coastal living, homeschool

Homeschool field trip: wild bird shelter

When I started blogging back in the dark ages (10+ years ago), it was just going to be a little online scrapbook of my homeschooling adventures with my only child. Things sure did change, but I do still like to share our homeschool adventures.

Every year I say I’m going to make a point of doing a fun field trip at least once a month, but most years that goal fizzles out. Not this year. I’m putting that out here so you can call me on it if I let it fizzle again.

Our tour of a shorebird hospital:

Field trips are also a good excuse to keep exploring our new town. The Sea Biscuit Wildlife Shelter is just a stone’s throw from the beach, and serves primarily as a rehabilitation center for injured birds until they can be released back into the wild.

baby bird at wildlife sanctuary

Sometimes a bird cannot be released due to permanent injury, so a few of those live at the sanctuary as educational birds for tours like ours. The shelter can only keep a few permanently so any others that cannot go back to the wild must be taken by a zoo or other organization. This screech owl, with permanent wing damage from being hit by a car, will soon travel to it’s new home in a zoo.

screech owl at bird sanctuary

The sanctuary’s permanent residents include Tim the pelican, Scarlett the red-tailed hawk, Shadow the owl, and Lusby the crow. Current temporary residents include another hawk (gunshot in one wing), a young Mississippi kite learning to catch his own prey, a seagull that swallowed a fish hook, an injured vulture, a baby dove, and another brown pelican. Stella the great egret was released a few years ago but still returns to visit. Occasionally, a baby deer or orphaned squirrels temporarily reside here as well.

Here’s a great reminder to pick up trash wherever you are, but especially if you like fishing or if you visit anywhere near lakes/oceans/rivers: everything in this jar has been removed from inside a bird at the shelter within the past two years. This is just a small shelter, not somewhere that houses hundreds of birds at a time, so that’s a whole lot of trash!


I saw in my line-a-day journal that it was three years ago this week — my first year with the two youngest kids — when we went on a field trip to an apple barn where we also watched pig races. It’s the South, y’all. This year, instead of yelling “SUEY!” as pigs raced by, we got to pet a pelican named Tim. His feathers are surprisingly soft!


Something you probably won’t find in your nature guide: pelicans throw up if they get nervous. But since they aren’t grossed out by it, they’ll immediately try to eat the fish again. Also: if you run a wild bird shelter, you have to keep a whole lot of frozen mice and fish on hand. Like multiple freezers-full. Did I mention this delightful lady runs it out of her home? That’s true bird love.

petting Tim the Pelican

Back at home, I dusted off my neglected nature journal and introduced my youngest to nature journaling. I didn’t set any rules or parameters for him, just told him to draw one of the birds we saw or something to help him remember what we did and what we learned. Then I set out a new notebook, a pencil, some crayons and colored pencils and let him do his thing. He couldn’t remember all the colors on the birds, so I brought out my beloved but decrepit nature guide to look up pictures and facts.

nature journaling

I already have a few more field trips on the calendar, so we’re off to a good start!

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