Birding Homework (live episode)

Do you ever give yourself nature journaling homework?  In this live episode of the Nature Journal Show, Marley shows us how to use birding homework to make us better nature journalers.  Follow along!  You will need: your nature journal, a writing utensil of your choice, a bird guide book, and your computer.

“Whether you’re in the field learning or at home learning – the nature journal is the perfect place to make your learning so much easier, your work so much better, and improve your memory so much more.”

Marley comes prepared with an agenda:
  1. First, he sets up his page so his information stays organized.

    Marley sets up his Sparrow Study
    Marley sets up his page for the sparrow study, using a grid to separate and organize the information for each species.
  2. Second, he uses the bird guide to draw quick sketches of the birds he wants to study.  Marley’s tools of choice:  Pilot Futayaku gray and black brush pen (his favorite!). Tombow brush pen in pale gray.  Pentel waterbrush size large. John Muir Laws’s custom watercolor palette.
  3. Third, he reads the descriptions in the bird guide and adds notes to his journal.  Here, Marley references the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Western North America.
  4. Fourth, he listens to the birds’ songs on Dendroica and creates a sonogram of what he hears.
Marley uses Petersons for his Sparrow Study
Marley uses a bird guide book to find and write characteristics and details about the sparrows in his birding homework.

Why do homework this way?

Why not simply read about the birds in the guides or on a website?  What purpose does it serve to write all of this down when it’s not even your own field notes?  Marley has an answer for this: by writing down the information and interpreting it into your own way of thinking, you remember it better.  This is not busywork – you are training your brain to remember these details so they will serve you when you are out in the field.

Marley notes that it’s important to write down your sources for this information: “Think of it as your metadata!”  It is OK to copy from the book as long as you are not selling your work – but you should always credit your sources.  That way, if you need to revisit or modify the information, or if someone else wants to study it too, you know where it originally came from.

Using Dendroica's spectrogram
Marley uses Dendroica’s spectrogram feature to help him “see” the birdsong

A few extra tips

  • When you’re doing your birding homework, don’t worry about making your drawings perfect.  This is practice, and getting hung up on perfection might make it harder for you to complete the exercises.
  • Some birds, such as sparrows, have different dialects depending on where they are from. For example, a white-crowned sparrow from your area might sound very different from a white-crowned sparrow who lives somewhere else, so try to find a song sample that’s from your region.  If you can’t, try listening to multiple song samples from different areas and seeing where the similarities in them fall.
  • Use “it reminds me of” when you are listening to bird songs.  You can liken a particular note of the song to an instrument, or even to words.  Many birders hear phrases inside the songs that help them to remember their rhythm and cadence.
  • Listen to the song more than once.  Really slow down, and use the spectrogram to help you “see” the song.
  • Drink coffee.
birding homework sparrow study
The birding homework is done! For today…

Now that you’ve done your birding homework, go out into the field and try to use what you’ve learned!  You can always go back and add notes when you’ve learned something new, or do more birding homework to further improve your skills.  Interspersing homework with field study might just be the way to go.  Don’t forget your binoculars!

 

To meet another nature journaler who is also a birder, check out Marley’s interview with Christina Baal.

If you are totally new to nature journaling, you can get started here with how to nature journal in 10 steps.

Nature Journaling Reptiles

Nature journaling reptiles is one of my favorite things! Let’s sketch and learn about these animals together with Rachael from Doodlebugs animal adventures. Rachael will share Russian tortoises, weird frogs, as well as a legless lizard! In addition, I will share some other reptile nature journal pages below.

Rachael Wallman is a biologist, mom, and animal lover. She runs Doodlebugs Animal Adventures an animal education business. There are a lot of cool animals living in her house. However, for today’s show we are just going to focus on the reptiles and amphibians.

Nature Journaling Reptiles when they keep moving?!

