Let’s Chat about January Nature Study!


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  • Tristan

    Hi everyone! How is your January going? I know we are all in different places around the US and world but one thing we all have in common is the opportunity to do nature study. I would love to hear ideas of how you can do nature study in your area this week. Share what your weather is like, what your area is like, and possibilities you could do. Remember that nature can be brought indoors or can include things like rocks/minerals or the night sky. Here is mine:

    I live in Ohio and right now in my area the highs are 14F and the wind chill from this evening to tomorrow afternoon is expected to bring us down to -20F (yes, 20 degrees below zero). We have 4 or 5 inches of snow and ice that dropped overnight. At the moment it is actually sunny (finally! we’ve had a lot of gray skies lately). We live in a small city, neighbor houses are 10-15 feet apart and we do have a small, fenced backyard.

    Possible Nature Study for my Area:

    • Looking for animal tracks in the snow. We’ve been looking out the windows and already see cat tracks.
    • Bringing snow inside to touch, play with, and watch melt.
    • Pulling a twig/branch from a bush or tree to observe (some have leaves/needles/berries). Find a pinecone from beneath the evergreen tree in the yard. Draw what we see. Learn about evergreens.
    • Pull out our rock collection and a rock field guide to learn more about 1 or 2 rocks and draw them.
    • Birdwatching.
    • Getting kids up tonight to watch the total lunar eclipse if the sky is clear.
    • Measuring snow depth, icicle lengths. Observing the effect of wind on snow drifting around the house and yard.

    Happy January everyone!


    I live in the Great Plains, in north eastern South Dakota.  We live in a small town of 2oo people.  Our house sits on a piece of land approximately 75″ x  165″  with neighbors on either side & across the street.  We are 1,877 feet above sea level :)( this was interesting to me and a surprise)   Our visibility is 10 miles on a clear day.  Our small town sits down in a valley & they say we are in the foot hills of the Coteau hills further north of us.  We are about 2 hours from Fargo, North Dakota.  On Saturday we started out the day at 8:00 with 14 below and 31 below windchill.  Sunday afternoon we had a temp of 11 below.  We get a lot of drifting of snow so it can be challenging to know a true snowfall amount sometimes.  Our first real snowfall gave us maybe 6 in of snow.  The winds were at 40 plus mph. & left bare ground in places and 3ft drifts in other areas. This was in our own yard. It will vary by locations.

    We can get a lot of fog which can last for a day to several days, which results in some very pretty frosty trees and landscape.  Last week we woke to a sunny day with frosty trees, so at the request of my son, we drove around the area taking pictures with our cameras. We printed and pasted a few choice ones into our nature book. I am just not talented enough to to even try to paint the beautiful scenes, so we resorted to our cameras. 🙂

    I have also been simply recording the days temperature, windchill, wind speed, whether it’s sunny or cloudy, how much snow fell etc.

    We have a bird feeder so we could also be recording down the birds that come.  We’ve had the feeder for years  and the one year we had a hawk hanging around and was catching the birds so we took  the feeder down for awhile.  It was quite distressing to my bird lover to see the dead birds it would drop or fly off with.

    Last night we got to watch the Lunar eclipse.  My youngest son got some pretty nice pictures of it, so we will also be putting that into our Nature Books ( again using the camera ) 🙂   I may also try drawing it in as well using colored pencils.

    If you can stand the cold, the night sky is plastered with stars on a cloudless night. We have very little lights to hinder our view.  Another son will at times go out with his phone and take pictures of the night sky.  We have a 20-25 minute drive to the closest town for shopping.  We often like to look at the night sky on the way home.

    We get red squirrels & they are fun to watch.

    One thing we started doing was making a title page for each new month and maybe writing down a quote or a poem.  I got the idea from Exploring Nature Around the Year  365 Days of Nature Journaling  from http://www.raisinglittleshoots.com

    Adding just for the info. , the ages of my 4 children are 12-19


    Sounds like a great place Becky, but cold! The difference in drifts and bare spots sounds neat. I forgot squirrels, we’ll have to keep an eye out for some. We also sometimes have the neighborhood skunk or opossum visit our trash area…lol.

