Take notice of nature

Start your journey of being totally present in the moment and become a keen observer of the natural world around you.

I suspect that if you read this newsletter and visit, you may already be a naturalist — someone attuned to and enthusiastic about the natural world.

You love seeing the first hummingbird of the spring season. You sniff out Texas mountain laurel’s bloom and spill of ‘grape Kool aid’ scent in the early March air. Maybe you even notice an owl hooting at night year after year, but don’t recall if it’s in fall or winter.

Whatever your current observation skills are you can improve them by starting a nature journal to become a keen observer of the natural world around you.

Have you ever thought about the reliable way these happy events occur? Our own busy worlds are filled with responsibilities, technology, commutes and unexpected activities. But nature gives a reassuring dose of consistency — with patterns that unfold season to season, year to year, decade to decade.

A nature journal is a place to record specifically nature observations and reflect on them. It’s a way to give yourself the gift of time outdoors, observing things around you: date, time of day, weather, smells, sites, sounds and feelings you experience in that moment. Once you start looking with purpose and recording it, the more you’ll see, know and love your own backyard.

You don’t need to venture on a miles-long hike to do it. As you walk the trash bin to the curb, pause to take in your surroundings. Listen for birds. Can you hear a bird song you aren’t familiar with? Feel and smell the wind. Is it cool or warm? Then proceed with the trash can task.

Spend a moment writing down what you experienced. Before you call it a night, step outside to see the nocturnal world awakening. Owls, raccoons, fireflies or moths are a few of the creatures that stir while we slumber.

If you find a subject that sparks your interest, lean into it: wildflower identification, bird migration times, fall color changes, the wren nest in your hanging basket and the days it takes for her brood to go from egg to fledgling. Record dates, observations and how you felt. In the following years, find out if things happen at the same time of year, maybe even the same day of the year. If you want to learn even more, look it up, ask an expert or seek out a group that’s involved in the topic.

A nature journal can be store-bought, homemade, a daily planner or a notebook. What matters is the content. I create a five-year calendar journal for recording observations to see a year-to-year comparison. You can create the style you like and start your journey of seeing your backyard in a whole new way — being totally present in the moment. Enjoyment awaits and surprises are sure to unfold!

Picture of Gail Dugelby
Gail Dugelby
Gail Dugelby is a SAWS conservation consultant with deep roots in San Antonio and the Hill Country. She spent her youth climbing trees, playing in the Guadalupe River, and exploring the outdoors. This drives her passion for nature and our diverse environment, especially our most precious natural resource — water. Given the choice, she would be outside all the time.
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