By this point you might be asking: “How can I draw moving animals?” While Rachael holds up her animals and shares info about them I do my best to capture quick sketches and notes. Here are several tricks I use in this situation:

  1. First, start as soon as possible. The longer you wait to start sketching and nature journaling the harder it will be to start.
  2. Next, think of your drawings as diagrams instead of as definitive works of art. Diagrams can be drawn quickly and capture lots of info.
  3. Draw fast. Draw a lot. Similarly to the last point this takes pressure off your drawing. In reality, if you just keep your pencil moving and you keep looking at your subject then you are succeeding. You are learning. That is what nature journaling is all about.
  4. Fourth, don’t get obsessed with details. Many amphibians and especially reptiles are covered in complex patterns and textures. Trying to capture these details from a moving animal will drive you crazy. Instead, try to capture gesture drawings of the basic shapes and essence of the animal.

    nature journaling reptiles at the san francisco zoo where they have a komodo dragon, the largest living lizard in the world. I use many quick sketches to try to capture the essence of this reptile as I try to draw it live. It was moving a lot. I added the color afterwards to the drawing.
    I kept my pen moving as I tried to capture the shapes of this komodo dragon as it kept moving. I added the color afterwards.
  5. Break your subject up and focus on small parts at a time. For example try just drawing the eye over and over again.
nature journaling reptiles is easier when you try to focus on small parts at a time. You can draw just they lizard eye over and over again for example.
Nature Journal Page of Polychrus marmoratus aka monkey lizard
The Reptiles we nature journaled in this episode
  • The Russian Tortoise was the first reptile we nature journaled in this episode.
  • Rachael took out her big adult gopher snake next! This one was moving slightly less than the tortoise but presented other challenges.
  • We looked at her Crested Gecko next! This animal was super fun and kept licking its eyeball and jumping onto the camera!
  • Then it was finally time for an amphibian with a “Dumpy Frog.”
  • Last but not least we nature journaled a legless lizard!

Learn more about Rachael’s animals and learn from her entertaining posts on her instagram

Do you live in the Orange County area of California? I suggest you check out Rachaels in-person classes or bring her to your school, library, etc! Kids love them! Learn more here.

nature journaling reptiles and how to draw reptiles with doodlebugs animal adventures

If you are just getting started with nature journaling check out this post : How to Nature Journal in 10 Steps

Need help choosing nature journaling supplies? Check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not

Here are some more example pages of nature journaling reptiles in other situations
example page of nature journaling reptiles looking at a live lizard and doing many sketches trying to capture the head shape of this Uranoscodon superciliosus aka mophead iguana.
Nature journal page drawings of a Uranoscodon superciliosus aka mophead iguana. This species was not moving much but I still used some of the same tactics outlined above.
nature journaling reptiles example page showing snake drawings I did from life of captive amazonian puffing snake
Part of a nature journal page showing sketches of puffing snake heads. You can see how I added details to some of the gesture sketches. Despite the fact that this snake was not moving much I still used the same tactics mentioned for how to draw moving reptiles.
nature journaling rattlesnake juvenile in the field.
Here is a page where the reptile was not moving much but I still had a short amount of time to nature journal because it was a field-herping trip. You can see that I separate my drawings, focusing on different elements of the rattlesnake in different micro-drawings. I do several small drawings of the head. I do a side view of the pattern and I even do a drawing showing the snake on a rock and my friend’s hand offering it water.

The Polychrus, Uranascodon, and Amazonian Puffing snake were all nature journaled in the reptile room of my friend Roy. You can check out his herpetoculture practice and species in his care on instagram here. If you are interested in nature journaling reptiles it is a good option to find people who raise reptiles and ask to visit their reptile room. Another option is to go to reptile shows or herpetology clubs.

Intertidal Zone Nature Journaling

What do you like to do during the low tide?  If you’re like Marley Peifer, you might enjoy going to the rocky shore, doing some nature journaling of the intertidal zone, and maybe even harvesting dinner!  Join Marley as he explores the intertidal zone.

Tidepools are a dynamic place to visit, changing rapidly with the ocean and weather.  Marley is quick to note the high “information density”: 

“The main intellectual challenge in nature journaling at the tidepools is: there is so much information density, so many things to look at, so many potential subjects to choose from, that your main challenge is going to be focusing!”

