Nature Observation: How to See More With Your Nature Journal

Nature observation used to be essential for your survival. You would not be here today if your ancestors were not observant. This was the case for most of human history. If you didn’t pay attention to plants you could get poisoned. And if you didn’t notice patterns in the tall grass you might get eaten. So how does this apply today?

Your survival is no longer as dependent on your observation skills in nature. However, your quality of life and the richness of your experience can still be improved by developing this skill. In fact, many modern humans walk through the world like zombies. We don’t notice the world around us.

“You see, but you do not observe. (…)The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.”

Sherlock Holmes

Holmes would have made a great nature journaler and I wish he were still here to teach us. But since he isn’t here are 12 observation tips I came up with on a recent nature journaling outing.

12 Nature Observation Tips

1. Have a focus. Start with a focus in mind and you will be able to observe more deeply and not get distracted. A taxon target or other is a good way to do this. Choose a taxa such as plants (kingdom), or birds (class), or bees (family.) You can also focus on a location, a type of interaction etc.

2. Use binoculars. Sherlock always had a magnifying glass because it allowed him to zoom in. If you use close-focus binoculars like I do you can look at close details and further away objects.

3. Sit still for a bit. While sitting still is a lost art in the modern world it is essential for better nature observations. By staying in one spot for a while you will see more animals as they get used to your presence.

4. Draw a diagram. I’m surprised Sherlock didn’t use this tool more. Today we know that drawing is one of the most powerful learning tools. You will notice way more just by trying.

5.Zoom in and Zoom Out. Most people see the world from the same magnification all the time. Practice zooming in and out intentionally to notice more.

6. Don’t Let What You Think You Know Get in the Way of Learning New Things. We have a lot of baggage when we go into nature and we are the most over-informed generation of humans. This information can be wrong and it can prevent us from noticing real things.

7. Don’t Be Too Focused. Don’t focus so much that you are not aware of new and perhaps extraordinary things that happen around you.

8. Quantify Your Observations. Use specific numbers and measurements instead of vague words such as: many, a few, or a lot.

9. Go Deeper With One Subject. Take the time to drop in deeper with one subject. In this way you are bound to find something of interest even if the subject isn’t your favorite at first.

10. Verbalize What You See. Do not worry about what other people think. It is ok to talk to yourself. In fact, by verbalizing what you see you will improve your recall and enhance your visual memory.

11. Compare Observations of Similar Things. The human brain notices more when it compares two things than when it looks at things in isolation. This is called a joint comparison.

12: Look Closer. A lot of the most interesting and important things in the world are small. By looking closer you will learn a lot more.

Nature Observation Skills Will Help You See More in Nature

If you follow all of these nature observation tips you will be a Nature Sherlock in no time!

Check out more fun how-to nature journal videos here.

10 Landscape Painting Tips on a Hot Day!

Did you see my last video and want to learn more? In this one I share the technical side…Let me know where you are at in your learning journey. What do you need help with?

 

Learn to Nature Journal at the Hallberg Butterfly Gardens!

 

I’m super excited to be collaborating with the biodiverse pollinator sanctuary Hallberg Butterfly Gardens! We will be offering an introduction to nature journaling course at their site in Sebastopol. Insects and pollinators are not only fascinating to study and draw but they play a huge part in our ecosystems and have been seriously endangered in recent years. As nature journalers, our observations can play an important role in citizen science and creating a record of these species in our areas.

Supplies will be included!  The class is offered at a sliding scale. $45 minimum to register. Please use the ticket link or contact us to sign up. info@hallbergbutterflygardens.org (707)823-3420

 

Scope Out Shollenberger Wetlands!

In May, the North Coast Nature Journal Club will scope out the marshes of Shollenberger park near Petaluma. This convenient park provides ample opportunities to sketch water birds and learn about California’s coastal wetlands, the most endangered of all our ecosystem types! The Audobon Society and local docents report 225 species of birds! There will also be expansive views of the long extinct volcano that is Sonoma mountain. We will focus on drawing and learning about the plants and birds that inhabit this area and we will also practice composing and executing small landscapes showcasing Sonoma mountain in the background.

Meet at the parking lot at 9:00. Earlier than our normal time! We are meeting earlier to beat the heat a little bit.

The address below might only get you to the intersection of Cader ln if you are following a GPS. From South Mcdowell blvd you will turn onto Cader lane/ Schollenberger park rd and continue to the parking lot. It could be a warm sunny day and we will be out in the open so plan accordingly. Sun hats, sunscreen, lots of water. The walk is very gentle, flat, and wheelchair and scooter accessible on a paved route. We will return to the parking lot before the potluck so you can keep bulkier food and beverage items in your car. Bring a light folding stool if you have one, we will do some more extended landscape and plant paintings at this location.

As usual be prepared to get super-curious in nature and connect with like minded people! Bring a potluck item to share for lunch around 12:30.

Suggested donation $20

Rainy Day? Eleven Nature Journal Ideas

It has been a really rainy/snowy winter, but that should not keep us from nature journaling. I spent a rainy day making this video with Eleven nature journaling ideas you can practice when the weather outside is frightful.

If you like this video please thumbs up and subscribe to my channel. If you have any other good rainy day ideas let me know in the comments.

 

More Than Just Drawing Plants

It is easy to think that nature journaling is just about drawing plants and animals when it is actually so much more. In this video I describe some of the key characteristics that make nature journaling so revolutionary and accessible.

Special Access to Nature Journal at the Laguna!

In November, I have the opportunity to lead a crew of nature journalers on some normally inaccessible trails in the Laguna de Santa Rosa! I am really excited to be teaming up with Lapndpaths and the Laguna Foundation again for this trip. Come along for this fun learning adventure.

There will even be snacks and beverages before we head out 🙂

Thanks to Landpaths this class is free if you pre-register here

Spaces are filling up fast so take advantage of this opportunity.

Be An Untutored Savage

Shocking news! Despite popular rumors to the contrary, becoming a great naturalist is not about memorizing more scientific names.

Nature Journal Inside! No Excuses

I had to cancel the nature journaling field trip for today but here is a video that I made to motivate you to nature journal at home! Consider it your homework 🙂 I guarantee it will help you maintain your sanity if you are stuck inside from the smoke:

Please send me an email if you have any other good nature journaling ideas for indoors on rainy or smoky days!