Week 3 Nuthatches, Tuesday/Thursday: Great Grouse and Growing Things

Week 3 Nuthatches, Tuesday/Thursday: Great Grouse and Growing Things

Did you know that the ruffed grouse puts out special bristles on its feet in the winter to help it maneuver over the snow? It’s just one of the special things about the bird of the week!

This week, the Nuthatches went in search of the ruffed grouse they’d been hearing all spring. They also played some fun running games!

Note: Thanks to Emily Rose for most of these photos!

On Tuesday, Nora Fox shared a special mystery object during opening circle. It was wrapped in a bandana and made a sound when you shook it. Some of the Nuthatches guessed acorns, marbles, and very tiny cats. It turned out to be peanuts that Nora had grown in a garden! When we opened the shells, the peanuts were salmon pink. Jamie used a special drum to mimic the sound the ruffed grouse makes when it flaps its wings. After circle, the Nuthatches set out for camp, but we didn’t stay there long. We had an exciting mission ahead of us: to track down the ruffed grouse, whose drumbeat wingflap we’d been hearing for a few weeks! We remembered it had come from the other end of the field. We practiced freezing and listening as hard as we could–and there it was! The boom, boom, boomboomboomboom that you can almost feel more than hear. The Nuthatches followed the sound into the sunny woods, letting it lead us to the creek. There we saw that the skunk cabbage had grown big green leaves! On the other side, we played camouflage and left some peanuts for the grouse to find. Then it was time to return to camp for slunch. Nora Murphy joined us for a fun game of “Seasons are Changing”. 

On Thursday, Nora Murphy joined us for the whole day! We started off by doing a bandana challenge, and playing our favorite game, Foxtail. When we got out to camp, Nora led us in a fun hydration game where we had to take a sip if the animal we were thinking of had fur, or feathers, or something else. Then we played “Seasons are Changing” and the All-In game, where we had to hide and find each other. The Nuthatches found some very tricky hiding spots! At slunch, we enjoyed a warm fire and had a discussion about the Haudenosaunee and Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ, the First Peoples of this land. Nora Murphy also told a wonderful version of the Ancient Greek myth about Narcissus. The Nuthatches were spellbound as they listened to how that arrogant man became a flower looking at his reflection in the pool. Finally, the Nuthatches made their way back to the building, where they sheltered at the picnic tables and made some pinecone birdfeeders! 

Week 2 Chickadees: Signs of Spring and Bird Wings

Week 2 Chickadees: Signs of Spring and Bird Wings

This week the Chickadees experienced all kinds of weather — warm sunshine, blue skies and even snow!


“Chickadee-dee-dee-dee” went the Chickadee flock on Monday morning in Opening Circle. The children showed Ian, a winter Nuthatch instructor who was joining us for the day, how well they can mimic a chickadee alarm call. Ian surprised them with a call of his own that sounded like this (click on the first recording). He explained that this is a call male chickadees make to tell everyone where their space is. The children practiced making this call and then flew to their backpacks and headed down to Trillium Camp.

“What’s growing?” the children were asked while stopped at the top of the bridge. The Chickadees pointed to sprouting tree buds, green moss on the roof of the pavilion and some plants starting to grow in our forest garden. After hanging up backpacks it was time for the Daily Check. While some children helped record the temperature and the color of the sky, others went on an epic hunt for worms! While looking under almost every log and rock in camp, the Chickadees found a lot of worms but they also found a sleepy salamander!

