Label: Birds

September 4, 2014

I love watching American Goldfinches at out bird feeder during the spring and summer months. They’re smaller than sparrows and their colors range from bright gold to pale yellow depending upon the season and whether they’re male, female or young birds. They are usually in groups of anywhere to a few to more than a dozen. This is a photo of a juvenile goldfinch at our feeder (notice the spiky pinfeathers).

I think what I love best is the way they fly and sing as they fly. They swoop down from nearby trees to the feeder in a kind of rising and falling flight, singing as they fly. Their song sounds like a series of "per-chick-a-rees" that rises and falls along with their flying. In other words, they sing the way they fly. Amazing!

We use thistle in our bird feeder to attract them and they seem to love feeding on that seed. They feed all summer long at the feeder and also on the seeds that fall on the ground below the feeder. They are migratory birds and fly south in the fall and north in the spring. And I know that I for one will miss them when they depart for warmer climates in the fall. 



Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, birds   •  Permalink (link to this article)

January 8, 2014

What does it mean to "think like an eagle"? Author Kathryn Lasky’s book is a vivid portrayal of the life of a nature photographer and the many strategies (including patience!) that he uses to capture photos of wild animals’ lives.

To become a wildlife photographer, Jack Swedberg spent many years studying animal behavior so he could figure out how to be at the right place at the right time without disturbing the animals. For today’s Writing Wednesday project, read the section of the book below in which Swedberg is preparing to photograph a bald eagle.

After you have read it, think about the language author Kathryn Lasky uses to bring the scene to life, and write about the words that she chooses. How does a sentence like "The big talons extend and appear like splayed stars as the wings scoop the air in front of them" both accurately describe and help the reader to feel the power of the eagle as it comes in to feed? What other powerful language does she use and what is she describing?

Once you are finished writing, you can click on the yellow "Comments" link at the bottom of this blog post to share you writing with others. Have fun thinking like an eagle! 




































Note for Educators: Kathryn Lasky’s book is part of the streaming digital collection from StarWalk Kids Media. Click here if you would like to learn more about subscribing to this high quality, affordable collection of Common Core mentor texts.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(51) Comments  •   Labels: Writing Wednesday, Animals, birds, Conservation, Photography   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 21, 2013


This sea bird is easily recognized by its bright-blue feet. Males display their feet to the females as part of the mating ritual, lifting first one foot, then the other to show off the color. Both males and females show a preference for mates with brighter colored feet. And wouldn’t you? Look at that splendid turquoise!



Photo: Cory Randell

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: birds, Cool Photo   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 19, 2013


My Earth Day resolution is to create a safe haven for bluebirds in my neighborhood. ‘Really?” you might ask. ‘With everything that is going on with our environment, Seymour Simon decides to make a difference by putting up a blue bird box?’

It’s a fair question, but let me tell you why one small act like this one is important. The existence of the Eastern Bluebird, our New York State bird, has been threatened in recent years by the loss of open land and the presence of European starlings, a non-native species that was introduced to NY in the 1890’s. These birds are are strong and aggressive, and they have taken over the little hollows in trees where bluebirds commonly lay their eggs. And where previously the lovely bluebird was a common sight, in recent years it was rare to see one at all.

Last summer, I noticed that there was a bird that perched nearly every morning at the very top of the spruce tree in my front yard. I didn’t recognize its song, so one day I pulled out my binoculars and saw to my surprise that it was a bluebird!

So this spring, the time of year when bluebirds lay their eggs, I have put a bluebird box right next to that tree. (Thanks to my friend Jody Soules at the Wild Birds Country Store in Great Barrington, MA for introducing me to the ways of bluebirds). The hole is similar to the size that the birds used to look for in the tree hollows, and the copper “sleeve” around the hole will prevent those pesky squirrels from chewing their way in to steal the eggs. I am hopeful that the bird that visited last summer will return with his or her mate and start a family!

