peter grinned. Here was a chance to tell Johnny Chuck something, and Peter never is happier than when he can tell folks something they don’t know.

“You’d know him if you didn’t sleep all winter,” said Peter with a chuckle. “Dotty the Tree Sparrow spends the winter here. He left for his home in the Far North about the time you were ready to wake up.”

“Why do you call him Dotty?” asked Johnny Chuck.

“Because he has a little round black dot right in the middle of his breast,” replied Peter. “I don’t know why they call him Tree Sparrow; he doesn’t spend his time in the trees the way Chippy does, and I see him much more often in low bushes or on the ground. I think Chippy has much more right to the name of Tree Sparrow than Dotty has. Now I think of it, I’ve heard Dotty called the Winter Chippy.”

“Gracious, what a mix-up!” exclaimed Johnny Chuck. “With Chippy being called a Tree Sparrow and a Tree Sparrow called Chippy, I should think folks would get all tangled up.”

“Perhaps they would,” replied Peter, “if both were here at the same time, however Chippy comes just as Dotty goes, and Dotty comes as Chippy goes. That’s a pretty good arrangement, especially as they look very much alike, excepting that Dotty is quite a little bigger than Chippy and always has that black dot, which Chippy does not have. Goodness gracious, it is time I was back in the dear Old Briar-patch! Goodbye, Johnny Chuck.”


Vesper Sparrow by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


And away went Peter Rabbit, lipperty-lipperty-lip, heading for the dear Old Briar-patch. Out of the grass just ahead of him flew a rather pale, streaked little brown bird, and as he spread his tail Peter saw two white feathers on the outer edges. Those two white feathers were all Peter needed to recognize another little friend of whom he is very fond. It was Sweetvoice the Vesper Sparrow, the only one of the Sparrow family with white feathers in his tail.

“Come over to the dear Old Briar-patch and sing to me, would you Sweetvoice?” cried Peter.

Sweetvoice dropped down into the grass again, and when Peter came up, was very busy getting a mouthful of dry grass. “I can’t,” mumbled Sweetvoice. “Not now, Peter Rabbit. I’m too busy. It is high time our nest was finished, and Mrs. Sweetvoice will lose her patience if I don’t get this grass over there pretty quick.”

“Where is your nest? In a tree?” asked Peter innocently.

“That’s telling,” declared Sweetvoice. “Not a living soul knows where that nest is, excepting Mrs. Sweetvoice and myself. This much I will tell you, Peter: it isn’t in a tree. And I’ll tell you this much more: it is in a hoof print of Bossy the Cow.”

“In a what?” cried Peter.

“In a hoof print of Bossy the Cow,” repeated Sweetvoice, chuckling softly. “You know when the ground was wet and soft early this spring, Bossy left deep footprints wherever she went in the Green Meadows. One of these makes the nicest kind of a place for a nest. Now run along, Peter Rabbit. I’ve got much to do. Perhaps I’ll come over to the edge of the dear Old Briar-patch and sing to you a while just after jolly, round, red Mr. Sun goes to bed behind the Purple Hills. I just love to sing then.”

“I’ll be watching for you,” replied Peter. “I love to hear you sing and that is the best time of all the day in which to hear singing.”

That night, sure enough, just as the Dark Purple Shadows came creeping out over the Green Meadows, Sweetvoice, perched on the top of a bramble bush over Peter’s head, sang over and over again the sweetest little song and kept on singing even after it was quite dark. Something Peter didn’t know was that this habit of singing in the evening is what has given Sweetvoice his name of Vesper Sparrow.


Dark Purple Shadows in the night sky


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 –  Chipping Sparrow
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Tree Sparrow
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS – Vesper Sparrow
  • Nature journal coloring pages at Cornell Common Feeder Birds FREE Chipping Sparrow page W59 + Tree Sparrow page W58.
  • Have you ever wondered if you see so many birds in your yard, or in a nearby park or playground, why you haven’t seen equally as many nests? Keep an eye out, especially this time of year when there are few leaves on the trees, to see if you can spot any bird homes from last year or in the making.
  • What shape is the Chipping Sparrow’s beak? Do all sparrows have this shaped beak? What is it best designed for eating?
  • As a great garden helper what bugs does the Chipping Sparrow like to eat?

Some of these questions have been inspired by the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock. More to learn about the Chipping Sparrow on pages 86-89 of this classic offered FREE online HERE.

  • Another option is to get a copy of Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book by Lisa Bonforte and color the Chipping Sparrow on page 14 (colored pencils recommended).

FYI -This coloring book is an excellent companion for this bird story series with most of the 50 birds represented as characters throughout the chapters.


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!