At slunch time, the flock gathered in the log circle and did a tick scan, looking over their clothes for a small arachnid with 8 legs. When the tick scan was complete and everyone had taken at least one sip of water, the children learned they had unlocked a story — a story about a group of wild children who lived in a magical forest! Strange things happen in this forest and one day while eating some food in their camp, the wild children suddenly turned into small birds with black feathers on their heads, white feathers on their cheeks and gray wings — “a black-capped chickadee!” the preschoolers yelled. The wild children, who were now chickadees, realized that they could speak bird language and fly! They flew through the air while practicing their calls and songs and they enjoyed seeing their forested home from a new perspective. But then, a sudden gust of wind came rushing through the trees! The small birds took shelter on the branches of a big white pine tree and waited for the wind to pass. After it had, they flew out into the brilliant early spring day again. But here came another gust of wind! The chickadees rushed back to the white pine and waited again. This happened several more times and the chickadees realized it was like they were playing hide-and-go-seek with the wind! After playing a few more rounds of that, they grew hungry and flew back down to their camp to finish the food they had been eating before they turned into chickadees. To their surprise, their food (which had consisted of “cheese sticks, crackers, cookies and oranges”) had turned into seeds, insects and berries! The chickadees didn’t mind! They gobbled them up and then…found themselves as wild children once again!

Like the wild children, the preschoolers transformed into chickadees after slunch and had to hide from the wind! Ian, who had turned into a strong wind storm, walked through camp while the chickadees searched for places they’d find shelter from the powerful gusts (behind trees, on the other side of the woodbox, behind the pavilion).

The day is done, the day is done! The chickadees turned back into children and gathered in the log circle where Peter played a song on his guitar and they played along with their own instruments.


(Click the arrows to navigate to the next photo, or click the image to view larger.)


The Chickadee flock was excited to welcome Rey on Tuesday! Rey will be joining us on Tuesdays and Thursdays this spring and will also be here for summer camp. During arrival, the children got to meet her while helping create a shared work of art. A long piece of paper was laid across one of the picnic tables with markers, crayons and animal track stamps around it.

All-In Chickadees! The flock flew to the morning circle where they learned a new song called “The Chickadee Song” by Annie Nixon.

Chickadee, chickadee-dee-dee 

Sing with me 

Sing with me, me, me 

Sitting on the branch of a big pine tree 

Calling out to the morning there’s a chickadee!

The children sang this song while flapping their arms like wings and then flew to the red oak tree to gather their backpacks and head down to camp. Once in Trillium Camp, the Chickadees got an idea! They walked together to a part of their camp called “Trillium North” and hid behind some large logs. When everyone was hidden they gave a loud “chickadee-dee-dee” call and waited. They did it again and again and suddenly Rey found them! She had been back in the main part of camp and used the “chickadee-dee-dee” call to find us! Afterwards, the children showed her the horsey log and spent some time bouncing and traveling to far away lands.

After slunch and hearing the tale of the wild children who turned into chickadees again, the flock spent the rest of their day playing in the creek and enjoying the warm sun!



On Wednesday the Chickadees welcomed another special person — Edie! The children were so excited to see Edie and had so much fun playing imaginative child-led games with her during arrival (there was a cyclone coming and they had to escape it!). The Chickadees discovered that they had a mystery to solve when they arrived in Opening Circle! Sarah played this sound (click on the first recording) while the children listened and shared their guesses. Next, they saw a picture of a small bird that makes the sound they had just heard. Like the black-capped chickadee, this bird also has black feathers on the top of its head. The children correctly guessed this bird is a white-breasted nuthatch! While practicing the nuthatch call, the children noticed that it sounds a lot like laughter! The next time the Chickadees see the Nuthatches, we’ll have to say hello to them using their call!

For those of you that don’t know, Nora is a magical storyteller. She paints amazing pictures with her words and captures the attention of children and instructors alike when she tells stories! At slunch on Wednesday, Nora told us the Greek tale of Narcissus and how, after falling in love with his reflection, he was turned into a daffodil (we had spotted some daffodils on Tuesday which prompted the telling of this story). The children quietly listened and really enjoyed when they got to participate in the story, especially when they got to shout “ECHO!”

Some rain came our way towards the end of the day, but that didn’t stop the Chickadees from playing in the creek and making a big pot of “soup!” When it was time to share our gratitudes from the day, Nora asked the children to spell “R-A-I-N” after each person shared and together we shouted “rain!”




(Click the arrows to navigate to the next photo, or click the image to view larger.)