I am telling this story because the everyday choices that we each one makes have an impact on the neighborhood where we live, whether we live in the city, in a suburb, or far out in the country. No one of us can solve all the problems facing our environment. But each one of us can make a difference with the choices we make every day.


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, birds, Conservation, Earth Day 2013   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 21, 2013

All is well at my bird feeder, where we seem to have figured out how to keep the squirrels from lifting the cap and eating the bird seed. 

One morning this week my wife Liz and I were eating our breakfast and watching all the different kinds of birds at our feeder, which is right outside the kitchen window. We started naming and counting all the different types of birds that we were seeing. 

Of course, we don’t automatically know the name of every single bird. There were lots of little brown birds with a very distinctive pattern of brown and white stripes on their heads. I was pretty sure it was a sparrow, but didn’t know what kind. So, I did a Google image search, typing in the words: "small brown bird, striped head." Sure enough, up popped a picture of my bird - a white-throated sparrow. Then, just to be sure the image I found was correctly identified, I searched again, this time for "White-Throated Sparrow." That second search took me to legitimate websites like the Cornell Ornithology Lab and, where I was assured that my bird was indeed a white-throated sparrow.

While I was on I decided to file a report on what I was seeing. Do you know this great website? They track bird populations by collecting data from regular people like you and me. It is a very simple form to fill out. Here is what I wrote about what I saw:

You can do this, too. They are interested in what you see where you live - in your backyard, in your school garden, in a park or vacant lot in the city. Wherever you are, you can be part of a community of people who are collecting this huge body of data on our everyday birds.

If you decide to try it, please write by clicking "comments" at the bottom of this blog post, and tell me what you see! 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: SeeMore Explorers, birds   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 15, 2013

 I have been struggling all week with how to keep squirrels from breaking into my "squirrel proof" bird feeder and eating all the food. I tried strong packing tape to keep the top on, and then I tried locking the top down with bungee cords. The squirrels quickly and easily broke through both. 

OK, let me think about this. Squirrels have sharp teeth and they were easily able to bite through the packing tape and the bungee cords. But squirrels can’t bite through steel and they can’t bite through the bars of the feeding cage. 

What do I have that is steel and that is easy to put on and take off? Of course, I thought. Paper Clips! Big ones! Don’t try to hold the top down, just use the clips to prevent the squirrels from picking up the top.

I put clips on both sides of the top and sure enough, they prevent the squirrels from being able to lift up the top. At least it’s worked so far. The squirrels haven’t gone in to get the seed from the feeder. But I’m not entirely convinced yet. There may be a squirrel Einstein that’s working to solve the problem of moving paper clips, and it won’t entirely surprise me to find out that the clips are gone one day soon!

Thank you for your ideas, helping me to try to solve the Great Squirrel Robbery!


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, birds, Great Squirrel Robbery   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 14, 2013



The battle continues, as I try to keep squirrels from eating all the seed in my "squirrel proof" bird feeder. The cage-like shape is supposed to keep the squirrels out, while the birds fly right through the bars and eat.



But, the squirrels lift up the top and eat all the food. Yesterday I tried locking it down with strong packing tape, but that was no good. What should be next? An idea bounced into my head. Bungee cords! That would do it. Bungee cords are super strong and they have hooks at each end. They’ll hook right into the wires of the cage. Why didn’t I think of that first? No problem!


In a few minutes when I came back to look, the bungee cords were gone. Where could they be? I could barely pull them up. Surely the squirrels are not strong enough to pull up a bungee cord! Well, they aren’t strong enough, but their teeth are certainly sharp enough! They had bitten right through the bungee cords and the cords lay on the ground beneath the feeder. And there was my friend the squirrel, having a little snack.

  Anyone have a better idea?

