This year we are going virtual for our celebration of Earth Day. Earth Day began in 1970 as a way to bring attention to the threats posed to all living things on our planet. The stress from a world population that constantly demands more resources is having its toll. We are not living sustainably. For the next 22 days, stay tuned as we highlight some ways that together make beneficial changes to the way we use and appreciate our natural world. In times of isolation, having a connection to nature couldn’t be more important. If we can’t get out, then bringing nature to our homes and gardens can help provide a sense of wonder and gratitude for life. Let’s do what we can to preserve our open spaces. We can share our home environments and help sustain the plants and animals that evolved together and need each other to survive.

Celebrate Earth Month with the City of Oceanside's virtual Earth Month webpage:

Day 22 - The Peculiar Pelican

Happy Earth Day!
Our final Special Edition 3-week posting to celebrate Earth Day is on the Brown Pelican, once devastated by the toxic pollutant DDT. This presentation looks at some of the special adaptations of these most unusual birds.

Day 21 - Ridgway's Rail

Day 20 - Do You Know Me?

Day 19- Shorebirds of our Rocky Shores

Take a virtual tour to see the shorebirds that stop along our beautiful rocky shores during their long migrations.

Presentation by Jane Mygatt

Day 18- Scavenger Hunt In Your Neighborhood

By Patty Montgomery

Enjoy time outdoors while staying safe and healthy! Take your children outside and go on a scavenger hunt for the items on the bingo card. You can play in teams as a contest or together cooperatively. Take a pencil and a magnifying lens (if you have one).

These descriptions of what to look for are written to be open-ended and engaging, especially for younger children. They should instill curiosity as well as a sense of discovery. Encourage your children to explain their answers.

Enjoy yourselves outdoors with this fun activity!

Day 17- Raccoon (Procyon lotor) and Animal Charades Guessing Game

By: Sally Bickerton

Have you seen this creature in your yard, or perhaps crossing the road at night?   Have you seen its tracks in the mud while out walking the lagoon trail or in other wetland areas?


Raccoons with their black masks and bushy, banded tails, are easily recognizable.  They live throughout most of the United States, preferring moist woodlands and wetlands.  They are often found in urban areas as well, thriving alongside humans. These nocturnal, solitary animals are very intelligent and have learned to take advantage of our bad habits, like leaving trashcans out without lids or doors unlocked.  Their dexterity allows them to use their five-fingered paws to turn knobs, open containers, or pry apart shells.


Raccoons are omnivores with a varied diet – insects, bird eggs, berries, frogs, or maybe leftovers from your trash can!  One common myth is that raccoon wash their food. Scientists now believe that they may wet their paws before eating to gain more sensory information about their food.


Raccoon paw prints are one of the most common tracks seen around the Buena Vista Lagoon Trail.  Look for what seem to be miniature handprints in the soil along the trail. One can also see evidence of their foraging, as they often leave crayfish shells after enjoying their meal.  Keep an eye out for animal paths through the reeds next time you walk the trail, as well.


The raccoon pictured above was created by taxidermist Joyce Anderson, one of many animals she has artistically preserved and generously donated to BVAS over the years.  This raccoon is looking around the dark and empty Nature Center this month, wondering where all those elementary students, neighborhood families, and birders are! Hopefully it will see many of you back for a visit in the coming months.  Now, consider playing a family-friendly game of Animal Charades.


Animal Charades Guessing Game


  1. On 8-10 pieces of paper, about 3 X 5 inches each, or on index cards, write the names of common wild animals of your area.  You could include mountain lion, raccoon, skunk, gray fox, hummingbird, great horned owl, crow, heron, bat, bee, ant, butterfly, turtle, frog, etc.
  2. Put the cards in a bowl or basket.
  3. Designate a central area as the “stage” and one person as the leader.
  4. One player goes first and chooses a card.  After reading the card, he gives the card to the leader.  The leader tells the other players to not call out guesses until the player is done acting out the animal’s movement, perhaps 20 seconds.
  5. The player goes “on stage” and first holds a pose that they feel best describes their animal. Then the player acts out the movement of their animal.  Now other players may start guessing. If others have not yet guessed the animal’s identity, have the player imitate the animal’s call or sound. If there is still no correct guess, the leader can give a hint or two.
  6. Players take turns choosing and acting out their animals.


