How to write a nature journal

Start to document the natural world around you - making notes and sketches will transform your knowledge.

Nature journal

You don’t need to wait until the New Year to start a nature journal. Regularly jotting down what you see and hear will hone your naturalist skills, enabling you to identify a wider range of species. 

Keeping notes reveals subtle changes from one year to the next – it's great to flick through old journals to see when you last noticed a species or piece of behaviour. The rewards are astonishing – and the longer that you do it, the greater the benefits.

Here are seven tips to get you started: 

1 Record the moment Get into the habit of putting pen to paper as you see things, otherwise the freshness of your observations may be lost. Try to carry your journal with you when you’re out and about – it encourages you to notice details.

2 Jot down context The date, time, weather and habitat can be as important as any of your physical observations.

3 Sketch intriguing details. The act of drawing focuses your mind and is an efficient way of recording information – this isn’t about being an accomplished artist. Taking photos is useful, but is no substitute for a quick annotated sketch.

4 Enjoy it Don’t feel you have to be an expert nature writer. This journal is for you, not public consumption; there’s no ‘right’ way to write. Use the journal to capture things you enjoy most.

5 Be selective You can’t record everything! Concentrate on noting things that seem to be unfamiliar or spark your interest.

6 See the seasons By recording changes in the season – such as the first and last dates of migratory birds, flowering times, the appearance of certain insects and varying abundance of different species – your journal helps you get under the skin of your local patch and understand its habitats better.

7 Remember your camera Always take a camera or smartphone out with you when writing a nature blog. The day you decide not to will be the day you see a species you have never seen before. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to photograph or film wildlife. 

Want to write about your local wildlife patch? Find out how you can become a BBC Wildlife Local Patch Reporter by joining our Forum. 

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