- Build a simple, inexpensive solar cooker as described at
- Check out Naturalist Jim's Naturalist Newsletter Page on Facebook.
- Build a bluebird nest box for next spring, as described on our Birdbox Page.
- Find a lichen, as described on our Lichen Page,
and figure out whether it is crustose, foliose or fruticose.
- If you have a camera, about 5 feet from a bird feeder, place a cardboard box or some
other structure large enough for you to hide in. After the birds become accustomed to this
"wildlife observation blind" (maybe a couple of days), go
inside, then take a close look at what visits the birdbath. Birds can count up to
"one," so you may need a friend to go with you to the box. You enter the box,
then your friend leaves. The birds will see "one" person go to the birdbath, and
"one" return, so then they'll know the coast is clear for them!
- In your basement or some other damp, slightly junky place, look for
"thousand leggers." Are they centipedes, millipedes or maybe sowbugs?
Our Centipedes, Millipedes & Pill Bugs Page can help you
- Look for squirrels around your house or in the local park. What kind of
squirrels are they? Our Squirrel Page may be able to help.
- Identify your neighborhood plants and animals using the procedure outlined in Step One of our "3
Steps to Discovering Nature," and document your discoveries on the wonderful iNaturalist.Org website.
- Find a feather and identify these parts of it: shaft, vane, barbs,
and barbules. Our Feather Page can help.
- Read our daily-updated online news feeds from many
sources on the topic of nature.
- Participate in an important research project by making phenological observations
-- notes about seasonal things, such as when plants flower and fruit, birds nest, frogs
croak, etc., at the USA National Phenology Network
- Find out where your house's water comes from. Does your town have its
own well, or take water from a reservoir or river? If your water comes from a reservoir or
river, does the water seem clean to you, and free of chemical pollutants? Are you content
with your water situation? If not, what are you going to do about it?
- While eating an apple, locate the seeds and remants of the flower's calyx and
stamens, as shown halfway down our Fruity Orientation
- Find out the geological age of the land on which you live. You may need
to consult a geology map of the kind described on our Geological
- Look for fungi. When you find a fungus, figure out what kind it is. Our
Fungus Section can help.
- Start a Nature Study Notebook, either on paper or on your computer. The
"Nature Study Notebook" section on our Tools Page
offers some pointers for getting started.
- Review and consider acquring nature-oriented books listed on our special page with links to Amazon.com.
- Get involved with local efforts to save the environment and meet others
who enjoy learning about nature. Check out our Get Involved
Section, which gives links to environmental groups on the Web.
- List all the birds in your neighborhood. The "how to
birdwatch" part of our bird section can get you
- Once you have your birdlist, note next to each species' name what kind of beak
it has. Various beak types are described on our Bird
- And once you have some birds listed, listen to their songs at the US
Government Patuxent birdsong
- When you eat fried chicken, pay attention to the bones and realize what
part of the chicken's body you are eating. You might want to compare your chicken bones
with those of the pigeon at our Bird Bones & Muscles Page.
- Browse some online, nature- and science-oriented technical journals. We
have a list of some at the bottom of our Scientific Journals
- Web rings are linked-together Web sites dealing with specific subjects.
If you have a special interest, such as birds, trees, or whatever, go to the WebRing Home Page and type your
interest into the Search Box. If you find some rings, visit the sites in the rings.
- Check out Frequently
Asked Questions about Global Warming provided by the Union of
- Check out the US Environmental Protection Agency's page on "Games, Quizzes and Other
- Find a bean, maybe a dried bean in your kitchen, and notice its hilum.
Separate its two faces, and inside the bean identify the plumule, radicle and
hypocotyl. Our Seeds Page can help you.
- Watch the world population grow at HowMany.Org,
and read how human overpopulation is causing so many problems, and what can be done about
- In local gardens, hedges, weedy places and woods, look for insect pupae,
as described on our Insect Pupae Page. Once you find one,
mark it with a ribbon or other object, then watch it as spring emerges and try to see the
- One place on the Web to help you get the scientific name of plants you identify
is the B & T World
Seeds site. Try it out.
- Download some free nature books from Project Gutenberg. Look for writings by John Muir,
Henry David Thoreau, Charles Darwin and Jack London.
- Calculate your Ecological Footprint at the MyFootprint.org
- Read Naturalist Jim Conrad's Yellow Ribbon: One Year in
the Life of a House Sparrow, a story in which Yellow Ribbon, though she has
many adventures, behaves in ways that a real House Sparrow might in nature.
- Learn to identify your local trees just by looking at their trunks. Our
Tree Bark Page can help you organize your thoughts about
- Understand your local weather by looking at clouds, seeing weather
maps, etc. The About.com Weather Page
can help you.
- If you had to personally kill the animals providing the flesh you eat each day, would
you do it? Is it moral for you to simply pay others to kill the animals you eat?
Think about these questions. You might be interested in the Vegetarianism in a Nutshell site.