Learn more about the raccoon at

Day 16- Raptors!

This presentation shows some of the adaptations birds of prey share, and some unique features, that make raptors so beautifully adapted for hunting.
Slideshow compiled by Jane Mygatt

Day 15 - Cuddling Up with a Good Book

Cuddling Up with a Good Book

When it’s hard to get outdoors the best way to do so is to grab your version of hot chocolate and a blanket and settle into a great book. This is as true if you are little or all grown up but it is particularly the case for the adventurous and young at heart. It’s magical when young and old gather to read together.

This “favorites” list is drawn from our best moments with children and grandchildren—ours and others—over decades of teaching and cluttering a house with paper treasures. These books make us smile, laugh, wonder, or go for the box of tissue. More importantly, they have the same effect on children. It’s an admittedly odd assortment, dominated by fiction but tied to a child’s curiosity about and affinity for all things nature.


The Wartville Wizard by Don Madden. (Ages 4 – 8) 1986

“A tidy old man spent his time cleaning up the litter that the thoughtless slobs of Wartville left behind. One day ...” A tale of justice (OK, revenge), whimsically illustrated. Being a children’s book, the errant townspeople see the error of their ways, repent, and beg forgiveness. After reading this, you will never stop wishing the story true.




Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney (Ages 4 – 8) 1982

Alice Rumphius dedicates her life to making the world more beautiful, one lupine at a time. The wild coast of Maine is the perfect setting for the tranquility brought by living in nature, but with just a splash of color. Of the dozens of books illustrated or authored by Caldecott Award-winning Barbara Cooney, Miss Rumphius stands out as her multi-generational classic.


The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly (Ages 9 – 13)  2009

With an aversion to cooking and sewing, eleven-year-old Calpurnia Virginia Tate finds her soulmate in the formerly off-putting company of her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an amateur naturalist with little interest in his family. Calpurnia’s evolution is both scientific and social, as she navigates life with six boisterous brothers and the expectations of 1899 America for girls her age. This Newbery Award-winning novel artfully portrays a year of growing up and coming of age. If the hope of our planet is grounded in the determination of the young, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate may just be your best read of the year.


Hoot by Carl Hiaasen (Ages 9 – 13) 2002

The first (and best) of Hiaasen’s tales where unlikely characters team up to defend critters from feckless opportunists (i.e. greedy adults). In this case, Mother Paula’s All-American Pancake House plans to bulldoze the nesting ground of Burrowing Owls. Laugh-out-loud funny, the book makes no excuses for its use of both the preposterous plot twists and the predictable triumph of hero over villain.

Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald, fighting the good fight in a state not known for its environment sensitivities. For better and worse, his stories are sprinkled with the unbelievable but true news clippings that “could only happen in the Sunshine State.” If Hoot is your first taste, by all means keep exploring his titles for both children and adults.


The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl (Ages 8 – 12)

To the Gregg family, hunting is great sport. To the girl next door, it’s pure evil. After failed
attempts at reason and diplomacy, she can stand no more. From the best-selling author of Charlie
and the Chocolate Factory and The BFG comes this ironic tale of a girl whose righteous anger
triggers a magical power over which she has no control. The hunters become the hunted. But fear
not—it’s a children’s book—and all will (in the nick of time) turn out well.





The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (Ages 8 – 12) 2012

Ivan lives in the Exit 8 Big Top Mall by the Video Arcade…in a cage, far in both distance and
time from the jungle and memories of home. He is relatively content, with his television,
bananas, and art. With him are two friends: Stella the former circus elephant and Julia the night
custodian’s daughter. But things change. Ever practical yet philosophical, Ivan tells his story.

Katherine Applegate’s 2013’s Newbery Gold Medal winner is stunning in its poignancy, while
being accessible to younger readers (and even younger listeners) yet crafted to appeal to
adolescents and adults alike.