Marley nature journaling intertidal zone
Marley surrounded by mussels nature journaling the low tide
Safety is #1.

Focusing on any one topic at the intertidal zone is one challenge; the other (arguably more important) one concerns logistics.  It is vital to remain aware of your surroundings at all times when you’re this close to the ocean.  The rocks are slippery and easy to fall on; the uneven terrain can catch your foot and get you stuck; and the ocean itself can catch you with its powerful waves.  “Never turn your back on the ocean,” Marley is explaining – right as the ocean splashes him on the butt.  He notes that it is better to come with a friend when exploring the rocky shore or intertidal zone.

Intertidal zone nature journaling page
Zoom-in drawing of a mussel. Watch your step!
So where do you start?

Despite the information density, Marley has a plan!  He follows a setup that helps him get information down quickly without getting overwhelmed:

  1. First, he situates himself so that he can observe safely and as comfortably as possible, and he secures his nature journal with binder clips so the pages won’t fly around while he’s journaling.
  2. Second, he takes down the metadata: when and where he is, and what the weather is like.
  3. Third, he makes a landscape rendering of the place, which really helps to set the scene.
  4. Fourth, he zooms in on a subject.  In this case, it’s one that isn’t moving, which allows for a longer time to observe the subject directly.
  5. Fifth, he keeps his awareness of his surroundings and of any exciting fast-moving natural developments he might want to observe.
Intertidal zone nature journal page
Metadata and landscape of the intertidal zone

Later, he uses his close focus binoculars to try to observe a turnstone – mostly because the bird is far away and he wants to observe it before it flies off, but also because it is safer to observe from a distance, out of the ocean’s reach.  Unfortunately the bird flies away very quickly, but Marley uses the information he has to make a memory drawing.  By recording as many details as he can recall, Marley is cementing those details in his mind.  He is also making it easier for himself to try to research the bird when he gets home.

bird memory drawing in the intertidal zone
A drawing of a turnstone bird from Marley’s memory
How to nature journal a landscapito of the intertidal zone:

Marley has some tips for capturing a landscapito of this special location.  For more landscapito tips, check out Marley’s earlier post here.

  • Punch in your dark values first, being mindful to reserve your whites.  To capture the dark shapes in his landscapito, Marley uses a Pilot Futayaku Brush pen
  • Put more details in the foreground; this is where the eye is drawn.
  • Put in only the suggestion of water at first.
  • When you begin using the watercolors, put in your lightest values first.  In this case, that would be both the sky and the ocean, which Marley puts in at the same time.  He uses John Muir Laws’s watercolor palette, which you can find here, and a Pentel large waterbrush.
  • Add the darker values in the foreground.
  • Now give this first layer of watercolor time to dry; the humidity near the ocean will make your page dry slower than you might be used to.
  • Adjust any values and saturations after the first layer has dried.
  • If needed, add back in your whites.
Marley’s intertidal zone landscapito

When it comes to adding white back into the landscapito, don’t be hard on yourself. Reserving whites is challenging and takes practice!  You can add the whites back in using an opaque media, like the Presto Jumbo Correction Pen Marley uses. Always test the opaque media off to the side first before using it on your main piece, and be sure to stop before you actually feel ready.  Otherwise playing with the correction pen might get too fun, and you might overdo it.

Marley’s practice and pencil miles pay off: he is able to get pages of rich information about his intertidal adventure AND harvest dinner!  ¡Buen provecho!

If you are just getting started with nature journaling check out this post : How to Nature Journal in 10 Steps

Need help choosing nature journaling supplies? Check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not

Nature Journaling Kid

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to nature journal all day, everyday? Does such a dream seem unattainable and far-fetched? Let our resident nature journaling kid, Raybonto, show you how he does it.

This week, Marley set out to answer the question: Who is Raybonto?

When Marley sat down to interview him, Raybonto was quick to show him his recent pages.  First was a field sketch of a tree: he wrote down and labeled the colors he saw, drew himself into the picture, and then estimated in feet the height of the tree. He also did a blind contour, something he says he almost never does in his nature journal, and then he followed up with a values sketch. On that particular day, he did not have any colors with him.

