Chickadees and Blue Jays – Preschool Explorers Focus on Feathered Friends

Reflections by Naturalist & Walk Leader Andrea Higgins
Photos courtesy of HCT Volunteer Photographer Gerry Beetham

HCT Preschool Explorers and their caregivers gathered this morning at the wonderful 17-acre Muddy Creek Headwaters Preserve. Mother Nature shared an assortment of weather phenomena, transitioning from sunshine and blue skies, to gray skies and a sprinkle of rain, before returning to sunshine again. What a great reminder that there are no bad weather days… just different kinds of good days.

Explorers gathered on the bench that looks out over the wildflower meadow, pausing to admire the blue skies and fluffy white clouds. While listening to the sounds of the forest, we chatted about what makes a bird a bird, reviewing their distinctive characteristics including beaks, feathers, wings, nests, eggs, and their ability to fly.

Next, I read Backyard Birds: Chickadees and Backyard Birds: Blue Jays by Elizabeth Neuenfeldt. Gentle hands cradled and examined a real chickadee nest I had brought along and practiced mimicking the calls of both the chickadee and the blue jay. The Little Book of Backyard Bird Songs by Andrea Pinnington taught us some more bird facts and included recordings of several local songbirds.

With winter around the corner, our craft for the day was to be a gift for our feathery friends: homemade bird feeders! Explorers spread sunflower seed butter onto recycled cardboard tubes, tied some yarn around the top to be looped on a branch, and inserted small sticks into the bottom to serve as a landing pad for birds. The final step was rolling the buttered tubes into bird seed. One of our very kind mamas read Two Blue Jays by Anne Rockwell while I assisted some of our Preschoolers in creating their feeders.

Delighted with their creations, Explorers hung them from a nearby oak tree while we continued our adventure. Leaving the golden grasses of the meadow behind, we strolled between two trees which created a portal into a wooded realm. Just a few steps down the trail we paused to admire a perfect hole in a tree – a cavity nest – a perfect potential home for a chickadee. We also found a second cavity nest, mushrooms, and deer scrapes on the bark of another tree. Inspired Explorers pretended to grow antlers, shapeshifting into deer to play for a spell along the trail.

Romping down the path, we stumbled upon a bench with a beautiful view of Muddy Creek. Buffleheads busily swam on the windy waterway, a kingfisher “chatter chattered” from the shore, and two great blue herons showed off their impressive wingspan as they flew over the riverbank.

After admiring the action on the waterway below, Explorers climbed up on the bench for another read-aloud story session. Chickadees at Night by Bill O. Smith held my audience comprised of friends, trees, and songbirds captive.

As our exploration continued, the next discovery was fresh deer tracks pressed into the mud right in the middle of the trail. Delighted, we took a moment to imagine the deer walking alongside us, sharing the path together. Perhaps the deer was here just moments before our arrival! How wonderful to be able to explore and share in the same space as our local wildlife.

Arriving at the edge of the marsh, children were lifted by caregivers and plopped down on a huge fallen tree that was so stunning, it could have been an art installation. We pretended to be riding on the back of a blue jay as it soared over the creek, marsh, and woodlands. We also imagined that we were riding on the back of a deer, a giant chickadee, a horse, and a reindeer! Imaginations were fully engaged, with smiles lighting up sweet faces, and sounds of laughter adding to the forest’s orchestra.

Sauntering back up the trail, we gathered at the benches and collected our bird feeders off of the oak tree. We exchanged thank yous and good-byes, hugs and waves.

Another awesome day of discoveries! Thank you for sharing your Tuesday morning with me. I am so very excited to meet again next week for more outdoor fun.

Happy Exploring!


Ms. Andrea