101 Nature-Oriented
Things to Do This

  1. List all the trees in your neighborhood. Our page on backyard trees can help. You may also want to look at our pages on twigs and tree bark. Tree identification books can be reviewed here.
  2. Check out Naturalist Jim's Naturalist Newsletter Page on Facebook.
  3. Find a spider web, maybe in your basement or in the garden, among the shrubs or among some weeds, and see if the spider is there. Is the web an orb web, sheet web, or some other kind? Check out our Spiders Page and our Spider Silk Page.
  4. Put out a birdbath for birds and other critters. It doesn't have to be a real birdbath, but could be something like a turned-upside garbage can lid. The water should be no deeper than an inch. Keep a list of the species who visit.
  5. Find the star-shaped pith in an oak twig, as shown on our Woody Twig Page.
  6. Identify your neighborhood plants and animals using the procedure outlined in Step One of our "3 Steps to Discovering Nature," and document your discoveries on the wonderful iNaturalist.Org website.
  7. Start a rock collection. Our rock section can get you oriented..
  8. In the night sky, learn these constellations: The Big Dipper (Ursa Major), The Little Dipper (Ursa Minor), Leo the Lion, Bo�tes the Herdsman, Hercules, Corona Borealis, and Draco the Dragon. One book to help you is The Sky Observer's Guide: A Handbook for Amateur Astronomers
  9. If you see a bird collecting worms or other food for nestlings, watch where the food is taken, locate the nest, and watch it until the nestlings leave (Don't get too close or you'll upset the family.) Check out our birdnest page.
  10. At night and with a flashlight, sneak up on a stridulating cricket and watch it sing.
  11. Find a lichen, as described on our Lichen Page, and figure out whether it is crustose, foliose or fruticose.
  12. If you have a camera, about 5 feet from the birdbath, put a box or some other structure large enough for you to hide in. After the birds become accustomed to this "wildlife observation blind" (maybe a couple of days), go inside, then take a close look at what visits the birdbath. Birds can count up to "one," so you may need a friend to go with you to the box, you get inside the box, then your friend leave. The birds will see "one" person go to the birdbath, and "one" return, so then they'll know the coast is clear for them!
  13. In your basement or some other damp, slightly junky place, look for "thousand leggers." Are they centipedes, millipedes or maybe sowbugs? Our Centipedes, Millipedes & Pill Bugs Page can help you decide.
  14. Look for squirrels around your house or in the local park. What kind of squirrels are they? Our Squirrel Page may be able to help.
  15. Make an online insect collection, as described here.
  16. Find a feather and identify these parts of it: shaft, vane, barbs, and  barbules. Our Feather Page can help.
  17. Find out where your house's water comes from. Does your town have its own well, or take water from a reservoir or river? If your water comes from a reservoir or river, does the water seem clean to you, and free of chemical pollutants? Are you content with your water situation? If not, what are you going to do about it?
  18. Hunt around for a Tree-of-heaven, or Ailanthus. Read about it in the middle of our Plant Chemicals Page, and see the special glands at the bases of its leaflets. When you find one, smell of its glands and look for ants visiting them.
  19. Find out the geological age of the land on which you live. You may need to consult a geology map of the kind described on our Geological Processes Page.
  20. Look for fungi. When you find a fungus, figure out what kind it is. Our Fungus Section can help.
  21. List all the butterflies in your neighborhood. Our Butterfly Page can get you started. You can review the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies available at Amazon.com
  22. Find a grass flower and, referring to our Grass Flower Page, identify a spikelet, the glumes, and a floret. You may need to use a pin to separate the various parts, and a magnifying glass.
  23. Participate in an important research project by making phenological observations -- notes about seasonal things, such as when plants flower and fruit, birds nest, frogs croak, etc., at the USA National Phenology Network website.
  24. Start a Nature Study Notebook, either on paper or on your computer. The "Nature Study Notebook" section on our Tools Page offers some pointers for getting started.
  25. Get involved with local efforts to save the environment and meet others who enjoy learning about nature. Check out our Get Involved Section, which gives links to environmental groups on the Web.