Raybonto's tree study
Raybonto does a field sketch of a tree.

“You can label them and color them back home if you can’t color them in the field, or you can just color them from your memory.”

Later, he was inspired by Marley’s video about how to nature journal while standing up.  

Nature Journaling Kid, Raybonto, sketching while standing
Raybonto uses his bicycle to hold his nature journal steady while he sketches.
Raybonto learns from different teachers

One of the youngest active nature journalers in the community, Raybonto is also one of the most fearless.  Regularly attending classes taught by John Muir Laws, Brian Higginbotham, Melinda Nakagawa, Yvea Moore, and others, Raybonto soaks in their ideas and practices like a sponge before making them his own.  Often, he brings up other naturalists and artists whose work he has studied.

Want to meet a nature journaling teen?  Check out Marley’s interview with Amaya here.

Raybonto fills the whole page

One thing that stands out about Raybonto is the way he uses the space of each page.  Recently John Muir Laws had taught a class on botany, so Raybonto showed Marley his notes.  There were at least 20 individual sketches over the two-page spread, as well as color swatches in every available space.  When Raybonto draws, he doesn’t get tied down to any one drawing; instead he fills his pages completely, drawing a subject multiple times, from different angles, sometimes using different media with each sketch.  He keeps two main sketchbooks: a practice sketchbook, and a field journal.

Nature journaling kid Raybonto's page of snakes

He has also been experimenting with toned paper, using both colored pencils and watercolor.  That brings his total of active sketchbooks to three.

Raybonto is not afraid to experiment

Before his current notebooks, Raybonto had previously been using a watercolor pad as well, though he found he was not able to be as diverse with his media on it.  He felt he had to always include watercolor on the paper, so changing to a different journal allowed him to use whatever media best suited him at any particular time.  

He experiments with any and all media he can get his hands, whether it’s regular paper, toned paper, colored pencils, watercolors, or a 12B graphite pencil – his current favorite.  By experimenting with so many different media, Raybonto all but guarantees he would be able to pick up almost any tool and be able to nature journal with it.  This only adds to his resiliency as a nature journal.

nature journal kid Raybonto draws horses

Raybonto nature journals every single day

For many of us, nature journaling every day might be a goal set too high.  We have other obligations in our lives, and it might feel impossible to squeeze time in for time in nature.  There is no need to beat ourselves up for this.  At the same time, it is more than OK to let Raybonto inspire us. He more than makes the time for nature journaling; rather, it appears he makes nature journaling the center of his day and schedules everything else around it.  Raybonto truly exemplifies devotion and treating nature journaling not as a hobby, but rather as a way of life.

nature journaling kid Raybonto's pencil miles
Our nature journaling kid, Raybonto

If you are totally new to nature journaling you can get started here with how to nature journal in 10 steps.

 

 

How to Nature Journal a Collection

Right now, I’m going to show you how to nature journal using the “collection” technique. This is one of the basic nature journaling approaches. You can use it even if you are just getting started with nature journals. Experienced nature journalers will also benefit from this technique.

The basic idea is simple. You are out walking in a nearby park. You brought your nature journal but don’t know where to start. There are birds everywhere, there are wildflowers, and you also notice tons of lichen on the trees. “This is kind of overwhelming!” You think to yourself.  “I only have 20 minutes for nature journaling.” What should you do?

How to Nature Journal a Collection

  • First, you need to choose the category for your collection. The category can be taxonomical, such as plants in the sunflower family (asteraceae), or a collection of warblers. The category could also be “things growing on other things.” In this case you would “collect” lichens, mosses, epiphytes, or fungus.
  • Second, think about your page organization. Do you want to divide your paper up into squares right away? How do you want to organize the individual subjects of your collection?
  • Third, think about how much time you have and how in depth you want to get with each subject of your collection. If you start off putting in a ton of information and details with the first few subjects and then simplify dramatically with the last few it will look bad.
  • Fourth, start drawing and nature journaling the individual subjects. Use words, images, and numbers for each one. Try to keep a consistent style to facilitate comparison and make the collection look better.
Examples of Nature Journal “Collections”
An example of a nature journal collection with birds for how to nature journal a collection
A nature journal collection by Paula Peeters quickly captures bird species that she heard during her nature journaling session in Australia.
A nature journal collection showing different species of mushrooms
A nature journal collection with 10 different mushrooms collected over the course of an hour. Marley Peifer’s nature journal.
Just getting started with nature journaling?