Herman and Marguerite: An Earth Story by Jay O’Callahan (Ages 4 – 9) 1996

Massachusetts master storyteller Jay O’Callahan began making up stories to tell his daughter. He just never stopped. And as wonderful as the stories are, it’s the performance of them that transports children and adults to new worlds and familiar places like nothing you’ve experienced.

Herman is a shy earthworm who, tunneling below ground, munches on dead leaves. Life is safe and predictable. Marguerite is a lonely caterpillar, busily eating leaves in the orchard above and waiting to transform into a butterfly. A near-fatal mistake, a heroic rescue, and a budding friendship transform the orchard to a place bursting with life and hope. Through voice and song, Callahan will have the young and young at heart celebrating how much can happen when we believe in ourselves and those we love.

The book is out of print but what you really want is Jay himself. Go to Better still, visit his website and search for a dozen new favorites.


Nights of the Pufflings, a photo essay by Bruce McMillan  (Ages 6 – 9) 1995

On a small volcanic island off the coast of Iceland, young Halla and her friends wait each spring
for the arrival of millions of puffins. There these “clowns of the sea” nest, lay eggs, and raise
their chicks. By August, when most pufflings are able to follow the adults out to see, thousands
of young get stranded. To their aid come the village children.

Bruce McMillan’s photographs and text bring the land, the children, and the puffins to life. The
book is the perfect springboard to motivate your young naturalist into action.

Day 14 - Nest boxes and designs to make your own!

Day 13 - Clean Your Home Naturally

Which cleaners are Earth-friendly and non-toxic?

Clean Your Home Naturally


Have you read the contents of one of your bath or kitchen cleaning products?  Common commercial cleaning choices often contain many toxic and polluting ingredients.   Of course, many brands do have fewer harmful ingredients, and reading labels can help you make wiser choices.  You probably already have many effective cleaning choices in your kitchen.


One of the simplest is plain soap!  Soap works by breaking apart molecules and destroying microorganisms.  Liquid or powdered soap is biodegradable and cleans almost anything, from stains on clothes to grease on your stove.  Two other very useful items are baking soda and white vinegar. Below are two basic recipes to try.


Kitchen Cleaning Mixure


3 Tablespoons baking soda

2 cups warm water


Baking soda can help clean, shine and deodorize surfaces.   It removes the stains in your coffee pot or mineral build-up in your tea kettle.


Mix ingredients in a bowl and store in a lidded, labeled container.  Dip a clean cloth in the mixture and clean counters, appliances, or the inside of your refrigerator. Rinse the cloth, wring out, and wipe areas again with clear water.


All-Purpose Cleaning Solution


½ cup white vinegar

2 cups water

1-2 drops essential oil or sprig of rosemary

spray bottle


This mixture is great for cleaning painted or finished surfaces, like walls and floors.  White vinegar is effective in cutting grease and removing odors.


Combine ingredients and pour into a spray bottle.  Shake it well to mix ingredients. Don’t forget to label your bottle.   Spray on the solution and wipe dry with a clean cloth.


To clean windows use a more diluted vinegar mix – about ¼ cup of white vinegar to 4 cups of warm water.

Day 12 - Mindfulness in Nature


Photo of a Pale Swallowtail Butterfly, by Zell Lundberg


Mindfulness is one of the buzzwords that we have been hearing this past year as our hectic lives keep us going at top speed and under high levels of stress.  With many of us home more right now, we are rethinking how we spend our time.  The idea of focusing on the moment is even more relevant.

We all can benefit from the practice of being present in the moment.  Instead of worrying about tomorrow, or anticipating tonight’s dinner, try focusing instead on what is right in front of you.  The great outdoors, whether on your front balcony, back patio, or out in the empty field down the street, is a wonderful place to begin.

The following game of “Camera” is designed for 2 or more people and works well with children and adults of all ages.  Give it a try with your family members or just take yourself out to enjoy some close-up looks at what nature has on display.