  26. Learn to identify Poison Ivy. One way to do this is to go to the Google Images Page, type "Poison Ivy" into the search box, then look at the various thumbnail pictures showing Poison Ivy.
  27. List all the birds in your neighborhood. The "how to birdwatch"  part of our bird section can get you started.
  28. Once you have your birdlist, note next to each species' name what kind of beak it has. Various beak types are described on our Bird Beaks Page.
  29. And once you have some birds listed, listen to their songs at the US Government Patuxent birdsong page.
  30. Find a gilled mushroom and key it out at Mycokey.com's KEY to fungus GENERA
  31. When you eat fried chicken, pay attention to the bones and realize what part of the chicken's body you are eating. You might want to compare your chicken bones with those of the pigeon at our Bird Bones & Muscles Page.
  32. Look for bats at dusk just as it's getting really dark. They are more thick-bodied than birds and flutter instead of soar or glide. We have a bat page, too.
  33. After learning to identify Poison Ivy, crush and smell several leaves of herbs, shrubs and trees. Do some odors strike you as chemicals the plant is using to keep insects and other animals from eating it? If this interests you, look at our Plant Chemicals used in Defense Page.
  34. On trees, shrubs and weeds, look for galls as described on our Gall Page. Maybe the Gallery of Common Galls Page can help, too.
  35. Pull up a clover plant in a yard that isn't too sterile because of chemicals, and look for the nitrogen-fixing nodules on the roots. Our "Roots with Nodules" section at the bottom of our Root Types Page should get you started.
  36. In a garden flower, figure out the different parts. Locate the stamens (pollen-producing male part, consisting of filament and anther), pistil (female part that will mature into a fruit, consisting of stigma, style and ovary), corolla and calyx. Our Standard Blossom Page will help you.
  37. Web rings are linked-together Web sites dealing with specific subjects. If you have a special interest, such as birds, trees, or whatever, go to the WebRing Home Page and type your interest into the Search Box. If you find some rings, visit the sites in the rings.
  38. Check out Frequently Asked Questions about Global Warming provided by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
  39. Search for a member of the Mint Family, as described on our Mint-flowers Page. Several weeds and garden flowers and herbs are mints. When you find a flowering mint plant, notice its square stem, opposite leaves, and its fruits divided into four "nutlets." Often mints smell minty, too...
  40. If you find a birdnest, determine whether it is a scrape, platform, cup, adherent, pensile or pendulous nest. Our Nest Page can help you with that.
  41. Read Naturalist Jim's latestnaturalist newsletter
  42. Rub a slice of white bread on your kitchen table, or anyplace you want to, slightly moisten the bread, then put it into a jar with a top on it so the bread won't dry out. Each day look at the bread. In a few days you should find one or more kinds of fungus established on it. Fungus spores are just about everywhere. Our Fungus Section is nice.
  43. Start your Birding Life List listing all the birds you've ever identified with absolute certainty. Read our Life List Page and check out the bird-identification books available at Amazon.com.
  44. Go looking for insect eggs and notice their incredible variety of sizes, shapes, colors and designs. Check out our Insect Eggs Page.
  45. Dig up an Earthworm and with your hands moist so you don't hurt it, see if you can  identify the worm's clitellum, excretory pores, chaetae, male pore, female pore and mouth. We have a drawing identifying these features.
  46. If you have a moist, junky basement, look for Daddy-long-legs, pictured and described on our Harvestman Page.
  47. Find a weed and try to identify it by using Iowa State's Weed-Identification Page.
  48. If you have a moist or wet place outside, look for a snail or slug. On either of them, locate the two tentacles atop the head, and the two stalked eyes below the tentacles.Our Snails & Slugs Page explains things.
  49. If your neighborhood has outcropping sedimentary rocks, or if there is rounded streambed gravel available, look for fossils. Visit our Fossil Page.
  50. Identify a tree using the free, online DiscoverLife.Org Key to Trees.
  51. In moist, shaded, undisturbed places, look for mosses in their spore-producing condition. Using the diagram on our Mosses Page, identify a moss's calyptra, capsule, stalk, leaves and rhizoids.
  52. Wander around looking at how the blossoms of different plants are arranged. Classify each arrangement type according to whether it is a spike, raceme, corymb, panicle, umbel, cyme, scorpioid cyme, or something else. Our Blossom Arrangement Page can help.