- Take a book-trip with Naturalist Jim by downloading and reading the notes from his 1996
birding trip from one end of Mexico to the other. Download here.
- From a local pond or ditch, take a jar of water and set it in a window
where it gets some sunlight. Over the weeks watch what happens to it...
- When you identify a bird, see where it nests during the summer by clicking
- Catch up on the latest environmental news at the EarthJustice site.
- Find an acorn -- an oak-tree's fruit. If you're not sure sure what to
look for, see the Water Oak acorn in the "nut" section of our Simple Fruits Page.
- To get ready for spring, familiarize yourself with the ten most conspicuous
insect orders by finding members of each of them. Our Insect
Orders Page can help you.
- Find a pine cone and look for its seeds. Our Conifer
Page shows a typical pine cone with some seeds next to it.
- Check out the latest edition of Naturalist Jim's Naturalist Newsletter.
- On a tree twig where the leaf has recently fallen, locate the leafscar, bud and
bundle scars, as described on our Woody Twigs Page.
- If your neighborhood has outcropping sedimentary rocks, or if there is rounded streambed
gravel available, look for fossils. Visit our Fossil
- Identify a tree using the free, online DiscoverLife.Org Key to Trees.
- In moist, shaded, undisturbed places, look for mosses in their
spore-producing condition. Using the diagram on our Mosses Page,
identify a moss's calyptra, capsule, stalk, leaves and rhizoids.
- Identify just one thing in your backyard -- maybe a bird or a rock or tree -- and then use
the Google search engine to
find out all you can about it. You'll just be amazed at what you can learn!
- List all the ecological niches you can identify in your backyard. Our Backyard Niches Page can get you started.
- Once you've made the above list, write down each species you can identify using
each niche, and describe what the organisms are doing there.
- Look very closely at any sand or streambed gravel you can find. Try to see tiny
crystals, as described on our Minerals Page.
Especially if you have a magnifying glass you should at least see glass-like quartz
- Notice that most but not all fallen leaves display "bilateral
symmetry" as described mideway down one of our
- Order a geology map for your state at the USGS State Map Page, and start learning your local geology, and why
the landscape looks the way it does. Choose your state at the left of the page.
- Find a fruit of any kind, even if it's at the local supermarket,
and decide what kind it is. Our Fruit Page can help you
decide whether it's a simple, aggregate or multiple fruit, and if it's a simple one (as
most fruits are) what kind of simple fruit.
- If you have a special interest, such as birds, wildflowers, spiders, or whatever, consider
joining an "e-group" at the Yahoo Groups Page. Just go there, type your subject into the search
box, and if you see a group you like, join it.
- Find a woody plant with spines or thorns and try to figure out why it
has them. Remember that plants evolved long ago when often large herbivores such as bison,
wild horses and mastodons wandered the land. Of course we have a nice Plant Spines Page.
- Look for animal tracks in mud. You should be able to identify at least
dog tracks, as drawn on our Mammal Page. You may want to
review the book Field Guide to Mammal Tracking in North America available at
- On tree twigs, look for lenticels (tiny "windows" in twigs that let
in air) as described on our Woody Twigs Page.
- Read Naturalist Jim Conrad's short online book Walks With Red Dog, about being with a dog in the
- Collect animals sounds on your computer's hard disk. Go to the Google Search Engine and type in keywords such as
"bullfrog audio" or "cricket audio." When your audio player is
finished playing the sound, click on File/ Save As.., then place the file in a folder or
subdirectory where you can find it later.
- To get ready for spring, become an official frogwatcher. For details go
to Frogwatch USA
- If you have a scanner, read over our Tips on Using the Scanner
for Documenting Plants & Animals Page, then start identifying and scanning
your neighborhood's trees -- their leaves, flowers and fruits. Keep your
scannings organized so you can browse them the way you would a good herbarium collection.
- If you can find one of those old, out-of-date, 8-ft-wide TV satellite dishes, convert it
to a solar cooker, as described here.
- When you go onto the Internet for the first time each day, check out NASA's Astronomy Picture of the
Day. This will help you keep things here on Earth in perspective.
- List all the trees in your neighborhood, using twig and bark
characteristics, and leaves and fruits that may be lying on the ground. Our page on backyard trees can help. You may also want to look at our pages on
twigs and tree bark. Tree
identification books can be reviewed here.
- Find the star-shaped pith in an oak twig, as shown on our Woody Twig Page.
- Start a rock collection. Our rock section
can get you oriented..
- In the night sky, learn these constellations: The Big Dipper (Ursa
Major), The Little Dipper (Ursa Minor), Leo the Lion, Bo÷tes the Herdsman, Hercules,
Corona Borealis, and Draco the Dragon. One book to help you is The Sky Observer's Guide: A Handbook for Amateur Astronomers
- Read Naturalist Jim Conrad's Mistletoe: One Year in
the Life of a Gray Squirrel, a story in which Mistletoe, though she has many
adventures, behaves in ways that a real Gray Squirrel might in nature.