And then that rain turned into snow! The Chickadees were greeted by a thin layer of fluffy, white snow on Thursday morning. Underneath that wet snow was squishy, slippery mud! The flock spent the morning making snowballs and using them to make faces on trees. Rey was helping some children color on another large piece of paper and showed them how you can rub snow on the markers to make colorful snow — it was so cool!

When the children arrived in Trillium Camp, some helped Sarah with the Daily Check (we recorded a big change in temperature!) and others climbed up and down the Climbing Hill with Eli and Rey. After slunch, many children were feeling cold so the flock decided to get head inside of the rest of the day. The transition from warm, spring sunshine to winter-like weather was challenging for the children and instructors!

While the Chickadees love to be outside, they still had a lot of fun indoors! After taking off of their muddy outer layers, the children read books, colored and played hide-and-go-seek. It was an exciting ending to our second week of the spring. While it was nice to see some snow again, we are hoping for warmer weather when we come back from the break!


Thank you so much for reading! We hope you have a great spring break and we’ll see you soon!

Week 2 Nuthatches, Monday and Wednesday

Week 2 Nuthatches, Monday and Wednesday

This week, we embodied how nuthatches live, had lots of fun and tapped into our senses!

We had a lot of energy this week that allowed us to play and learn as nuthatch birds might in the wild! We also had a special guest and tapped into lots of creativity and nature sensing skills.

On Monday, the Nuthatches gathered under cloudy skies in windy and chilly weather. Jamie brought out the weather chart and had some help from the Nuthatches to record the look of sky, chance of rain, and temperature. Afterwards, we gathered in opening circle. Nora showed us how to sing the Chickadee flock’s song and Jamie facilitated a conversation on our bird of the week: nuthatches!

We talked about their white, black, and blue/gray colors and their bird call, which some of us thought sounded like a unique little bird laugh. The Nuthatches also found it interesting how the birds are often seen upside down, searching for seeds and insects – something we may try to imitate in the future!

When we got to camp, we directed our excited energy into playing a life-size nest making game. The Nuthatches showed creativity in the materials and locations of the nests and worked together as teams. Afterwards, the Nuthatches visited the other nests and shared feedback about what they liked and noticed about the nests.

After slunch, with the sun coming out, we went to meet a surprise guest in the front field. The Nuthatches were excited to see that it was Elisabeth from the fall session! Elisabeth was thoughtful and brought a “bird food” snack of seeds and dried fruit for all the hungry Nuthatches! Naturally, everyone started to peck at their food in true nuthatch fashion. We finished our day listening to Elisabeth tell a story about a nuthatch and a friendly turtle that shared a message that one can always be safe and secure within themselves, no matter their environment.

On Wednesday morning, the Nuthatches gathered to find that Nani had a stink bug on her hand! We observed the bug and the Nuthatches looked at the bug’s characteristics and where they get their name from. A couple Nuthatches also noticed some wild garlic mustard growing, an exciting sign of spring! With permission and supervision, they tasted some while practicing sustainable harvesting.

In morning circle, Nora initiated a conversation and land acknowledgement of the traditional lands of the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ, the indigenous peoples of this region. We hope to continue land acknowledgements and explore together what it means to be good stewards of the land. The Nuthatches helped finish opening circle by teaching Jamie the “birdie song,” which is definitely one of their favorites!

When we got to camp, Nora invited the Nuthatches to play a game called “Hawks and Nuthatches.” The Nuthatches used their sensory awareness to evade hawks, a role the instructors played, while looking for pinecones to bring back to their nests. The Nuthatches sure are fast and clever and the hawks definitely got their workout for the day.


At slunch, Nora built us a nice fire while Nani offered help to any Nuthatches needing an extra hand. Jamie read the book “No Two Alike,” by Keith Baker that everyone seemed to enjoy.