Camera Game for Families

  1. Designate an area in your front or back yard or other outdoor area as the game area.
  2. Divide into teams of two people, one starting out as the “camera” and other as the “photographer.”
  3. The photographer guides the camera around the outdoor area and instructs the camera to keep his eyes closed until the photographer tells him to open his eyes.
  4. The photographer finds something interesting, beautiful, or special and then points the camera towards it.  Then she says “open” and 5 seconds later “close.”   She continues to find new things to guide the camera to see, perhaps 4 in total.
  5. The two then switch roles.
  6. Have everyone share their favorite “photo” when everyone has completed their turn.



Day 11 - Tina’s Ten Reads Worth Taking (Part 2)

(Apologies again to Robert Frost)  Since most of us have some extra time these days, it might be time to revisit (or read for the first time!) a few great books about nature.  I’ve listed some of my favorite books about nature.  Most of these are classics that have truly stood the test of time.  (If you missed Part 1, check out the entry for Day 7.)

Quammen, David. The song of the Dodo:  Island biogeography in an age of extinctions (1996).  Hard to believe, I know.  But if you haven’t read this book, walk—no, run—to read it.  It’s long.  It sounds unbearably boring.  And irrelevant to your life.  But it will open your eyes to a new understanding of extinctions throughout the world.  And—again, believe it or not—you will totally enjoy the anecdotes and lessons Quammen offers.  His omnipresent dry, sharp wit and story-telling skills weave together rigorous science, unusual field experiences, historical figures, and travel adventures in many unusual spots.  Add in his touch of “snarky gossip columnist” as he dishes about major personalities and academic battles around key biological questions, and you have an eye-opening, science-based understanding of how we set up inevitable extinctions when we fracture habitat—evenacross a continent—leaving patches of land that are, in effect, islands without the surrounding water.





Oldham, Todd.  Charley Harper:  An illustrated life (2009).  I had never bought a coffee table book.  Never expected I would, either.But when I saw a story about a book of the work of Charley Harper (my favorite natural-world artist) on Sunday Morning in 2009, I had to have it.  The most expensive non-textbook book I’ve ever purchased.  And I haven’t regretted it for a heartbeat.  Covering Harper’s work from the 1950s to the 1970s, Oldham has selected 600 illustrations of Harper’s “minimal realism,”which to me combines left-brain geometric shapes with right-brain colors and whimsy.  Each page of the book’s 12+ pounds offers sheer delights.  A smaller (and muchmore affordable) version exists and is widely available.  But if you can find (and afford) the glorious more-than-12-pounds version, go for it.However, even the mini version will provide you hours of amusement, wonder, and—dare I say it?—joy.



Pieplow, Nathan.  Peterson field guide to bird sounds of western North America (2019).

This book definitely targets a very small, specialized (nerdy) group of birders.  Pulling together spectrograms of more than 500 species from the western U.S. and southwestern Canada (excluding pelagic species), Nathan offers a new way to “picture” bird songs and calls.  His descriptive species write-ups fill in the context; and the groupings of species by similar songs at the back of the book are (for me, at least) extremely helpful.  In fact, through this volume, I finally realized that 3 different songs I was hearing in my neighborhood—which sounded like a Blue-winged Warbler (highly unlikely), a creative Song Sparrow, and a super-musical Spotted Towhee—were all coming from the local Bewick’s Wrens.  You also can access Nathan’s recordings of more than 7,500 bird songs and calls on a linked web site.  If birding by ear is your passion, you will find this volume really helpful.  (He has also written a companion guide for eastern species.)




Meldahl, Keith Heyer.  Surf, sand, and stone:  How waves, earthquakes, and other forces shape the Southern California coast.  When we first moved here from Colorado, I discovered a curiosity about geology.  Meldahl presents information about the complex geology of the coast from San Diego to Santa Barbara, exploring tectonic plates as the movers and shakers (at times, quite literally) of the various characteristics of SoCal’s land and water.  Yet he presents this complex information in a very accessible, entertaining style.  As he notes in the preface, the book feels as if you’re with him on a class field trip, in a front-row seat on the bus.  The many simple and effective illustrations supplement the humorous, clear, comprehensible text beautifully.  Who’d have thought it—geology made fun for non-geologists!