  53. Identify just one thing in your backyard -- maybe a bird or a garden flower or an insect -- and then use the Google search engine to find out all you can about it. You'll just be amazed at what you can learn!
  54. List all the ecological niches you can identify in your backyard. Our Backyard Niches Page can get you started.
  55. Once you've made the above list, write down each species you can identify using each niche, and describe what the organisms are doing there.
  56. Find a composite flower (described on our Composite Flowers Page) and, if it has these parts, identify its ray flowers, its disk flowers, the receptacle, and the achenes.
  57. Among the birds in your neighborhood, see if you can identify these behaviors outlined on our Bird Behavior in Our Backyards Page: Establishing & defending territories; family raising, and; communal behavior.
  58. Dig into the leaf litter in a forested park or beneath a hedge to find white strands of fungal hyphae, as described on our Hyphae Page.
  59. Look very closely at any sand or streambed gravel you can find. Try to see tiny crystals, as described on our Minerals Page. Especially if you have a magnifying glass you should at least see glass-like quartz crystals.
  60. Look for Chimney Swifts in the summer sky. If you see some, learn more about them at the SwiftWatch Page, and consider helping to conserve this wonderful species.
  61. Look for a wild-growing fern. In the suburbs sometimes they may grow in the shade beneath shrubbery on the north sides of house. They like moisture so many backyards may not have any. If that's the case, maybe you can find one at a local park. If you find one, look for spore-producing sori, or fruit dots, as described on our Fern Page.
  62. Order a geology map for your state at the USGS State Map Page, and start learning your local geology, and why the landscape looks the way it does. Choose your state at the left of the page.
  63. Find a fruit of any kind and decide what kind it is. Our Fruit Page can help you decide whether it's a simple, aggregate or multiple fruit, and if it's a simple one (as most fruits are) what kind of simple fruit.
  64. If you have a special interest, such as birds, wildflowers, spiders, or whatever, consider joining an "e-group" at the Yahoo Groups Page. Just go there, type your subject into the search box, and if you see a group you like, join it.
  65. Find a plant with spines or thorns and try to figure out why it has them. Remember that plants evolved long ago when often large herbivores such as bison, wild horses and mastodons wandered the land. Of course we have a nice Plant Spines Page.
  66. Look for animal tracks in mud. You should be able to identify at least dog tracks, as drawn on our Mammal Page. You may want to review the book Field Guide to Mammal Tracking in North America available at Amazon.com.
  67. Look for simple and compound eyes on an insect, as described in the eye section of our Insect Design Page.
  68. On tree twigs, look for lenticels, buds and leaf scars, as described on our Woody Twigs Page.
  69. Read Naturalist Jim Conrad's short online book Walks With Red Dog, about being with a dog in the countryside.
  70. On various trees, shrubs and herbs see if you can always figure out exactly where the leaves are. Our How Can You Decide Whether Something is a Leaf or Not? Page can help you here, especially with the question of whether something is a leaf or a leaflet.
  71. Probably you've watched Robins catching earthworms in your lawn. Lie on the lawn and see if you catch as many as the Robins do. If you have chiggers or redbugs in your area you might want to spread a plastic sheet below you.
  72. Find a caterpillar and notice its six black jointed legs immediately behind the head, its stubby, mid-body legs called prolegs and its end ones called anal prolegs. Our Caterpillars & Other Insect Larvae Page shows these.
  73. Capture, identify and then release a rodent by using one of the non-violent traps described on our Rats, Mice & Voles Page. Pay attention to the warnings about getting bitten or clawed, as well as about not upsetting the rodent.
  74. Find the scientific name of a plant or animal by using the Google Search Engine and typing in its common or English name. Once you have the name, use Google to find a good etymology site dealing with Latin and Greek roots, to help you understand what the scientific name is saying. Visit our On the Beauty
    of Scientific Names Page
  75. Become an official frogwatcher. For details go to Frogwatch USA
  76. If you have tomato plants in your garden, find a tomato flower and notice how its anthers are grown together as shown on our Tomato-flower Page. Mark a flower and day after day watch how the ovary expands, the stamens and corolla shrivel and fall off, and finally the ovary becomes a tomato.
