Nature Journal Themes

Birding Journal - more ducks on the Wissahickon Creek
Birding Journal – more ducks on the Wissahickon Creek

Nature journal themes provide focus. They point to a direction or goal to move toward.

By choosing one or more nature journal themes to focus on, your nature study will be much more fruitful. Of course, you can observe and record what catches your eye and ears. But sometimes, when you are feeling a bit lost and of out of sorts, a little direction puts you back on track.

Choose your place or area first. Once you have chosen your place or places, these nature journal writing prompts can be the theme of one notebook or many.

One topic can be followed in many different places or just one special place can be observed over many years.

You can create personalized field guides or do in-depth research

Focus on…

  • Weather – Record the daily weather signs and changes, severe weather signs. Learn to forecast the weather.
  • Garden journal – Study individual plants. Record plantings, harvests, pests emergence, birds, butterflies, seasonal changes, weeds, bloom dates and goings-on in your garden.
  • Native plants – Record all the plants native to your area. Identify invasive species and eliminate them from your garden.
  • Edible and medicinal plants – learn to identify the useful plants of your chosen place.
  • Insects and other crawlers – do in-depth studies of butterflies, moths, and bugs.
  • Endangered species – Study the local endangered plants and animals and perhaps work to preserve them.
  • Seasons -Join the flow of the cycle of happenings in spring, summer, autumn or winter.
  • Mushroom and other fungi – What are the most common species? Which ones are edible? What are their growing conditions? Where do they grow and why?
  • Backyard birds – Record their numbers, favorite foods, favorite feed, nesting activity, water needs, migration patterns. Share your data with citizen science projects like Project FeederWatch, managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
  • List the most common birds, butterflies, trees, or other inhabitants of your chosen area. Who are the winter residents, summer migrants and all-year around inhabitants?
  • Trees – What are the common ones for your area. Who lives on or in them? When do they bloom? How are they pollinated? When and to what color do their leaves change? Which trees bloom or drop their leaves first? What can be made of them?
  • Rocks and minerals – What are your local soils made of? What color are the minerals,? Are there mines nearby? What is the environmental impact of mining in your area?
  • Indigenous/Native American History -What Indigenous/Native Americans live or lived in your area? What are their histories and cultures? How is the way they live/lived in the land different from later residents.? What plants do they use?
  • Phenology – Keep track of the seasonal blooming of plants,  migration of animals and discover the relationships among seasonal natural phenomena.

The Best Books on Keeping a Nature Journal – links to

Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You by Clare Walker and Charles E. Roth 

The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws

The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families, and Classrooms by Clare Walker Leslie


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