Wednesday, November 2, 2016

I notice..., I wonder..., It reminds me of... Nature Journaling

The concept of nature journaling has always intrigued me. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of the nature journal, click on this link to Google images for nature journaling. Scroll down a ways to see the many varied journal examples.

Nature journaling at its core is studying nature through art. It involves observing nature and then drawing what you observe (usually field sketches) and then writing about it (and, perhaps, how it makes you feel). It combines science, art, and language arts into a great teaching tool for educators, and an interesting and fun way to learn for students. But it's not just for outdoor science camps.

The title of this post comes from Three prompts for deeper nature observation by John Muir Laws, a naturalist, artist, and educator living in the San Francisco Bay area. Laws teaches nature journaling and sponsors a Nature Journal Club. [As an aside, for a wonderfully useful birding tip, his Sketch Bird Songs video is a fantastic resource for describing and remembering bird songs (the 8 minute and 20 second video is worth a view).]

For an overview of what nature journaling is all about, John Muir Laws has this 1 hour and 16 minute video presentation from one of his workshops: Introduction to Nature Journaling. He explains the goals of nature journaling as paying attention to nature and in this way...
  • To notice something you would not have seen
  • To remember details you would have forgotten
  • To stoke the fires of curiosity and have a tool to explore
  • To fall more deeply in love with the world

Coyote. Ramona, California. October 30, 2016. Greg Gillson.

Is this blog a nature journal? Perhaps. At least some of my posts relay specific behavioral observations, and sometimes--though rarely--I delve into my thoughts, questions, feelings, and reminiscences about what I observe, including in these posts...
Black-throated Sparrow on Cholla,
Dead bird mystery... or not,
Flexible bills,
Come flop down on the beach with Black Skimmers.

In general, though, my posts are more informative than reflective. I don't sit still long enough when I am out in nature--I'm often trying to see as many different birds as possible--especially unexpected ones, rather than concentrating on the interesting behaviors of the common one before me now. This is why sketching is a major part of nature journaling--it forces you to stop and really observe and take your time and think about it long enough to ask questions. Sketching also focuses attention to one aspect, while a photo includes everything in the frame.

But I may try to make more of my future posts more like a nature journal. I could start by turning my camera to non-bird parts of nature--like this coyote that I noticed a couple of days ago.Then I'd also need more than just one best "pretty picture." I'd need context, surroundings, details, actions. That's not so easy to get with just my strong zoom lens.

Actually, to my mind, "Jo's Morning Walk" blog is a great photographic nature journal by a local San Diego birder. See if you don't agree, by checking out one of her most recent posts on Apple Harvest time at Lake Cuyamaca.

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