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, birds, Great Squirrel Robbery   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 13, 2013

Seymour Simon has been writing this week about his battle to keep the squirrels from breaking into his "squirrel proof" bird feeder and eating all the seed that is meant for the birds. It is especially annoying because it is winter, and he knows that his feathered friends appreciate the food he puts out for them. Despite the special "cage" that is around his bird feeder, the squirrels still find a way to break in and eat the food.

  Now, we all know that squirrels can’t read, but if they could, maybe a stern, strong warning would keep them from touching the birds’ winter food.

Your assignment: Imagine that it is your job to create a sign that warns squirrels about the consequences if they steal from the bird feeder. Your writing needs to be short and punchy - 50 words or less - so that it will fit on the sign with nice, big letters and be easy to read.

When you have finished your "Squirrel Warning" sign, click on the yellow "Comments" link at the bottom of this blog post to show us your writing.

Use strong, action verbs and powerful adjectives to tell squirrels why stealing the birds’ food is simply NOT OK.

Have fun!

Bird Identification: Red-Breasted Nuthatch

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: Writing Wednesday, Animals, birds, Great Squirrel Robbery   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 12, 2013

If you read my blog earlier today, you know that I am in a battle with the squirrels who are breaking into my "squirrel proof" bird feeder and eating all the food.

So, the squirrels are winning…at least for now. I have to find a way to lock the top of the bird feeder so that the squirrels can’t simply lift up the top and reach in to get the nuts and other things they like. Looking at the feeder, it though it would be easy. All I have to do is to use some tape to close the top. Strong tape, packing box tape is just the thing, I thought. I taped several pieces and criss-crossed them over the top of the feeder. Well, that settles that, I said to myself. That’ll show those squirrels who’s in charge here.

In a few minutes when I came back to look, I found out who was in charge. The squirrels, of course! They had easily chewed through the tape, lifted the top and were happily enjoying the seed. Round two for the squirrels!

  Now what?    

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, birds, Great Squirrel Robbery   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 12, 2013

Feeding birds at a bird feeder is not new, but for me, setting up my own feeder has been an eye opener. I used to watch the birds at a feeder and think to myself, that’s interesting but all those birds look alike. Or at least they look like two kinds: big birds and little birds. All that changed when I set up my own feeder near my country house and started to use good binoculars to look at the birds. Suddenly I saw that there were all kinds of birds at the feeder, some with crested heads, some with black streaks on their heads, some had dabs of color here and there, females looked different than males, and so on and so on. I began to use a bird identification book constantly. In the first few days I had logged over a dozen different kinds of birds using the feeder. What fun, I thought. Now I have to set up a feeder just outside my kitchen window in my downstate home in Great Neck, on Long Island.

One of the problems with bird feeders is that squirrels like bird feeders, too. And on Long Island there are plenty of squirrels and most of them seem to hang out around my kitchen window. Squirrels eat all the food, and keep the birds away from the feeder. I know what I’m going to do, I thought. 

I’ll get a squirrel-proof feeder, the one that has a cage outside the feeder, completely enclosing the feeder inside.

It looks sort of like a bird cage with the feeder inside. The squirrels will never break into that, I thought. Well, it took only a couple of hours for the squirrels to figure out that the "squirrel-proof" cage was "really-not-squirrel-proof at all!" 

All the squirrels had to do was lift up the top of the feeder (the part that I lifted to put the seeds inside), reach in and grab all the seeds they wanted.

What should I do? I am determined to match wits with my squirrels! After all, I am a writer, an author, a teacher. How can a squirrel match wits with me? Easily, it turned out! I wasn’t nearly as smart as I thought! OR, the squirrels were a lot smarter than I had realized. OR maybe both! 

Anyone have a suggestion about what I should try next?


Bird Identification:
Top Left: White-Breasted Nuthatch


Bottom Right: Black-Capped Chickadee (have you ever heard their call? It sounds like: "chick-a-DEE-dee-dee")


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: SeeMore Explorers, Animals, birds, Great Squirrel Robbery   •  Permalink (link to this article)

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