The Nuthatches ended the day playing a game called “otter steals fish.” The Nuthatches got really creative while using sensory techniques like fox-walking and owl-eyes to play the game. We ended the day with gratitude and learned a new song about doing a tick scan! One of the Nuthatches even led the rest of the flock in how to do a proper tick scan.

Week 2 Nuthatches, Tuesday and Thursday: Settling In and Branching Out

Week 2 Nuthatches, Tuesday and Thursday: Settling In and Branching Out

Welcome to the second week of Spring, Nuthatch families!

This week the Nuthatches started to get comfortable with the spring: mud, water, and new friends were highlights!

Note: Big thanks again to Emily Rose and Jamie Eggleston for contributing pictures!

On Tuesday, the Nuthatches got ready for a big trek. The plan was to go to the Beaver Pond! The last time we went there, there was snow on the ground and a chill in the air. This time, the ground was muddy and the sun shone down on us. We played foxtail at arrival, and some of the Nuthatches turned into backpacks! At circle, the Nuthatches reminded each other of the Three Respects: respect yourself, respect others, and respect the earth. We decided that on the way out, it was important to stay with the group. Jamie said we could think of it like a sandwich: the instructors were “bread”, at the front and back, and the kids were the filling! Our sandwich had lots of cheese in it. 

 On the way out to the Beaver Pond, the Nuthatches had to be alert for some warnings. When the instructors yelled “Flash Flood!” everybody had to try to get off the ground to avoid the imaginary water. When they heard “Camouflage!” they had to hide in the forest. When they heard “T-rex walk!” they had to walk as quietly as they could as if they were a predator stalking its prey. The Nuthatches did a great job reacting to the warnings, and they used their five senses to make observations too. We found lots of beautiful clear puddles that we couldn’t resist stomping in. There was a newt floating silently in one! We also saw big birds soaring above us: a bald eagle and a red-tailed hawk!

At the Beaver Pond, there was a clearing with a shelter where we could have lunch. We set down our packs and were quickly drawn to the water, where we climbed walked along the dam, looked for snails, made splashes with sticks, and even collected some cattails. It was so peaceful and beautiful out there at the crystal clear water. Then we sat down to a yummy lunch in the clearing, and trekked back to the front field in high spirits. 

On Thursday, Mother Nature had played an April Fool’s joke on us: there was snow on the ground and in the branches! But the Nuthatches weren’t deterred. We played in the snow and made some big snowballs, which we rolled all the way out to camp with us. It was a good workout. We stopped by the creek to use our five senses to observe the landscape. Then we set our packs down in camp and ran out to the field for a rousing game of Hawks and Nuthatches! The Nuthatches tried to find as many pinecones as they could while avoiding the Hawks. When a Nuthatch got tagged, the Hawk asked a nature question. Some of the wonderful questions we came up with were: 

How does bark get on trees? How does dirt get underground? Where do humans come from? Why do people cut down trees? Why are leaves so thin and strong? Where do trees come from? What makes good packing snow? Why is snow so fluffy sometimes? 

Then we noticed that some of the Nuthatches had disappeared! Where could they have gone? We decided we had to track them to find out. We opened our eyes and ears: there was a soft drumming sound coming from the forest, and also some high-pitched calls. The first sound was a ruffed grouse! The second sound was the rest of our group! We followed the tracks and the sound until we found them, hiding under a white pine tree. Everybody at preschool sure is sneaky! We all came back to camp as a group, and Jamie showed us how to start a fire using flint and steel. Emily read the book “Penguin and Pinecone” by Salina Moon and we told some silly knock-knock jokes. Then it was time to head back to the field. 

Have a lovely spring break, Nuthatch families! We’ll see you in a week.

Office Location:
Cornell Cooperative Extension, 615 Willow Ave., Ithaca, NY 14850
607-272-2292 | email Us

Preschool Location:
4-H Acres, 418 Lower Creek Rd., Ithaca, NY 14850

Ithaca Forest Preschool is a nature immersion program for children ages 3-5. Our program is run in cooperation with Primitive Pursuits, a project of Cornell Cooperative Extension.