Tremor, Scott, et al.  San Diego County mammal atlas (2017).  Sounds rather dry, doesn’t it?  This book does have a lot of wonderfulscientific detail about the 122 species of mammals(land and coastal ocean)known to have occurredin San Diego County since recorded history (a.k.a. 1769).  Want to know how many teeth a kangaroo rat has?  The hind foot length of a desert cottontail?  The history of the now-extinct California grizzly bear’s presence in San Diego County? This book’s for you.  But I actually found the introductory pages—What are mammals?  History of mammalogy in SD County, Conservation) to be fascinating reading in their own right.  The photos are delightfuland sometimes downright stunning.  (Seriously—how adorable is that long-tailed weasel on the cover?)  This atlas follows in the stellar footsteps of other atlases headed up by the San Diego Natural History Museum such as the San Diego County bird atlas and the San Diego County plant atlas.  And it most definitely carries on that tradition of excellence.

Day 10 - Extraordinary Senses - Owls

Day 9 - Native Plants For Dry Shade

Do you have a shady yard? There are some beautiful California native plants that do well as understory plantings or in dappled shade. This slideshow presentation will showcase a few. Enjoy!

Day 8 - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Composting Earthworms

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle . . . and a Worm Bin!
These are three terms we have all heard, but let’s explore how we can practice these to make a difference to Planet Earth.

Reduce means to use less. What are some ways you can use less of our important natural resources? Some are obvious – turn off the lights when not in a room or turn off the water faucet when not actively using the water. Challenge your family to come up with 5 more simple things you can all do every day to conserve resources like water and electricity and create less waste and trash.

Reuse is using something again, for either the same purpose or for a different one. Things like passing clothes that you have outgrown to a younger brother or sister or using an old toothbrush to scrub your shoes are examples. Think of all the plastic we throw out! How could plastic containers be reused? Magazines? Shirts with stains on them?

Recycle means to turn waste or trash into something, usually by processes that makes it like new again. Things like newspaper being used to make cardboard, or old glass jars used to make new glass bottles, are examples. What else can be recycled in our home recycle bins? Many of us feel we’ve done our part by putting our grass clippings, aluminum cans and newspapers in our city green waste and recycling bins. That is only the first step, though. We can also purchase things made with recycled products and support the companies that use recycled materials, as well. What could your family start recycling?

What about all those kitchen scraps, like wilted lettuce, banana peels, or dried out bread? One effective way to recycle these is to start a worm composting bin! Composting with worms is called vermiculture. The correct worms to use are available at many local nurseries or at El Corazon Compost Facility in Oceanside. Below is a website with all the directions to create a small bin that will produce rich soil.

Photos by J. Germain

Day 8 worm box

Photo 1 – active worm bin

Day 8 compost

Photo 2 – composted worm castings

Day 7 - Tina’s Ten Reads Worth Taking (Part 1)

(Apologies to Robert Frost) Since most of us have some extra time these days, it might be time to revisit (or read for the first time!) a few great books about nature. I’ve listed some of my favorite books about nature. Most of these are classics that have truly stood the test of time.

Kaufman, Kenn. Kingbird highway: The biggest year in the life of an extreme birder (1997). One of the earliest—and best—“Big Year” books, Kingbird highway chronicles 16-year-old Kenn Kaufman (author of Birds of North America and originator of the Kaufman Field Guide series) as he drops out of school, sticks out his hitchhiking thumb, and attempts to break the record for the number of bird species seen in one year in America. In addition to finding birds while he travels the country, he also shares his growing understanding of the natural world and his experiences with a variety of memorable characters along the way. What could be just a tedious recounting of checkmarks on a list instead features flowing narrative and richly descriptive text.




