Questions have followed me through my adult life, and I have embraced each one.

The search for answers sparked a journey into nature and a lifetime of observing the world around me. Bird watching has certainly been an area that has fueled my curiosity.

I traveled looking for birds in my 20s and 30s, and they led me on a fanciful journey.

Birds have travel built into their DNA. They have places that are important to their survival — birds, after all, need habitats. 

Shorebirds, ocean birds, and little far-flung wanderers are all living their lives “on the wing.” They have needs: food, water, and shelter from the storms.     

      

Like the birds, I, too, was learning about myself as I followed, observing their lives and patterns.

Learning, though, has not always been easy for me. I am dyslexic, or at least, that is what the school system labeled the way I learn at the time. I prefer to call it “tactile learning.” Drawing and writing down what I see is hands-on learning for me. And, through this, I discovered nature journaling. It slowed me down and helped me to see below the surface.

In college, a teacher introduced me to Nicolaides’ method of drawing. It teaches that the first function of an artist is to observe. The technique says that, “Learning to draw is really a matter of learning to see, to see correctly, and it means a good deal more than merely looking with your eyes.”

Of course, bird watching requires a great deal of observation. As the years passed, the more questions I found to explore.

That sense of exploration led me to settle in the Golden Isles, where I am surrounded by birds and the habitats that sustain them. I have been able to easily create habitat maps of the animals that call this coast home.

I am an artist, a birder, and I became a researcher through drawing. Nature journaling is a way to explore our coast. I am here because I can walk to the marsh or the beach. I can spend some time in the shady live oaks of the maritime forest. And, the longer I live here, the more I appreciate this area’s uniqueness.

An ocean wave is beautiful, but nature journaling takes that a step further, exploring the quality of the wave — its many parts and colors.

The tree I pass on the way to the beach is gnarly after years of twisting and turning in the winds. It is unique to the area, worthy of stopping and observing. 

As we spend time drawing the twisted tree, that is not all we see. A bird is on one of its branches. We can study that bird, draw that bird, and learn it is a Downy Woodpecker. What is the plant on the tree where the Downy is working?

Draw it, study it, and learn it is a resurrection fern. The woodpecker is eating bugs. Suddenly, you have the drawing with some notes, along with side drawings of the woodpecker and the bug. You are nature journaling.

To learn more, I recommend a book by John Muir Laws, The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling.

Nature journaling is a great way to get a young person outside and learning. It encourages curiosity, which leads to learning, and can ultimately lead to peace.