Three new ways to enjoy urban wildlife

| April 19, 2014 | Comments (1)

blackbird-young-710188-sJust when I thought winter would never, ever, ever, ever end, a package arrived on my front porch. The My Spy Birdhouse intrigued our daughters from the first time they read about it. The concept is that you place the birdhouse on a glass window. If you follow all the instructions, including the one saying you need to be quiet when you’re near the birdhouse, birds will next in the birdhouse. You can see the family from the time they build their next to the time the baby birds hatch.

Our girls were sold. After the birdhouse arrived, we put it on a counter. As the snow and cold dragged on, we moved it to the basement. Shortly after the snow melted, we pulled out the birdhouse and attached it to our window. The two-way film means that you can see the birds, but they cannot see you. Of course they can hear you, which is why you need to be quiet while viewing. We’ve had several birds visit, but no one has moved in yet. Our daughters have gone to the My Spy Birdhouse website to use the bird guide. Currently our girls are debating whether or not the birdhouse is in the right place. If we don’t end up with a bird family soon, they want to move it to a new location. They are really enjoying the experience.

A new book called Wild Animal Neighbors, Sharing Our Urban World by Ann Downer is our girls’ other new obsession. What’s great about the book is that it uses real-world examples to dissect the problem. One example is the coyote that ended up in the Quiznos shop in the South Loop. The story made headlines all over because it was so unusual to see a coyote in such a busy area. Coyotes have been spotted downtown before, but usually at night by security cameras. In addition to telling the main story, the chapter goes on to give some coyote facts, provide examples of coyotes in folk tales around the world, and share lessons learned by researchers.

Other animals featured in the book include raccoons, lions, crows, flying foxes, turtles and alligators. In the epilogue, Downer writes “As this high-rise, glassed-in, paved-over environment becomes the main landscape on every inhabited continent, we will drive many species to extinction. Those that survive will be forced to make their livings among us, in our cities.” The epilogue leaves readers much to think about in terms of our planet’s health and how we can make choices to help us all survive.

Wild Animal Neighbors, Sharing Our Urban World is designed for tweens and teens from fifth through twelfth grade. It’s a great book for a school or home library. I want to use it to inspire our girls to work on a few summer projects. There are a lot of ways to use the stories as a launching point for additional exploration.

This Book Was A Tree, written and illustrated by Marcie Chambers Cuff, lives up to its subtitle “ideas, adventures, and inspiration for rediscovering the natural world.” Each chapter has an idea to help you recreate with nature, not matter how much or how little nature exists in your world. The first chapter “Create Something” gives step-by-step instructions about creating a journal. Our girls loved this idea. They were able to create a journal that they could leave on a bookshelf. No one would ever know it was a secret journal.

We like the “Change Your Perspective” section. There were easy and fun ideas about reconnecting with nature like using a pinhole camera to help change your perspective on elements of nature that we often take for granted. The big picture looked a lot different when you’re only looking through a tiny whole. The materials needed to create the pinhole camera included corrugated cardboard, an old key, 35 mm film, a ruler, a ballpoint pen, scraps of black felt, fine sandpaper and a hammer. There were other ingredients, but everything came from our home.

What’s great about This Book Was A Tree was that it was full of things our tween daughters could do by themselves. I needed to supervise some of their activities, but there were a lot of things they could do themselves. I asked them to read the book to find their favorite activities. The projects were STEM projects, without feeling like a formal science project. With chapter titles like “Get Dirty,” “Harvest Something,” “Upcycle” and “Build a Community” there were a lot of projects to choose from. Our girls were looking forward to working through more projects, but we ran out of time. I added it to the summer to do list.


Shari writes about life with twins at Two Times the Fun. Image courtesy of Stock Exchange.

Disclosure:  These products were sent for review. My words and opinions are my own.


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Category: Shari's Corner

About Shari: Shari is a mom, wife, marketing communications professional, gardener, Chicago Blackhawks fan, college sports fan, traveler, quilter, community volunteer, sister, daughter, aunt, friend, Siberian Husky owner, Girl Scout troop leader and book lover. You can find Shari blogging about life with twins at Two Times the Fun and tweeting @slcs48n1. View author profile.

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