The Nature Journal

my nature journal, 18 April 2009
my nature journal, 18 April 2009

Nature journaling is recording the natural happenings you see every day. Whether you write, draw, take photographs or press flowers, the result is the same, you end up creating a book that you love. You might like to take a look at my notebooks, I’ve been keeping since 1990. You don’t have to travel far or to some exotic locale. Your backyard or local park is just fine.

In fact, I like keeping a nature journal of my backyard better than a field trip to someplace new. By studying what goes on in my backyard, I get to know the place I live on a much deeper level.

If you keep personal diaries and would like a change, this might be just what you were searching for. It is easy, inexpensive and a great stress reducer.


pages from my nature journal
pages from my nature journal

Keeping a nature journal or naturalist’s notebook can be a wonderful hobby.

It is a satisfying way to get to know and understand the land that you live in. My notebooks help me to know, share, live respectfully and protect the land.

  • For writers, it is useful for generating ideas and first drafts. Observations can find their way into natural history essays, poems, and other writings.
  • For artists, it can contain field sketches, detailed drawings, and photographs that can be used to base finished works on.
  • For crafters, a book filled with bark or leaf rubbings, prints and pressed flowers and plants can be quite satisfying.
  • For gardeners, it can record the bloom times, insect hatchings, and harvest times of fruit and vegetables.
  • For naturalists with a scientific bent, it can follow the Grinnell Naturalist’s Field Journal system. It consists of a field notebook, field journal, species account, and catalog. You can use one or more of these components. I use a modified Grinnell format myself. See also citizen science.

white oak twig from my winter nature journal
white oak twig from my winter nature journal

The Seasonal Nature Journal

Another approach is the Seasonal Nature Journal. A chronicle is kept of the changing seasons and the thoughts and feelings that arise from watching ever turning the wheel of the year.

And of course, you can combine approaches. Knowing about the many approaches can help you to develop your own personal style. So what do you write down? What do you draw? What materials do you need? Start by reading the observation checklist. It is a very basic list and a good guideline to start off every entry. From there move to choose a place and a guiding theme. And then on to journal writing prompts.

And if you are still hesitant, I can assure you that since 1990, I have not once been visited by the journal police. Even with saying that, a naturalist’s notebook is not meant to be private but is often shared with others. Keeping a separate personal diary where you can record your private thoughts and feelings solves the privacy issue.

But, then again, your naturalist’s notebook or field journal is yours, to do with what you will. My task is to guide the newcomers so they can make their own self-made path.

The Spring Nature Journal
The Summer Nature Journal

The Autumn Journal 
The Autumn Nature Journal Writing Prompts
Keeping a Winter Nature Journal with Writing Prompts

Donna's nature journal April 18, 2015
Donna’s grinnell style nature journal for April 18, 2015

Citizen Science and Nature Journaling

Not everyone likes draw. Some people keep a word-dominated nature journal. Perhaps they like writing essays or collecting data. Henry David Thoreau keep a nature journal with very few sketches or illustrations. Thoreau’s journal is used by contemporary climate scientists and ecology to gauge the rate of climate change or the health of the land.

And simple sketches, drawing, or diagrams are just fine. You don’t have to put down extreme details. Just enough to get the information across.

And you don’t have to draw, you can take photographs. I photograph butterflies, birds, and insects all the time.

You can be a citizen scientist and take part in actual, honest-to-goodness scientific projects. You can always copy your collected data into your journal. A citizen scientist collects data for research studies. The data is uploaded into a special website that scientists access. There are many scientific citizen projects on the internet. A website that is a clearinghouse for projects is

I wrote a booklet on using the Grinnell Scientific Nature Journal method.

Grinnell Scientific Overview 
Phenology is Deep Ecology

Collecting Phenology Data

Simple Equipment for Keeping a Journal

You don’t need a lot of equipment. A few well-chosen items is all you need. A journal, binoculars, hand lens, and maybe a camera are the main items I use. I splurged on great binocular. But, I use a used decade-old camera to take photographs. I wrote a post on keeping your naturalist equipment simple.

cover_Grinnell Scientific Nature Journal

Grinnell Scientific  Nature Journal

by Donna L. Long

Available on as a PDF download and paperback

For next-level nature journal keepers. Start keeping nature notes that will be valuable for scientific study now and in the future.

For students who are studying STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)

For those nature journal keepers who wish to donate their valuable notes to local libraries, environmental centers, and historical societies.

More Posts on Nature Journals Keeping

Nature Journal Page Layouts

Best Books for Nature Journal Keeping and Drawing

Choosing Field Guides (with videos)

Choosing a Hand Lens for Nature Study

Choosing Binoculars for Nature Study

Simplicity: Basic Equipment for the Naturalist

Start a Nature Blog

The Best Books on Keeping a Nature Journal

These are affiliate links for

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

Grinnell Scientific Nature Journal by Donna L. Long (not an link)




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