Need more tips? check out this post. It will walk you through how to nature journal in 10 steps.

Need help choosing nature journaling supplies? Check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not

Nature Journaling Adventure

Nature journaling is more than a hobby. It is more than an art form. In fact it is a way of seeing the world. Whether you are nature journaling at home or going on an extreme adventure it can add meaning to your life. Join me tonight as I forsake the comfort of my home to bring a nature journal adventure to you!

I saw that the tides were going to be very low right after sunset. I wrote it down in my calendar with indelible ink. This would be my only chance all month. If I really wanted to nature journal nocturnal inter-tidal zone again I had to do it. However, as the day got closer the weather forecast did not look good. They were predicting strong winds, cold temperatures, and a big swell on the ocean. Would I give up now? Instead of giving up I used a classic accountability strategy. I invited a friend. Not only was I accountable to another person but it would also be safer and more fun.

nature journaling adventure

In addition to bringing a friend, having the right gear will make or break your nature journal adventure. Below, I share the gear that has helped me the most. If you click on the links to shop for these items I will get a small percentage to support my work.

Best Gear for Nature Journaling at Night
  • Binder Clips: These are one of my most essential art and nature journaling tools! Without them I would not have been able to nature journal in the windy conditions, my paper would warp with watercolor, etc. I usually try to have four of them in my field kit and four at my desk in my studio. You can buy an 8 pack here.
  • Book Light: It is helpful to have two sources of light when nature journaling at night. One is directed always at your paper and one you can direct at your subject or make sure you are not about to step into a deep hole full of sea urchins. A book light that clips onto your journal is useful for many other things as well. I use them as a reading light at home and whenever I go on a nature journal expedition or camping. I can’t find the one I have online but this is a similar one.
  • I’m also interested in experimenting with a book light that hangs around your neck such as this one. If you try it out let me know how it works.
  • Black Light: One of the most fun tools for nature journaling at night is a UV or Black Light. Some plants, animals, and minerals will change colors or stand out more when you shine a black light on them. Sea anemones, certain flowers, scorpions, and certain crystals will show up! Here is a black light that is also water resistant so would be good for night time intertidal zone adventures.
Just getting started with nature journaling?

Need more tips? check out this post. It will walk you through how to nature journal in 10 steps.

Need help choosing nature journaling supplies? Check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not

Birding and Drawing ALL the Birds!

Have you ever had a big birding day or a big year? Christina Baal’s plan is to see and draw all 10,000 birds on the planet! In this talk she describes how she got into birding, her mission, and how combining art and birding improves both!

Are you a birder? If so, then you are familiar with the desire to add more birds to your life list. Obviously, there is something very fun about “collecting” new birds. There is a powerful pleasure response when we see a new species for the first time. Many of us birders have goals, we have aspirations, we plan birding trips onto our family vacations. However, few of us set our sights as high as Christina Baal.

Birding and Drawing All the Birds
Christina’s Painting of the Fairy Pitta
Birding Abroad or Birding at Home?

Christina has been bird-watching in some exotic places. And to complete her list there are still many more places to go. Despite this fact one of her favorite places to bird-watch is around her home. Indeed, the Northeastern United States can be a birding wonderland during the spring migration. Christina eloquently describes it:

One of the most magical things for me is to step out the door in the first week of May when all the wood warblers are just coming in. Everything is singing, all the flowers are out, and it smells amazing. And you just walk out and the world is pulsing around you. And there are just wonderful blobs of color everywhere.

To see more of what Christina is up to check out https://www.drawingtenthousandbirds.com/ You can also see some of her great photos on https://www.instagram.com/drawing1000… And at https://www.facebook.com/drawing10000…

For more tips on how to combine birding and nature journaling see this post.

