Sometimes we’re tempted to think that nature study comes to a halt in winter. These winter nature study ideas will remind you that though nature might slow down in winter, there is still a lot going on. Wildlife in winter is sometimes hidden– the gall fly hidden in the goldenrod gall and the downy woodpecker that snacks on them when insects are few– the tracks you can find in a newly fallen snow that reveals animals you might never see otherwise- the caterpillars hidden in rolled up leaves. There is so much to discover when you know where to look.
Here are ten nature study ideas to get you outside even when the world is covered in snow.
Feed the birds
Birds are always with us and are fascinating to observe. A feeder attracts birds you wouldn’t see otherwise. You can also make bird seed ornaments for a fun winter project.
Look for signs of animals.
You can look for animal tracks, torn apart pinecones (a sign of squirrels), or branches that have been nibbled on, to name a few. Challenge yourself to find as many signs of wildlife as you can. I find this easier and more fun in winter with snow on the ground. You may even be able to find bird prints in the snow.
Blow frozen bubbles.
Blowing bubbles and watching them freeze is so much fun that you’ll find yourself looking forward to plummeting temperatures.
Observe if any trees still have their leaves.
Which trees are still holding on to their leaves? Do they keep them all winter?
Go for an insect hunt.
You may be surprised at what insects you’ll find. Even with snow on the ground, you can find snow fleas or winter stoneflies.
Observe the night sky.
Learn a new constellation or observe a meteor shower. Some of our best meteor showers are in winter, so dress warmly and undertake an early morning adventure.
Look for lichen.
You can find lichen any time of year on trees, fallen branches, stones, fences, or old buildings. Some lichen is more eye-catching in winter, like smoky eye boulder lichen or script lichen. This post on lichen shows some of the different kinds you may encounter. You can also investigate rehydrated lichen.
Track the direction the sun sets.
How does the direction of the sunset change throughout the winter? Sketch the sun’s position over time. This is something you can do all year long.
Look for birds’ nests.
These are easier to find when the trees have lost their leaves. How many can you find in one walk?
Study tree branch structures, bark, and buds.
Again, after the trees have lost their leaves, their branch structures are more evident. You can also bring in a twig from a shrub or tree and place it in the water to see if the buds will open. Do trees brought in later in the winter make more progress than ones brought indoors in December or January?
Look through seed catalogs and plan next year’s garden.
This is a bonus activity for when you can’t get outiside. Look through seed catalogs and plan what kinds of plants you’ll grow when the weather warms up. Here’s a fun seed catalog scavenger hunt your children will enjoy.
I hope these activities encourage you to head outside and explore. If you would like nature activities for every day of the year, take a look at my monthly nature studies.
Animal Tracks Poster & Cards$4.99
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