Nature Journaling for Birders – Online

Thanks to Nicky’s support, we started with three of us on Zoom at 13h30 on the 15th November 2020. Unfortunately, a fourth person was not able to connect successfully.

We began with a brief introduction to nature journaling – the hand recording of observations, thoughts and feelings while experiencing nature. More details about the what, why and how of nature journaling are described in activity reports for 20th November 2019 and 20th March 2020. 

We followed the process set out below. A clear process guides nature journaling practices and focusses skills building. 

Observation and recording are key skills for birders.

“Observation does not happen with our senses. It happens in our brains.” JML

Our brains work to be energy efficient. They are primed for safety and survival. The amount of information received by our brains far exceeds that which than can be processed meaningfully. This efficiency relies on shortcuts, biases and assumptions. We make sense of the world based on our previous experiences, context, languages, worldviews and other factors. 

“We assume that if we can see (or hear), then we know how to observe. 

But true observation is a skill that we must practice and learn.” JML

We can become better observers by:

  • Slowing down – hand recording is key
  • Focusing with purpose, curiosity and attentiveness to wonder – use prompts such as

“ I notice … I wonder … It reminds me of …”

  • Having a strategy for recording – use words, drawing and numbers

We studied this example for recording strategies we could use.

The nature journaling process is so simple that it seems obvious. However, when applied with focus and curiosity, it can lead to profound results.

“(W)hen I am drawing I look more closely and ask and answer questions that I would not have considered if I was just watching.  In that sense, drawing becomes a way to interact with the birds, and drawing leads to understanding.  The simple act of trying to draw something can change the way you look at the world.” 

David Sibley, Foreword “The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds by John Muir Laws

Activity – Mapping a Special Spot

Maps are useful tools for recording sights, sounds, features of birds in their habitats. Helpful components can include:

We looked at these two examples before, going outside.

We spent 45 minutes outside for a nature journaling activity. Each of us chose a spot that we can go to easily and often, like a veranda with a view.  This is sometimes called a special, secret or sit spot. We started by drawing a map of the place. We then observed and recorded birds, other wildlife and the habitat.

by Cati Vawda

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