Label: Birds

February 13, 2013

Good morning, and welcome to Writing Wednesday. Look at these cute baby owls! Today, we would like you to take a few minutes and write six words that describe the animals in this photograph. That’s all there is to it.

You don’t need to write whole sentences. Just give us six adjectives (adjectives are words that describe a thing) that come to mind when you look at this photograph. When you are done, click on the yellow "Comments" button at the bottom of this blog to post your writing. Have fun with it!



Posted by: Liz Nealon

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

November 15, 2012

For today’s SeeMore Explorers posting, I decided to identify a bird that I see often at my bird feeder and on the nearby tree.

I love watching birds at the feeder, and I keep a bird identification book on my desk, which I use to figure out what I am seeing. The one I use is Stokes Beginner’s Guide to Birds, Eastern Region. There are lots of these kinds of books out there, and most organize the birds by color, so that it is quite easy to look them up. Just be sure that you are using a book specific to the part of the country where you live.

Isn’t this a gorgeous bird? Here’s what I wrote on my Observation Log:



The first thing I did was look for the red-headed woodpecker, because this bird certainly does have a red head! As soon as I looked, though, I realized that it was not a red-headed woodpecker. Those birds have a completely red head, all the way down to the shoulders - almost as if they are wearing a red hood.

Quite nearby in the bird identification book was the red-bellied woodpecker, and that is what my bird is. It seems like a strange name, but it turns out that this bird has an orange patch on its belly, and that is where it got its name.

I’d love to hear from my readers. What kind of birds do you see in the world around you? Which are your favorites?

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: SeeMore Explorers, birds, Seymour Photographs   •  Permalink (link to this article)

February 29, 2012

We had some excellent writing submitted for last week’s WRITING WEDNESDAY story about the barn owl. Our writers appealed to the reader’s different senses (sound and sight), and used strong action verbs to describe the owl’s hunt for prey. The first author is a regular Wednesday contributor.

As the owl swoops around, blending into the sky, the owl is going fast without going wooossshhhh.  On the hunt for mice.                                                                                                                                                                                                       - Will in Ohio

Two students from Singapore also joined in on Writing Wednesday. For our North American readers who may not have studied Southeast Asia yet, Singapore is an island nation just to the north of Indonesia, and it is made up of 63 islands! Here is what they wrote:

The owl lifted off the branch with a powerful stroke of his spectacular wings. He let a hoot slip out and ring in the air. He listened to the silent night to hear the scurrying feet of his dinner. There it was, a nice plump mouse. He broke into a dive and opened his claws wide, as wide as they would go.  He felt the warm body of the mouse and forced his claws closed over the warm body. Then prepared himself for a feast.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        - Pollyanna


The Barn Owl glided through the air, flapping its wings in a perfect rhythm. Eyes narrowed down at the little mouse hurrying to get home. Swooping down the owl listened to the little feet of his dinner scurrying away. He folded his wings up tight, opened his sharp claws and dove in for the kill. After closing his sharp claws on the mouse the owl immediately lifted himself higher and higher into the sky and went back to his nest and put dinner on the table for the rest of the family. smile

                                                                                                                                                                                                      - Erin





Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: Writing Wednesday, birds   •  Permalink (link to this article)

February 22, 2012

Welcome to Writing Wednesday! Every week there is a new opportunity to publish your own creative writing on the Seymour Science blog. This week, we are asking you to describe this barn owl in flight.

  Background: Most owls have broad wings which have quite a large surface in comparison to the rest of their bodies. These large wings make it easy for an owl to glide for a long time without a lot of flapping, and they also allow the owl to fly quite slowly - so that it can hunt for prey on the ground below.


When a normal bird flies, the air rushing over its wings makes a lot of noise, kind of a "whooshing" sound.   But owls have feathers called "flutings" on the leading edge of their wings. These feathers are almost like a comb, and they comb through the air as it rushes over the wings, breaking it up and muffling the sound. Because of these special wing feathers, a huge owl can glide almost silently through the forest, watching and listening as it searches for prey.

