Friday, March 19, 2010

Fun Friday: Backyard Wildlife Watching

Fun Friday activities are quick-and-simple ways to explore nature in your own backyard

Look for wildlife – and signs of wildlife – in our very urban backyard.

This week is National Wildlife Week – a signature event of National Wildlife Federation’s Be Out There™ campaign. To celebrate, I thought it might be fun for the kids to see what type of wildlife lives in our backyard.

We live in the heart of a city, with a modest backyard composed of a combination of concrete and a large patch of grass. And while we do have a lone lemon tree at the far end of our yard that the birds like to hang out in, I figured that’s about all the signs of wildlife we’d see once we started looking closely.

Once again I was sorely mistaken.

Before we headed out, I asked the kids to find things in our backyard that were wild; things we didn’t put there. They always love to be armed with a task, and this activity was no exception.

As we stepped out the back door, we spotted our first wild critter, Mr. Squirrel, who is a big fan of our bird feeding efforts.

Then we noticed an overturned pot lying in the dirt. I asked the kids what might be underneath it. Of course, the 5 year old didn’t wait to answer, lifting the pot immediately. What did we find?

Tons of crawly critters that sent the kids reeling with excitement. In fact, the oldest ran back into the house to get his bug container.

He grabbed two roly polies (because the first needed a friend) and put them in. With extreme care, he then added “bits of nature” like grass, dirt, leaves and rocks so the bugs would feel at home (his exact words).

From there, we headed to the back of the yard where we could see all our usual feathered friends (house sparrows). But we also saw a hummingbird (too quick for my camera!), a butterfly and a crow. Wow!

There were feathers, ladybugs, spider webs and spiders, too. In the span of about 20 minutes, I’d seen enough to realize that our backyard is a haven for wild creatures. And I’m glad the kids have seen it, too.

We don’t have a forest in our backyard, so our pool of potential backyard residents is a bit smaller than it might be if we lived in the country. To make your search more exciting:
  • Invite wildlife in. Our bird feeders ensure our tree (and the neighbors’) is frequented by our winged friends. And I think we’ve scored points with the squirrel population, too. Flowering plants can also attract wildlife to your yard.

  • Track signs of wildlife, too. We were lucky enough to see plenty of wild critters, but it’s also fun to look for signs of animals or animal homes. You can go on a hunt for spider webs, nests, seed shells, animal tracks, even scat (poo). Then your kids can try to guess what animal left behind the item.
I’m not the only one providing simple ideas for exploring nature in your backyard. Here are a few more ideas to help you get your kids outdoors this weekend:
I hope you'll get exploring this weekend – let me know how it goes!


  1. Such a fun idea to explore the yard like that... we've seen squirrels, birds, deer and even a hawk in our yard (and we live in a subdivision so the deer was shocking). I can't imagine what we'll find when we look deeper!

  2. Isn't it fun when you are surprised by a wild visitor? We saw a hawk (or falcon -- it flew away too fast for us to be sure) recently in our backyard & were thrilled for hours!

  3. I can't wait until my 1(soon to be 2) yr old is able to collect bugs and be interested in wild life. Right now he oo's and aww's at cats and dogs. He's gettin there.

  4. It is so important to get kids outside and experience nature. You have some great ideas, can't wait to see your future posts!

  5. Jana, my almost 2 year old is also just beginning to get into the bug thing. Unfortunately, he still causes a lot more harm than good to the bugs! :)

    Daniele, thanks for stopping by -- I enjoy your blog, too and it's always a pleasure to meet like-minded people, isn't it?

  6. Thanks for the awesome post! What a wonderful way to celebrate :)

  7. Good you have any recommendations for busy 3-year-old boys?

  8. Mark, you should check out my "Backyard Fun" category for some ideas ... scavenger hunts are a big hit with my 5 year old, but I'm not sure how it might work with younger kids. Stick play and sidewalk chalk art can be fun, bubbles, digging in the dirt, hunting for bugs and anything else that involves mess! Hope that helps! :)


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