  77. If you have a scanner, read over our Tips on Using the Scanner for Documenting Plants & Animals Page, then start identifying and scanning your neighborhood's trees -- their leaves, flowers and fruits. Keep your scannings organized so you can browse them the way you would a good herbarium collection.
  78. At night, find a streetlight or backyard light and watch for insects who flutter into it. These insects are trying to navigate by the light as if it were a star. However, as they fly, trying to keep the light at a certain angle as must be done to fly in a straight line, they begin passing by the light. They turn to compensate, then have to turn again, and before long they are circling the light and crashing into it...
  79. When you go onto the Internet for the first time each day, check out NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day. This will help you keep things here on Earth in perspective.
  80. Familiarize yourself with the ten most conspicuous insect orders so that when you see an insect belonging to them you'll know which order they belong to. As explained on our Insect Orders Page, the vast majority of insects you'll find will belong to these orders, so just by learning these ten orders you can easily learn to "order" your insects.
  81. Check out the US Environmental Protection Agency's page on "Games, Quizzes and Other Cool Stuff!"
  82. Find a bean, maybe a dried bean in your kitchen, and notice its hilum. Separate its two faces, and inside the bean identify the plumule, radicle and hypocotyl. Our Seeds Page can help you.
  83. Hunt around for a Ginkgo tree. Look at our Ginkgo Page to see what's so special about that tree, then, when you find one, just look at it thinking about its being such a "living fossil."
  84. Watch the world population grow at HowMany.Org, and read how human overpopulation is causing so many problems, and what can be done about it.
  85. If you live in eastern North America and have hummingbirds around your home, participate in Operation Rubythroat by collaborating with others to study the behavior and distribution of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
  86. In local gardens, hedges, weedy places and woods, look for insect pupae, as described on our Insect Pupae Page. Once you find one, mark it with a ribbon or other object, then visit it each day to watch for when the adult emerges.
  87. One place on the Web to help you get the scientific name of plants you identify is the B & T World Seeds site. Try it out.
  88. Download some free nature books from Project Gutenberg. Look for writings by John Muir, Henry David Thoreau, Charles Darwin and Jack London.
  89. Print out the drawing of our "Standard Blossom" on our Remember the Standard Blossom Page, then wander around looking at miscellaneous flowers seeing how they differ from the drawing.
  90. If you have a microscope, look at pollen grains of different flowers and notice how different they are from one another in terms of size and shape.
  91. Most insects are either "chewers" or "suckers." Wander around looking at miscellaneous insects, deciding which are chewers and which are suckers. We  have more information on our Insect Mouthparts Page.
  92. Calculate your Ecological Footprint at the MyFootprint.org website.
  93. Learn to identify your local trees just by looking at their trunks. Our Tree Bark Page can help you organize your thoughts about this.
  94. Learn the few most common Butterfly families, as listed on our Butterflies Page, so that when you meet up with an unknown butterfly you can at least say, "Well, it's in the #### family... " The Butterflies of North America Page can help you identify butterflies, as well as the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies
  95. Understand your local weather by looking at clouds, seeing weather maps, etc. The About.com Weather Page can help you.
  96. If you had to personally kill the animals providing the flesh you eat each day, would you do it? Is it moral for you to simply pay others to kill the animals you eat? Think about these questions. You might be interested in the Vegetarianism in a Nutshell site.
  97. From a local pond or ditch, take a jar of water and set it in a window where it gets some sunlight. Over the weeks watch what happens to it...
  98. Look for a mushroom and see if it has the following parts: cap, stalk, gills or pores, ring, and cup. Our Mushroom Page can help.
  99. Browse the spices of your kitchen. If you find a spice whose origin you don't know, find out at the McCormick Botanical Origins Page, where you can also learn a lot about each spice.
  100. When you identify a bird, see where it nests during the summer by clicking here.
  101. Catch up on the latest environmental news at the EarthJustice site.

Report Broken Link

Cite this page as:
Conrad, Jim. Last updated . Page title: . Retrieved from The Backyard Nature Website at .