Dunne, Pete. The feather quest: A North American birder’s year (1999). Kenn Kaufman said that he (Kenn) was a birder who writes. Pete Dunne, he continued, is a writer who birds. This subtle yet important distinction rings through everything Pete Dunne pens. The former director of the Cape May Bird Observatory, Pete brings us along with his wife (the photographer for the book) on their trips during one year, ranging from Alaska to the Everglades and many points in between. Each chapter tells a complete story in itself, which makes it easy to pick the book up, read a few pages, and then go back to your chores. Until you find that you’re having a really hard time putting it down and moving on to your next task.





Weidensaul, Scott. Living on the wind: Across the hemisphere with migratory birds (1999). Combining science and story-telling, Scott covers avian migration mysteries and astonishments as well threats such as deforestation and habitat degradation. Beginning in Alaska, stretching down to Argentina and then back again, Weidensaul undergirds very readable prose with firm scientific research and ornithological history. Since this book is more than 20 years, old, you’ll want to read later works to get the most up-to-date science on recently discovered issues about migration. But it’s a wonder-filled recounting of this biannual trek that will leave you never looking at a bird on the wing the same way again.




Weiner, Jonathan. The beak of the finch: A story of evolution in our time (1995). Enjoy Weiner’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning explication of the ground-breaking research on modern-day evolution among “Darwin’s finches” in the Galápagos archipelago. Watch Peter and Rosemary Grant document evolution practically on fast-forward by studying the effects of drought and flood on the shapes of the finches’ beaks. Sounds like watching paint dry. I know. But Weiner weaves the backstory and the rigorous science into a compelling, fascinating, and wonderfully readable tale.






Peterson, Roger Tory & Fisher, James. Wild America: The legendary story of two great naturalists on the road (1955).

An unusual variation on the “buddy road trip” theme, Peterson relates his adventures with his British friend, fellow naturalist, and seabird authority, James Fisher, as they traveled the coast of the continent. Join the 30,000-mile party led by renown ornithologist, illustrator, and writer Peterson and get a combination travelogue and adventure in nature. Peterson often sets up a chapter; then Fisher shares his experiences. One of the most moving descriptions is Fisher’s first encounter with the Grand Canyon:

…I had prepared myself—words, music, paintings, photographs… Yet all of these were at that first moment of shock reduced to a whisper, whispering, “Yes, this is true; this is real; this is it; this is the greatest abyss on the face of the earth…” The loud voice (I have never heard it louder) was the overwhelming voice of awe…. Roger, who knows that I talk too much, says that I was silent for ten minutes. So was he. The first thing I said was, “I shan’t want the big lens; I wish I had a wide-angle,” drying my eyes under cover of my handkerchief while pretending to dry my forehead.

This book beautifully captures an America from more than 60 years ago—definitely a time gone by—through the eyes and minds of two wonderful friends and extraordinary naturalists, long gone as well. A book to cherish through the ages.

Watch this site for the remaining 5 reads worth taking!

Day 6 - The Great Horned Owl

great horned owl steve brad

Said Mr. Owl, sitting in a tree,
How would you like to be like me?
I sleep all day in the bright sunlight,
And find my dinner in the middle of the night.
(poem by Dovie Christensen)

The Great Horned Owl is a nocturnal hunter with many adaptations to assist its hunting skills. It has sharp talons and beak; quiet, fringed wings; big eyes; and keen hearing.

Try this experiment to compare your eye movement to an owl’s: Put your hands up by your side, so you can see them while you’re looking straight ahead. Now, just moving only your eyes, look left and then right. That extends your vision without moving your head. An owl’s eyes are so large, their eyes can not turn in their head. It must turn its head to see left and right.

Have you heard that owls can turn their heads all the way around? Though not true, they can turn them about 270 degrees. Try to see how far you can turn yours – an owl can turn towardsits left shoulder and see all the way over to its right shoulder!