Just getting started with nature journaling?

Need more tips? check out this post. It will walk you through how to nature journal in 10 steps.

Need help choosing nature journaling supplies? Check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not

Botanical Art and Nature Journaling

Botanical art and nature journaling are essential to how Dion Dior makes meaning of the world. She shares some of her pages, favorite supplies, and technical tips in this talk. In addition she describes the huge privilege and responsibility that nature journalers have. Don’t miss the lightning round!

Dion lives in Noosa, Queensland Australia. She nature journals for herself as well as teaching and leading a local nature journal club. The Noosa Nature Journal Club holds free monthly classes in the Sunshine Coast area.

The Noosa Nature Journal Club is based in the Noosaville Area and is open to anyone with a passion for exploring nature with a field journal. We are a community of nature lovers and artists of all levels who meet to connect, record and appreciate the beautiful natural environments of the Sunshine Coast and beyond

Start With a Leaf

As a result of her teaching experience Dion has noticed that people are often overwhelmed in nature. “Where should I start?” Starting with a leaf is an antidote to this. Therefore Dion just tells people to pick up a leaf.botanical art and nature journaling page by Dion Dior

Botanical Art and Nature Journaling Begins with a Leaf
  1. First of all, leaves are accessible and can be found almost anywhere there are people.
  2. Secondly, leaves provide many avenues of investigation when we look at them carefully.
  3. Thirdly,they provide many fun artistic challenges.
  4. Last but significantly leaves are limited in their scope. A leaf once separated from the plant is a circumscribed subject. It is manageable.
Dion Uses Multiple Journals

Another thing that was interesting to learn was how Dion uses multiple sketchbooks and journals for different purposes.You probably know my thoughts about keeping multiple journals. If not, check out this post called “One Journal to Rule Them All.”

She has at least four different nature journals. One is made with nicer watercolor paper. This journal is mostly for botanical art. Dion mostly uses it at home when she is building her skills as an illustrator. She also has one that is dedicated to practice. She does not worry about what the pages looks like. This book is for fun and learning.

To see more of Dion’s pages check out her Instagram.

More Botanical Art and Other Nature Journal Pages by Dion
Botanical Art combined with other nature journaling subjects in australia
botanical art and other nature journaling
Botanical Art page in nature journal
Just getting started with nature journaling?

Need more tips? check out this post. It will walk you through how to nature journal in 10 steps.

Need help choosing nature journaling supplies? Check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not

Nature Journal Adventure: Kayak Nature Journaling

Join me on a nature journal adventure with my friend and fellow nature journaler JP! It was Superbowl Sunday but we decided to nature journal instead. We saw a dead whale, we saw mergansers, and we even saw a crawdad and cliff-growing succulents.

Just Start Somewhere

Nature journaling in a new element is not easy. I made a whole video about how to nature journal from a kayak and I am still not totally comfortable. You will see how I struggle even getting started when you watch the video. I paddle around looking for a better angle. What should I draw? Where should I park my kayak? Should I nature journal from the shore?

“Start before you’re ready.”

-Steven Pressfield

The most important thing is to just get your journal out and start getting something down on the page. Getting started can be especially hard under the following nature journal adventure circumstances:

  • You are not physically comfortable
  • The environment is distracting
  • There are too many options to nature journal
  • You are worried about your materials getting lost or damaged
  • The art supplies you usually use are not conducive to the adventure

The best solution to all these problems is to clarify your intentions before you go, simplify your materials, and start making marks on your page as soon as possible.

nature journal adventure on kayak

I was really glad for the opportunity to go on this adventurous nature journaling trip with JP. To see more of JP’s work check out her Instagram. She also shares some of her professional calligraphy work on there. https://www.instagram.com/jpthistlecreek/  In addition JP is the leader of the Napa Valley Nature Journal Club.

Just getting started with nature journaling?

Need more tips? check out this post. It will walk you through how to nature journal in 10 steps.