Your Assignment: Look at this photograph of a barn owl in flight and write a paragraph that describes the bird’s silent search for its prey.


Tips to Make Your Writing Powerful:

  • Set the scene by appealing to your reader’s senses and imagination. You could write about what it feels like to soar through the air, what the world looks like from up there, or describe the "sound" of the silence.
  •  Include descriptive details about the owl, or about its prey on the ground below.
  • Use strong verbs to capture the action of the scene. For example, instead of saying the owl is "flying," you could use an action verb and say it is "darting" or "swooping."


When you are finished with your paragraph, click on the yellow "Comments" at the bottom of this post to enter your writing.

Happy writing!



Photo: Major Gilbert

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(7) Comments  •   Labels: Common Core, Writing Wednesday, birds   •  Permalink (link to this article)

November 22, 2011

I’d like to welcome our new readers to "Cool Picture of the Week"! Every Tuesday, we post a particularly striking photograph from the natural world in this space.

Today’s shot was taken on Gretna Green, in Scotland, at a place where photographers go to catch European Starlings swooping through the sky in formations that scientists still cannot explain. How does a flock of thousands of birds fly in such tight formation, all darting, turning, diving at the same moment? No one knows for sure.

I love the term for a big, swooping flock like this. It is called a "murmur of starlings." (if you are British, you probably call it a "murmuration").

The reason this was selected as this week’s photo is because of the shape of the flock. Doesn’t it look like a dolphin, escaping the jaws of a killer whale?! There you have it, the Seymour Science Cool Photo of the Week.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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

September 7, 2011

Today’s "Cool Photo of the Week" is of a Rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome). They are called "rockhoppers" because they live on cold, rocky islands and get around by hopping from rock to rock. Click here to see a video of a whole flock of rockhopper penguins doing their thing!

These unusual looking penguins have dark red eyes, and their heads are decorated with a tuft of yellow feathers that look like eyebrows sticking out from the side of the head. They are carnivores (meat eaters), feeding on crustaceans, cephalopods and small fish. When trying to attract a mate, a Rockhopper will shake its head back and forth, tossing and showing off those beautiful yellow feathers.

Like all penguins, rockhoppers move awkwardly on land, but they are powerful swimmers. Check out this amazing video of rockhoppers surfing the waves.



You can read more about Penguins in Seymour Simon’s book, which is now available in paperback. 

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: birds, Cool Photo, Oceans, Penguins   •  Permalink (link to this article)

August 30, 2011

As Hurricane Irene exited the scene she left a crisp, cool, pre-autumn day here in the Northeast. I worked at my desk all day on a new book, and then decided that I would like to get some exercise before dinner. I went to the driving range to hit some golf balls…..and discovered a beautiful Great Egret picking its way through puddles of water on long spindly legs!

The owner told me that the entire field was under water after the storm, and as the flood from the nearby river receded, his 10-year-old daughter Starsea found crawfish in the puddles. That makes sense. Great Egrets (also known as White Herons) are wading birds that eat fish, crustaceans (shell fish) and small reptiles, like frogs. They stalk their prey in shallow water, running or shuffling their feet to flush their prey into view. 

Once the field dries out, these water birds will make their way back to the nearby lake, and soon they will be flying south for the winter. And we’ll get our driving range back for hitting golf balls!

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, birds, Cool Photo, Hurricanes, Hurricane Irene   •  Permalink (link to this article)

August 22, 2011

I was so pleased to discover seven new comments on the blog this weekend….mostly from kids on the West Coast and the South, where schools are starting up. Although I’m always a little sorry to see the summer come to an end, it means our readers are coming back. We missed you!

I have a funny photograph (and a story to go with it) to share this week. I was out in my yard, photographing some of the beautiful summer flowers. 

Just as I was snapping a picture, I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a hummingbird! I quickly refocused the camera, but before I could shoot again, it was gone. Curious, I toggled back to the photograph that I had been taking when I sensed the movement next to me, and sure enough, I caught just a blur as it entered the scene. Do you see it, in the top right corner of the photograph?