    We were able to go out last night and see the eclipse too. 7 of the 10 kids woke up to see it and would come in to warm up, then go out for a few more minutes. I’m not great with photography but love pictures. Our drawings are usually with colored pencil or even crayon for the younger kids, occasionally the older ones like watercolor. And more often we just enjoy nature and don’t even make a notebook page – whatever works!

    Poetry is great to go with nature! We have a winter themed poetry teatime with friends this Wednesday. So fun hearing the poems people bring (they don’t have to be winter themed, so we get a variety).

    My kids are 17 years down to 11 mos old. 🙂

    Thank you for the inspiration in this post! I’ve been at a loss. We’ve just moved to Kansas and I’m not used to the cold and snow. This will help me a lot! Thank you!!


    What an great idea, Tristan!

    This is my favorite time of year to be outside in north Florida.  Our daytime temps fluctuate between 40’s, which is uncomfortable for our thin blood, to 60’s and even 70’s-which is perfect to be outdoors.

    Becky, even though our climates are different, we’ve gotten a lot of fog this winter, too.  My young children all know about it now for the frequency we’ve experienced it.

    The insects are not as often seen this time of year, but birds are quite visible and easy to see through most of the bare trees.  Each one of my children noted, at separate times, a flock of Robins in the neighborhood last week.  Bird studies are especially easy this time of year.

    We live close by a national wildlife refuge on the coast and it is a great wintering ground for birds- we learn a few new ones each year.  The other week we saw a male vermilion flycatcher-a rarity in our area!

    The tree silhouettes have been gorgeous at the early, red sunsets. We could study deciduous trees versus evergreens. I’ve never been sure what Live Oak trees are classified as- they don’t go bare like most wintering trees, but they do shed leaves twice a year.  Autumn leaves really peaked during the Christmas season this year.  Sun/moon sets and rises would be interesting to note. Our skies were perfectly clear for the eclipse-two teens and three adults came outdoors for the show.

    We’ve had quite a rainy winter so far (ie/flooding), so rain and weather charting would be useful.

    I’ve always wanted to do a pond/stream study this time of year as the spring peeper frogs are really loud in the warm snaps, but we don’t see tadpoles in the water bodies until spring and summer.

    If we get a hard freeze, the kids will be ecstatic to go outside and discover and play with ice.

    On that note, it is always with a wistful heart that I read of the snow and ice adventures most of you have at this time of year.  My children have experienced the quiet wonder of 1/2 inch of snowfall just last year-a first in 30+ years here!  Icicles were seen one year out of the past 8, and frozen birdbaths and containers of water left out to freeze every winter are always fun for exploring. (The flip side of our mild winters are our humid, mosquito-infested, scorching summers that seem to last half the year).

    That’s my nature rambling reflection for this winter.  🙂

    My 8 kids are 18 to 2.

    I love the idea of a winter poetry teatime with friends!  Thanks for sharing!



    I don’t have much to add to all that has been said. We are in central PA and have just gotten into the coldest part of the winter. I am only homeschooling my youngest, who is 15, and neither of us care to venture out too much in sub-freezing temperatures. We observe from inside the house or riding in the car. We recently had snow and then some rain on top of it, which caused ripples or a wavy pattern in the snow. Some places it looks like cotton balls all squished together.

    Probably our favorite this time of year is watching the birds. I have a feeder which draws LOTS of juncos, as well as chickadees, sparrows, and, just yesterday, had a pair of cardinals. I’m excited because, after all these years, I have added something to keep the squirrels out of the feeder! I also have a suet block hanging from a tree branch. The squirrels would always get to that and eat it up. I actually rigged something up to keep them off the suet. I hung the suet from the bottom of a big plastic planter and hung the planter from the branch. I have watched a squirrel stretch down to the planter. I said, “Go ahead and try it!” He didn’t. I think it would have been funny if he had:) My reason for the suet is because for a number of years we’ve had woodpeckers. We really enjoy watching those. We regularly have one or two downy woodpeckers, possibly a yellow-bellied sapsucker (not 100% sure if I have that breed correct), and most exciting of all, recently we had a pileated woodpecker hanging from my 4×4 suet square!