Owls are predators. Learn more about how predators and prey are all part of a food chain at this website:

Photo Credit: Steve Brad

Day 5 - Safeguard The Birds

One of the joys of having a garden is that we can entice birds to our yards by offering food, water, and native plants. When we invite birds so close to our homes, we introduce a number of risks. Window strikes kill at least 150 million birds each year. Free-ranging cats kill vastly more birds and small mammals. According to the American Bird Conservancy, about a third of the 800 species of birds in the U.S. are endangered, threatened, or in significant decline.


seashells from FB

What you can do:

Make your windows safer. If birds fly towards your window, they won’t see it: especially if it reflects the sky, a tree, or an opening in a tree. Birds do not understand the illusion. You can hang ribbons, strings with shells, or outdoor shades on the outsides of your windows. Or use lots of bird decal silhouettes to adhere to the outside of the window. If the images are inside, it will not be as  effective. You can purchase or make your own silhouette decals and there are a lot of tutorials available on YouTube.

What you can do:

Spay or neuter your cats and keep them indoors, or build a Catio. They will be safer and have a longer life. If you have free-roaming cats in the neighborhood, you may want to reconsider feeding the birds.

Don’t use toxins such as insecticides, herbicides, rodenticides, or other pesticides in your yard. This is harmful to the environment and cruel to animals.



Day 4 - Go Birding With A Kid

There are some terrific young birders in San Diego County. They were lucky to have parents or mentors that fed their passion. Now is a great opportunity to introduce your kid(s) to the joys of bird watching.

You need a few basics, such as binoculars and a kid-friendly identification guide. It is important to make sure it is a fun experience so they will want to continue. At the moment our choices are limited for public places to go birding, but birds are everywhere, even in your backyard! If they take to birding, taking photographs and reviewing their sightings are wonderful ways to assist in the learning process. Who knows, you just may sow the seeds of another Eliot Porter!

Don’t have binoculars? Here is a fun idea for kids to make their own binoculars. (You can always substitute with paper towel roll and cut it in half.) Check out the 12-minute YouTube video demonstrating how to make a cardboard pair using a few simple supplies.

Here are a few kid-friendly bird guide options to get your child started.

explorer-with-binoculars copy

Day 3 - The Mockingbird

Have you seen this gray bird, with darker wings and tail in your yard or out on a walk?  This species was often captured as a pet in the 1800s, as its famous, varied song can imitate everything from a dog or piano or other bird’s calls.

They can often be heard, perched on a roof or tree, vocalizing.  You also will see them hopping on the ground, seeking insects, or in trees finding berries to eat.  When it spreads its’ wings, it flashes its white wing patches.

On your next neighborhood walk, keep your eye out for this bird.  If you see one, listen for its call, and try to imitate it back!

It’s nesting season, so consider offering some appropriate nesting materials to the birds in your neighborhood.  Here’s how:

Gather grass clippings or dried grass, 3-5 inch long pieces of natural fibers (cotton string or natural jute or twine), small twigs and sticks, and leave them outside.  You could also “stuff” a wire whisk with the materials and hang it under a tree or in a bush.

Learn more about mockingbirds from the Audubon Field Guide:

Photo by S. Brad

Northern Mockingbird Carlsbad 2020 01 23-1.CR2

Day 2- Learn the Common Birds in North County

We have such a rich diversity of birds in San Diego County. Here's a little slideshow/movie to get you familiar with some of the most common birds that may visit your yard. Note, the Cedar Waxwings have probably left by now. What birds are showing up in your yard?


(Photo of Spotted Towhee by J. Mygatt, South Carlsbad)

Spotted Towhee J. Mygatt

Day 1: Plant a Tree or Shrub

If you are a bird or plant lover, or just enjoy all small living things, adding native trees and shrubs can bring nature to your garden. It just may be one of the most practical ways to improve the environment. Providing native plants creates the food, shelter, and nesting sites for birds and other wildlife. If the native vegetation disappears, we lose the supporting structures of the food web that animals need to survive.

Several nurseries specialize in selling native plants. You can ask your local nursery to order native plants from wholesalers, they’re usually very nice about getting what you want.

You’ll hear more about native plants and some of the easier natives that grow in the Oceanside/Carlsbad/Vista region in upcoming Earth Day posts, so stay posted!

A wonderful resource on native plants is available on Calscape at ( You can search your zip code for a list of easy-to-grow plants.

Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia) photos from Calscape.