Do you need help building your nature journaling kit and choosing supplies? Check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not

Birding and Nature Journaling: a Live Conversation with Timothy Joe

Birding and nature journaling should be an obvious match. That’s because you will be more observant, patient, and full of wonder if you do both. You could take my word for it. However, you could also hear it from the mouth of Timothy Joe. Tim has loved nature and art since a young age. In addition to birding he practices nature journaling, watercolor and gouache painting, oil painting, and pastels. In this live conversation we talk about his art, we talk about how racism has affected his experience, and we talk about how we can move forward as a nature journaling community.

I first found out about Timothy Joe from his Instagram  where I saw one of birding and nature journaling can be done anywherehis posts under the hashtag #naturejournaling. In addition to his artwork he also posts about his classes on Instagram. I saw that he was teaching a “Birds and Nature Art Journaling” class. Pretty soon, I was scrolling through a bunch of his other artwork.

Besides birds Tim also does a lot of rural landscapes, especially those that contain historic buildings. Similarly to nature journaling Tim finds joy and meaning in researching and sharing the background story of these buildings. For him, the story is as important as the visual which is demonstrated in the following quote from his artist statement.

Everyday things that usually would not get a second glance can become beautiful works of art. There is a message in every scene, whether it is a location, personal belonging, or building. There are so many beautiful subjects that should have its place on my canvas or any other painting surface. My mission is to capture these hidden treasures before time erases them completely.

Timothy Joe with one of his rural landscape paintings that he does in addition to birding and nature journaling

Why Aren’t All Birders Nature Journaling?

With all these obvious benefits you might wonder why don’t all birders also nature journal?

  1. First of all, many birders have never heard of nature journaling.
  2. Second, many are in too big a hurry to stop and sketch. They just want to check off more life birds.
  3. They are too focused on using all their energy to learn bird names and see more birds and be more hardcore birders.
  4. Finally and significantly, birders are very emotionally attached to their subject and that makes them afraid to try to draw them. Compared to the precision of photography their early sketches of birds could feel awkward. Since they love their subject so much they want to do it justice.
Birding and Nature Journaling While Black

Timothy shared his experience and perspective as a black man in predominantly white hobbies and the outdoors. Later in the conversation we talked about positive ways to make these hobbies and the outdoors more welcoming. The first challenge for him when doing birding or going to an art event is looking around at the other participants. He is often the only black man. He has to reassure himself and the other participants that he is meant to be there. Sometimes they ask if he is lost. He often gets second glances. Just because of the color of his skin. This would be enough to make many of us give up. However, Tim has developed a protocol that he follows.

How to Nature Journal While Black
  1. Show Off Your Supplies. Tim always makes sure he is wearing an artist’s apron, has his easel out and all his art or birding stuff very visible. This type of flagging shows off what his intentions are. Many black birders follow similar rules and try to make it extra obvious that they are birding. This is unfair and should not be necessary but many people in the USA are consciously or unconsciously prejudiced to be suspicious of black people walking around. This is no joke-innocent black people have been killed because of this. As a husband and a father Tim does worry about his safety.
  2. Be Mindful of Your Surroundings. Birders and nature journalers and landscape painters are supposed to be observant. If you are black in the USA you have to be even more observant. Tim tries to pay attention to where he is and what is going on with the people around him.
  3. Choose Your Locations Carefully. Unfortunately, there are locations that Tim would love to paint but feel too unsafe. Certain rural areas or locations that are too out of the way. He has to choose not to go to these places. Black birders have shared this as well.
Bird-Watching While Black

If you want to see another example of protocols, this one by the wildlife ecologist and black birder Dr Drew Lanham check, out this video.

Obviously, neither Dr Drew Lanham nor Timothy Joe should have to feel like they have to follow rules just to do what they love. Even if they do follow these rules it is possible they will be harassed or worse such as the incident with Chris Cooper in Central Park.

Birding and Nature Tours at the Joe Farm

Timothy shared about his family’s farm and all the accessible nature to be had there. They have birding events, wheelchair access, and art events. I want to go some day! Find out more at their website.

Just getting started with nature journaling?

Need more tips? check out this post. It will walk you through how to nature journal in 10 steps.

Need help choosing nature journaling supplies? Check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not