    You can obviously tell we love watching the birds. My daughter has a parakeet, so we can enjoy one right here in our house. He sits on our shoulder and will sometimes lick our cheek (I taught him ‘No bite! Give kisses! He has learned the kissing sound:), can even say a few words/phrases, gets a bath under trickling water from the faucet while on our hands, and even likes orange juice pulp left on the side of a cup.

    Sorry for rambling about the birds. They are just one part of God’s beautiful creation. So, while we are stuck inside during the cold weather, that is the highlight of those days. I didn’t mention the deer. We have lots of deer around and often on our own 1+ acre, year round. Not so much now with the snow and ice. But, we like watching them as well. During the nicer weather, we even see flocks of wild turkeys. My daughter loves animals, so animals usually highlight any nature studies we have. She did notice a pretty sunset over the mountains on our way home yesterday. So, we do enjoy the beauty all around us.



    It is fun to read these responses!  psreitmom, I was born and raised in the northwest part of PA!  I loved reading your post about the birds and how you keep the squirrel from eating all the bird feed lol.  We get a lot of the same birds here in SD but we don’t get those bright red cardinals.  I’m told we have a western cardinal but it is a very dull color and we haven’t yet seen one at our feeder. We get the Juncos, sparrows, goldfinch, purple finch, house finch, & a new bird, the pine Siskin. as well as the woodpeckers. There’s more but I’m not recalling them right off.  Birds are fun!  We often just enjoy the nature around us without making a notebook page as well.  🙂

    Yes, the sunsets!  We get  to see them most everyday because of our wide open sky.  Of course here in town, we have the houses blocking our view but we can still see the pink as it spreads across the sky.

    We also get sun dogs around the sun on these cold winter days.  That was a new one for me. They are  patches of rainbow color on both sides of the sun. They are created when sunlight is filtered by moisture in the sky.


    Becky, I have traveled as far west as Montana, since I have a sister living there. So, I have been through South Dakota a number of times. One year we were there, we visited DeSmet, where the Ingalls lived. Driving on the interstate in SD, made me think of why Charles Ingalls wanted to move out there. I don’t remember exactly how it was stated. But, he liked that open sky. It is amazing, especially, as we saw on one trip, lightning in the sky many, many miles away. We were under blue sky, and a long way off, we could see where the storm clouds lined the sky. We can’t see that here in the mountains of PA, so that was a sight for us to see. So, no matter where we live or far away places we travel to, God pleasures us with His beautiful Creation.


    I have to add Revelation 4:11. I said in my previous post that ‘God pleasures us with His beautiful Creation’. While it does give us pleasure, this verse tells us why all things were created. (Including us)

    “Thou are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for THY (emphasis mine) pleasure they are and were created.”



    Anyone else?  Even if you feel you have nothing to add, it would still be fun to hear where you’re from and what your weather is like.   The way YOU do bird studies just may be an AHA moment for somebody else 🙂  or maybe it’s not birds but something else.  Just go ahead and share!


    I’m in central Canada. It’s -30 here right now (that’s celsius) and we’re expecting 5-10 cm of snow tomorrow.

    My 12yo son loves birds and has a number of feeders in our backyard, including suet, canola seed and sunflower seeds. We get blue jays, sparrows, woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and I think we also get finches. There are also flocks of gray partridges that wander through our yard.

    I like watching the squirrels just as much. Mostly we have fox squirrels but there is one gray squirrel now, too.

    Some other topics we have studied in winter include types of trees (evergreen vs. deciduous), pine cones and other seeds, weather, wind, astronomy stuff, and winter animals/animal tracks.

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