Nature's Book Nook

Many of these books can be found on PrairieCat; many are available for as little as 1 cent or 99 cents from booksellers on Amazon (with $3.99 for postage and handling).


Birding for Babies: Migrating Birds: A Colors Book
by Chloe Goodhart

This board book introduces children to the most colorful migrating birds, including Scarlet Tanagers, Indigo Buntings, Baltimore Orioles, and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. It provides a very simple explanation about migration and shows the splendid diversity of birds around us. It includes more stylized artwork that gives more cartoon appearance to the birds, but the information is provided in factual rhymes with additional fun facts and tips.


Swallow Journey
by Vivian French

This is a picture book that is part of a Fantastic Journey series that explores animal migration. In this book, we watch two swallows named Skimmer and Sweet Claw who return to their nest in England after flying more than 6,000 miles from Africa. We learn what birds go through during their tough journey as they move from home to home with people looking forward to their return.


Song of the Swallows
by Leo Politi

A Caldecott Medal winner in 1948, this classic book tells the story of the annual return of swallows to the Mission San Juan Capistrano. Julian, the bell ringer, teaches Juan about the swallows. Julian soon becomes enamored with the swallows and looks forward to their return by making a special garden for them to nest near his home. This is a sweet book that also provides a lesson in Latino heritage, Spanish phrases interspersed in the book, and an original song.


The Swallow: A Biography
by Stephen Moss

British author and naturalist Stephen Moss documents a year of observing the swallow. It is subtitled "A year in the life of the world’s best-known, and best-loved bird," so clearly the author is a fan. The swallow is known for incredible migratory feats and the reader can learn about them in a captivating way. The book contains beautiful illustrations among the storytelling method of writing, which makes it easy for birders or bird enthusiasts to become swallow fans themselves.

Kids and Families
June-July 2023
Beginning Birder  |  Get Linked In

June & July events throughout Freeport and surrounding areas!

Insect Biodiversity
Saturday, June 24
10:30 to 12:00 p.m.
Silver Creek Biodiversity Preserve
5380 N Leaf River Rd, Mt Morris, IL 61054

Learn about the fascinating insects at our Silver Creek preserve with entomologist extraordinaire John Walt. Bring water if desired. Snacks will be provided as well. This event is free and open to the public. See our calendar for more details!

Annual Elkhorn Creek Butterfly Festival
Saturday, July 29
1:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Elkhorn Creek Biodiversity Preserve
Forreston, IL

Join us for a fun, informative, family-friendly afternoon as we explore the Elkhorn Creek Biodiversity Preserve for the many butterflies found there! There will be hourly tours throughout the afternoon. This event is free and open to the public. See our calendar for more details!


Beginning Birder

Barn Swallow
(Hirundo rustica)


Swallows are a group of birds known for their small beaks that are suitable for catching insects in flight. Swallows are fun to watch as they glide quickly through the air, gobbling up many insects. The Barn Swallow is the most abundant and widely distributed swallow species throughout the world. Because they are insect eaters, they must migrate to warmer areas when winter approaches, such as South and Central America to maintain their food supply. They will return north to breed.

They are iridescent blue on the upper side of the body and orange-brown on the underside of the body. They are unique from the other swallow species with their deeply forked tail. They also fly lower than other swallows when foraging for prey. They can fly so low to the water that they can contact the water and even take a drink.

As the name suggests, they are often found in barn areas, but also found in many other habitats like open fields, wetlands, and other aquatic habitats. For breeding, they require open areas and human-made structures, such as eaves, rafters, barn supports, and bridges for building their nests. Both males and females collect mud, mix it with grass, and build a cup nest together that is about 3 inches across and 2 inches deep. They may often reuse the nests after cleaning out old feathers and adding new mud.

While Barn Swallows are not likely to visit your bird feeder, you can go visit them in their common habitats. Enjoy their fast and aerodynamic flights and try to identify them if you can! To help swallow populations, learn about the effect of pesticides on the food web. They require insects for their diets, so killing insects will harm insectivores. Additionally, if you fish, discard of fishing line properly so birds do not get tangled in the lines.

* Thanks to

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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

June-July 2023

Family Activity

Although it may be summer vacation, it is always a good time to learn new things. This summer, make a nature journal with members of your family and/or friends. Get a small notebook for everyone that can easily be carried with you on your nature adventures. Date your entry and note the time. Also note whether it is sunny or cloudy or rainy or snowy. If you come back to the same location at a later time, it’s fun to compare how things have changed and what different things you experienced. It’s also enjoyable to compare your drawings and what you learned with others.

There are many ways to do your entries!

1) Use your senses! You could find a peaceful spot and just sit, watch, and listen. Jot down anything you see, hear and/or smell. If a child cannot write, they can try to draw the object or animal.

2) Go insect-collecting! First, always use caution for any biting or stinging animals that you might encounter. Use an insect net and catch some insects! Pick up stones and see what is underneath. Carefully place any insect in clear containers with air holes to observe then for a short amount of time. Draw them and describe them in your notebook. Release the insect when done.

3) Go Bird-watching! Have a pair of binoculars and also use your sense of hearing. You will hear many species of birds before you actually see them. Learn their songs and calls and then try to identify the bird. When you see a bird, note the size, beak shape, color, tail size and shape, presence of wing bars, and any behavior. See if you can determine if they are male or female. Write down and draw all of the birds you see. Come back another day and see if the same birds are around. This will help you also learn about which species migrate and which species do not.

4) Look for leaves and flowers! First, it would be important that you do not touch any plant unless you are certain of what it is. There are some plants that cause itching and irritation as well as blisters if you touch the sap. Walk around and look at the different flowers and leaves of plants and trees that you see. Draw them and if you identify the plant as safe, do a leaf rubbing in your notebook. If you come back another time, note whether you see the same flowers or not.

Save your journals and reflect on them later, especially in a different season. When you may be missing some of the birds or greenery in the winter, you can enjoy your drawings!


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... >

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