Activity of the Week

Nature Journals

Last updated:

February 20, 2012

You don't have to leave your house or yard to enjoy a little bit of nature. Whether you live in the city or on a farm, one terrific ongoing activity is keeping a nature log. What birds migrate through your area in the fall? Do you have hummingbirds? Do you know what flowers in your yard they prefer? Did you see a red fox early one morning? Keeping a log will educate you, connect you with nature, and even lead you to other nature enthusiasts in your area.

What you'll need:

  • A window

  • A log book (a simple small notebook will work fine)

  • Eventually you may want to collect photos or even create drawings

  • Optional: birdseed and bird feeders

  • Optional: a camera, binoculars, video camera

Why it's great:

  • You'll start to notice that no matter where you are, there's a bounty of nature around you.

  • You'll begin to notice patterns -- what week the camellias bloom, when the Canadian geese migrate through your area, even when the raccoons who live just behind your house are most noisy.

  • Animal life is interesting to observe -- they're funny, jealous, affectionate; they steal food from one another, have babies, care for others in their circle -- and all this mirrors our own relationships.

  • Nature studies provide a way to continue to learn. Choose your favorite animal and do a study. Go to the library and check out books, rent DVDs, go online and find out what they eat, what they do to attract a mate.

  • Nature logs can be shared with other family members, neighbors, and friends. It's a fun hobby to share with grandchildren, and you can even get others to start logging the nature changes they notice.

  • Nature logs create a rhythm to your day. You might want to get up early to catch the heron that likes to visit your backyard in the morning; or you begin to notice that the same hummingbird comes to your feeder at noon, so you eat lunch on the back porch -- with your camera or binoculars ready.

  • Nature connects us to something bigger than ourselves. We're not as focused on our next medication round or doctor's appointment -- not when there's a blue jay fight every afternoon!

How to do it:

  • Choose a window or the porch, or venture outside to a favorite sitting spot. Try to visit this spot at the same time daily. Animals (like us) are creatures of habit, so you'll begin to notice the same squirrels come back each day.

  • Keep your nature log -- and perhaps a video camera -- nearby. Jot down or take note of patterns.

  • Consider putting up a bird feeder or birdbath, or think of other ways to interact (have bread for ducks).

  • Remember to notice the plants in your area -- when they bloom, if they get a fungus, or what week they lose their leaves in the fall. Take a tour of your own yard and surrounding area. It's amazing what you'll discover.

  • Join an online forum or nature club in your area to find other nature enthusiasts.

  • Take photos, make simple drawings, and create your own illustrated field guide to keep and share.

  • Talk about your nature log findings at the dinner table or when you gather with neighbors. It's more fun when it's shared.

Image by Flickr user nosha under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike licensing agreement.