I named this photograph "Sneaky Hummingbird," because it darted into the background of my photograph to grab a sip of nectar, and was gone before I could lower the camera and take a look!

I’d love to hear stories from your summer in the outdoors. Click on "comments" below and tell me what you saw as you explored nature over your summer vacation.

READERS: Are you wondering how to add your own "comment" to this blog? Click here for exact directions on how to add a comment so you can become one of our Seymour Science writers! We also want you to be safe and not share too much information when you write on this blog, so please take a minute to read about how to stay safe on the Internet. We love to hear from you, so give "comments" a try! 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, birds, Summer Vacation Science, Seymour Photographs   •  Permalink (link to this article)

June 17, 2011

I took a walk today in Great Falls National Park, along the Potomac River in Virginia. The falls are really beautiful, and the trails are wooded and shady, but the best part, for me anyway, was spotting all the wild animals.



This Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) feeds at the water’s edge, using its long legs to wade through the water, spearing small fish and frogs with its long, sharp bill. 



You can clearly see the compound eye of this beautiful Dragonfly (an insect belonging to the order Odonata), which was perched in the foliage high above the falls. You usually find dragonflies near the water, because their larvae, called "nymphs" live in the water. These insects are valuable predators (valuable to humans, at least) because they eat mosquitoes.


My grandson Ben Simon took this great photograph of a wolf spider, which was hiding inside a crack of an old stump. Wolf spiders are members of the family Lycosidae, from the Ancient Greek word "λύκος" meaning "wolf". The blue and white mass, which almost looks like a piece of jewelry, are actually all her babies - dozens of tiny wolf spiders, riding on her back!


Have you taken a walk in the outdoors this week? If not, get outside and keep your eyes peeled. There are fascinating wild creatures all around you.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: Animals Nobody Loves, Animals, birds, Summer Vacation Science, Seymour Photographs, Insects   •  Permalink (link to this article)

March 4, 2011

I’ve been speaking in schools in Corpus Christi, Texas this week, which means I have had a chance to walk near the salt marshes and see the huge numbers of birds - many, many species - which live here at the Gulf Coast.


We drove out to Portland, Texas ("over the bridge," as they say in Corpus Christi) and in short order saw a Great Egret, standing on one leg in the salt marsh, a White Ibis (given its name by the Ancient Egyptians, who considered ibis to be sacred birds), an American Avocet (sweeping its long bill through the shallow muddy water in search of food), an endangered Wood Stork, many Royal Terns (dapper in their black and white plumage, these elegant looking birds are cousins to the common gull), and a whole colony of Roseate Spoonbills. When we first saw this mass of pink birds, my wife and I thought they must be flamingoes (we’re from New York City, so we don’t know what we are seeing when it comes to Gulf Coast wildlife!). A very smart sixth grader told us what kind of birds these were.

And of course, we saw many brown pelicans, one of the most common birds of the Gulf Coast. I have always loved to watch pelicans feed in the ocean. They start by hovering high over the water, scanning the waves for fish. When they spot food, they make a steep, hard dive, sometimes from as high as 50 feet (15 meters), and explode into the water - it is like a bomb going off when they hit. I learned something new about pelicans this week. The reason they can dive that way without being injured is that they have air sacs in their shoulders and neck that act like air bags in a car, and protect them from the impact when they hit the water.

In order to identify and learn about all these birds, we bought a laminated bird identification folder with pictures and descriptions of typical bird life on the Gulf Coast. You can do this wherever you travel - hotel gift shops and souvenir stores almost always have them, to use for identifying local birds, fish, or wildlife. It is a great way to learn about nature wherever you go.

Thanks to all the students, teachers and librarians in Corpus Christi for sharing your great city with me. It has been a fun week! 




Sun rising over Corpus Christi Bay




Roseate Spoonbills photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Estatuary  

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, birds, School Visits   •  Permalink (link to this article)

 <  1 2 3 >