Nature Journal Methods

Personal Field Guides


Some of you may be wondering- but what about painting and drawing? I want pretty pictures in my nature journal! Well this post is for you! Finally, we get to the heart of things! “Personal Field Guides” (which is my term for what many just think of as nature journals) are really kind of the culmination and expansion of all the other methods. Making a field guide entry involves mining through which ever other methods you choose for your research, adding in the research from others (via internet searches and book resources) and putting it together in a well thought out and organized method. Below, you can find several examples my and my children’s “Personal Field Guide” journal entries. Most of them were inspired by either “Phenology (Calendar of First) entries” or “Species Catalog” entries. We then looked up pictures and biofacts (and sometimes poetry) about the chosen organism, added our own observations and drew and labeled the species. This kind of journal entry is a labor of love and a bit of a meditative practice as well. Usually a “Personal Field Guide” entry will take between 30 minutes and an hour and a half, depending on who the naturalist/ artist is and what the subject is.

The entry of the snapdragon was particularly fun. We happened to find the little goblin skull shaped seed pods in a large flower pot outside of a Target store. We were all fascinated by the seedpods and they carefully made there way into several journal entries that week.

Most of our entries are first inspired by the things we see, but my butterfly Field Guide was a little different. I made it last spring after attending a wonderful workshop put on by the Butterfly Pavilion. The workshop was about a citizen science project to monitor different species of butterflies in Colorado. During the workshop, I realized how few butterflies I knew. I had thought there were cabbage White butterflies and Monarch butterflies. Turns out there are at least another 70 or so Butterfly Species here in Colorado that I had completely overlooked (and Monarchs are not all that common in Colorado). I decided to learn the 15 most common. But, it was still too early for most of the butterflies to be out. So, I spent hours that spring looking up pictures and information on the host plants of the different Colorado butterflies. And it worked! By the time summer rolled around I knew the intricate patterns and subtle differences that mark those 15 most common butterflies. It was a thrill when I saw each “in the wild” for the first time that summer and was able to recognize them– like spotting a movie star at the airport!

So there you go, I saved the best for last, but I hope you can see the unique benefit of each of the different 6 methods. Remember that each entry doesn’t need to be beautiful; all entries hold tremendous value because they all hold the memories of time spent out of doors!

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