Fall Nature Experience #3 – Shelter

When the leaves fall from the trees, something is often left behind on tree branches.  Now is the time of year when we begin to see the places where many creatures live. It’s a great time of the year to point these animals shelters out to young nature lovers while you are walking with them on beautiful fall afternoons.

Since the leaves have gone into full drop mode, I’ve noticed bird nests at all heights in trees and bushes around our property. Some birds have nested among dense branches of shrubs, protected from wind and rain. Other larger bird species nest far out on a limb, where they can soar away from their home or swoop down on unsuspecting prey.

Other homes may be visible – like squirrel nests. These nests seem over-large for most species of commonly seen birds. Now that leaves are absent, watch for squirrels, peeking out of nests and trunk holes and then scurrying up and down the tree trunk and broad limbs of the tree to their cozy homes.

To learn more about how birds and other creatures build their nests, and the materials they use, look closely at one of the easy-to-reach nests you may find. A sampling of the construction materials used probably includes:
twigs, animal hair and fur, snake skins, moss, dried grass, vines, twine, cotton string, shoe laces, ribbon, plastic bags, paper, feathers and even dryer lint.

You will notice that all of the pieces are small, probably less than four inches in length. Anything longer the bird picked up to use probably got caught on a tree limb as the bird was flying to its under-construction home.

Now that you know the kind of materials animals may use when building their homes/nests, you can help them out in the spring, when they are building next year’s home.

Collect small bits and pieces of cloth, string, grass and twigs and place them into a net bag (like vegetables are sold in), or a small basket. Then hang the bag or basket on a tree limb, fence or plant hook where the birds can easily find it.

Watch for them. They’ll go to your construction supply store when they are ready to build their shelter.

(A similar activity called “Home Improvement” can be found in the book, Play Lightly on the Eqarth: Nature Activities for Children 3 to 9 years old, by Jacqueline Horsfall,Dawn Publications, 1997.)

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