Nature's Book Nook For Kids:

A Leaf Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas (For preschoolers)
“A leaf can be a shade spiller/mouth filler/tree topper/rain stopper,” a poetic exploration of leaves throughout the year. Find out what else a leaf can be!

We're Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger (For 4- to 8-year olds)
Join three friends on a fun leaf-finding adventure with a bouncy new version of the popular song. Steve Metzger is a best-selling author of over 60 kids' books.

The Kids' Nature Book: 365 Indoor/Outdoor Activities and Experiences by Susan Milord (For first grade and up)
Activity suggestions for every day of the year to help you and your kids learn about nature together.

For Adults:

Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson
How we can find awe and delight in the natural world – or, as Emerson says, “to see the miraculous in the common.”

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
A beloved collection of nature essays, each of which can stand alone but all linked together by common threads as Dillard explores with keen observation and reflection a year at Tinker Creek in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her writing is similar to Thoreau's. She does not veer away from death or, from human perspective, the cruelty of nature (“red in tooth and claw”) but also exults in its beauty, mystery, and majesty. And besides that, she has wonderfully humorous passages! A book to return to every few years.

Kids and Families
August/September 2014
Beginning Birder  |  Get Linked In

Elkhorn Creek Butterfly Festival

Saturday, July 26, 1:00 - 5:00 p.m.

Join us for a fun, informative, family-friendly afternoon as we explore the Elkhorn Creek Biodiversity Preserve for the many butterflies that are found there. From 1 - 5 p.m., participants may join butterfly tours or look on their own for those winged beauties. Tours will begin at 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. “Illinois Butterflies and Moths” pocket guides will be distributed at no charge while supplies last. We’ll have a shady rest area with chairs, as well as a restroom, cold beverages and snacks. If the weather is questionable, call Blackmores at 815-938-3204 before 10:00 a.m. on July 26. Explorers at previous Butterfly Festivals have found 29 species of butterflies and skippers, among them Tiger Swallowtail, Meadow Fritillary, Buckeye, Comma, Peck’s Skipper, Silver Spotted Skipper and Milbert’s tortoiseshell.

The preserve is located about 3 miles southwest of Forreston in the southeast corner of West Grove and Freeport Roads. The parking lot is off of West Grove Road. We hope to see you there!

Beginning Birder

American Goldfinch
Spinus tristis

This handsome little finch, the state bird of New Jersey, Iowa and Washington, is welcome and common at feeders where it takes primarily sunflower and nyjer seed. Spring males are brilliant yellow and shiny black with a bit of white. Females and all winter birds are more dull but identifiable by their conical bill; pointed, notched tail; wingbars; and lack of streaking.

American Goldfinch

Some fun facts include:

  • Goldfinches are among the strictest vegetarians in the bird world, selecting an entirely vegetable diet and only accidentally swallowing an occasional insect.
  • When Brown-headed Cowbirds lay eggs in an American Goldfinch nest, the cowbird egg may hatch but the nestling seldom survives longer than three days. The cowbird chick simply can’t survive on the all-seed diet that goldfinches feed their young.
  • Goldfinches move south in winter following a pattern that seems to coincide with regions where the minimum January temperature is no colder than 0 degrees Fahrenheit on average.
  • As of May 2007, the oldest know Goldfinch was 10 years, 5 months old.
  • The nest is an open cup of rootlets and plant fibers lined with plant down, often woven so tightly that it can hold water!
  • It takes the female about 6 days to build a nest. The eggs are pale bluish-white, sometimes with small faint brown spots around the large end.
  • To encourage Goldfinches into your yard, plant native thistles as well as native milkweed. They are happy to feed on the ground or on almost any kind of bird feeder.
  • To protect American Goldfinches from contagious diseases at feeders, keep the ground well-raked.
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Children, Nature and You Resources to help you give the children you influence the awe and wonder that only the natural world can inspire

Freeport Park District Information on all the Freeport parks

Freeport Public Library More than books on a shelf...visit the Freeport Public Library

Freeport Outdoor Experience Events located in Freeport and Stephenson County

Getting Kids Involved (The Cornell Lab of Ornithology) Includes bird information, tips, and more for kids and families

Jane Addams Recreation Trail Ride or Hike the beautiful Jane Addams Trail

Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots A program of the Jane Goodall Institute offering a variety of programs and resources

NASA Climate Kids to tell the story of our changing planet through the eyes of NASA missions studying Earth and provides games, activities, and articles that make climate science accessible and engaging for children

National Audubon for Kids provides resources for classroom curriculum, DIY activities, and bird activities for children at home

National Wildlife Federation Many family-friendly articles; Ranger Rick family magazine

Resource Guide Supplement to Last Child in the Woods Designed for parents, teachers, and community leaders to help them encourage children’s enjoyment of the great outdoors.

Severson Dells Nature Center Located near Rockford, IL.

Sierra Club Outdoors The program's goal is to give every child in America an outdoor experience.

World Migratory Bird Day Learn about the importance of migratory birds and how to celebrate birds any day of the year!

Family Activity

What do birds eat and how do they eat it?

Look at some bird pictures and point out the beaks, explaining that every bird has a beak that is shaped to help it hunt and eat its own food. Then you can try out these techniques:

Eat like a robin: Embed gummy worms in a cake pan full of packing noodles. Have the child try to spear the gummy worms with tweezers.

Eat like a hummingbird: Have the child suck up a little sugar water, using a straw for a beak and fitting the straw through a hole in a piece of paper or foil covering a glass.

Eat like a cardinal: Use a nutcracker to crack sunflower seeds or something of similar hardness. Point out the wide, strong beak of the cardinal. Perhaps you can make a beak that is like that of a cardinal.

Eat like a woodpecker: Help a child peck hard at an old piece of wood with a screwdriver or other hard, pointed object; you can keep your hand over the child's to prevent a drilled thumb or finger. You can put Cheerios on the other side and draw those out to show that the woodpecker has successfully found the insects. Roll a small piece of paper into a funnel shape and coat it with a little honey to show the long, sticky tongue that is going to pull out the Cheerios.

Eat like a flycatcher: Put a cheerio on a string and have the child perch on an ottoman or small chair and try to snatch the cheerio as you swing it by. Then, have him “fly” after the insect/cheerio as you whisk it around the room.

Eat like a finch: Put some Rice Krispies in a small cardboard box with holes in it; have him get the krispies with tweezers.

American Goldfinch: Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO, Courtesy of

Eat like a chickadee/sparrow, etc.: Put the cheerios in a bowl and let him eat – no hands allowed.

Eat like an eagle, hawk, etc.: Let the child pounce on a small stuffed animal – you can add the sharp or hooked beak and talons when the child is old enough not to be frightened by that aspect. According to the age of the child, you can show the various kinds of woodpeckers, flycatchers, finches, etc.


and Events

Check out our full calendar of activities, events, and educational opportunities. You're sure to find something to interest you. Please join us!

Events include:

  • Monthly educational programs and issues discussions
  • Local bird walks
  • Field trips
  • Preserve work days

For more details, see the current newsletter.


Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023
Program: Hidden Prairie: Photographing Life in One Square Meter... >

Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023
Christmas Bird Count... >

Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023
Beginning Birder Club- Bird Movement - REGISTRATION CLOSED - Contact for waitlist... >

Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024
Program: Birds and Beauty in Arizona... >