Nature Observer – Nature Journal Project


September and October 2018 have been super busy months for me, but I’ve tried to make time for my nature journal. It isn’t always easy to squeeze in the time to create a page and that’s why I find the Nature Observer guided journal (shown below) so valuable. I can pull it out and jot a few thoughts and observations down in less than five minutes if necessary.

There was a comment last month on the simplicity of my nature journal. In my experience, a nature journal can be successful even if it isn’t full of beautifully drawn sketches or elaborate narrations.

I’ve always aimed for a simple sketch, date, and caption. I feel that getting something in my journal is better than nothing. If you’re struggling with getting started or finding inspiration for your nature journal, scroll down to the link below to my nature journal page on my website. On that page you will find my Once-a-Month Nature Journal project ideas. These specific ideas can help get you going with your own journal or help you to get your children started with simple but meaningful nature journal pages.

Here are my pages from the last two months for your inspiration.

clarks nutcracker nature journal

I was hoping to catch a glimpse of this interesting bird on a recent trip to Crater Lake National Park. I was not disappointed! I created this page after doing a bit of research and it was fun to note some basic facts about the Clark’s nutcracker.

gray squirrel nature journal page

Gray squirrels are an everyday visitor to our yard. We spotted some young squirrels and I captured a fantastic photo of one that I wanted to include in my journal. Not every page needs a sketch and if you feel like using a photo….I give you permission!

Little deschutes river nature journal page

At the change of the season, I wanted to record a few thoughts and a sketch of my view from our back window. Of course, the watercolor doesn’t capture the view exactly but it does remind me of the way the colors and light change with the season.

oak leaf nature journal

We spent time in California in September and I made sure to get out and enjoy the oaks. There are just a few things I really miss about living in California and the oaks are high up on that list. I created a page to remind myself of that trip, the hikes we took, and the variety of oaks there are to learn about.

meadowlark nature journal page

I really am a big bird nerd and the thrill of spotting a new bird in our backyard never goes away. I’m going to be alert next spring and summer to see if I can hear our meadowlark singing. I love the flute like sound of their song so hopefully I can experience that next year!

tahoe autumn nature journal page

My nature journal also functions as a travel journal. I love visiting Lake Tahoe because there are so many things to see and appreciate. On this particular trip, we went on the hunt for colorful aspens and were rewarded with a beautiful view. In addition, I made a few notes about other things we observed, including the orange sulphur butterfly.

Here’s a page from my Nature Observer journal showing how I record just a few thoughts each day to create a record of things I noted in nature. You might notice the letter H on some of the days which indicates that we had hummingbirds at our feeder. I’m trying to be better about noticing when the migratory birds come and go each year. I find it fascinating.

Nature Observer page

Do you want some more specific nature journal ideas? Click over to my nature journal page and scroll down for the Once-a-Month Nature Journal Project idea buttons. There’s a lot there to keep you busy!

Getting Started with Nature Journals

Don’t forget that I’m sharing a nature journal page each week on my Instagram account if you want to see the pages as they unfold. Follow me here: Instagram – outdoorhourchallenge. And, if you want to create a page and share it on your Instagram for me to see, use the hashtag #OHCnaturejournal.



I just completed a new downloadable file that gathers all of the Drawing with Children – Nature Journal Style lesson plans into one place. This has been a much requested item in the past and I finally made time to get the file together.

Click over to see the first lesson and scroll down in the entry to find the place to download the complete series of drawing lessons to use with your family. Let me know what you think about the plan!


Autumn Bird and Woodpecker Nature Study


The Outdoor Hour Challenge this week is to go outside and observe a bird. If you want to learn about a specific bird, the lesson in the Handbook of Nature Study referenced below is for the woodpecker. Take some time to follow the links in the archived challenge to view a variety of woodpeckers and determine which ones live in your neighborhood.

Autumn Bird Study @handbookofnaturestudy

After your outdoor time, no matter what bird you found to study, follow up with the Autumn Bird notebook page found in the  free notebook page bundle available here and on the Autumn tab of the website.

Autumn Bird and Woodpecker Nature Study – Handbook of Nature Study Lesson 15 (pages 70-74)

Archive Outdoor Hour Challenge – Click the link above to take you to the original challenge.

Downy woodpecker

Make sure to click the link below to read the entire Outdoor Hour Challenge with helpful links, nature study ideas, printable notebooking pages, and suggested follow-up activities.

Autumn Bird and Woodpecker Nature Study – Handbook of Nature Study Lesson 15 (pages 70-74)


Printable Bird Feet Grid and Advanced Study Notebook Pages

A suggested activity in this Outdoor Hour Challenge is to look at birds’ feet and make some comparisons. This part of the study can be done with any two birds you can observe in person. Use the notebook pages linked above to record your research and observations.

Additional Ideas


 Learning About Birds 3D cover

Don’t forget that the Ultimate Naturalist and Journey level memberships have a Learning About Birds ebook for you to use in your bird nature study. This ebook helps you study many common birds using the Handbook of Nature Study.

OHC Plan 18 to 19 Join Us

This Outdoor Hour Challenge is part of the 2018-2019 Plan here on the Handbook of Nature Study. We’ll be using the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock to discover new things about the world around us. Join us each Friday for a different nature study topic. Make sure to subscribe to this blog to receive the weekly challenge right in your email box.

Benefits by Level Updated size 500

If you want to become a member here on the Handbook of Nature Study, you can click the Join Us button for more details. Benefits include those shown above including access to ebooks, notebooking pages, archived newsletters, and new ebooks and printables published during your membership.

The links below are my affiliate links on I personally have used all of these books in our homeschool nature study of woodpeckers.

Finding the Value in a Dead Tree


value of a dead tree @handbookofnaturestudy

My view from the edge of the forest looks out onto both live and dead trees. This natural cycle of life and death is fascinating and a terrific nature study for families who want to see how there is value to a dead tree long after the last leaf has fallen from its branches.

Dead tree standing

At first glance, a dead tree is just that, a lifeless object that may or may not be attractive from a human standpoint. Our family heats our home with firewood so from a completely practical and human standpoint, the dead tree is valuable as a source of life-giving heat. But, upon closer reflection and my own personal observation, I’ve started to see how a seemingly lifeless tree is far from being lifeless. These trees are actually highly beneficial to enriching a forest habitat, supporting new life and sheltering a variety of other species of creatures and plants.

Taking a closer look, I see now that a dead tree is an important piece of the complex life cycle of my local habitat.

Nuthatch nest in a pine tree

We’ve observed the nuthatches making their nests in the cavities of a dead tree’s trunk. They create a small opening to squeeze into and make a nest deep inside the protective walls of the tree’s bark and trunk. Doing some research, we discovered that about 85 species of birds in North America nest in dying or dead trees.


Behind our house, there’s a tree stump from a long gone tree. It’s toppled over at this point but if you look closely during the summer months, you can see where the ground squirrels go into their tunnel from under the protective shelter of this dead tree stump. We’ve seen them use the stump as an observation spot after they climb up on top of it and then stand on their hind legs as they survey the land.

Dead Tree where birds sit

We have a particular standing dead tree behind our house that nearly always has a bird perched up high in its gnarly branches. I’m sure from up there they have a clear view for hunting their dinner. Or, they can just sit up there and sun themselves.

downed tree

There’s a downed tree behind our house that we like to sit on and observe the sky and mountains. As we sit, we note there are many insects, including ants that are using the trunk for their home. There are birds that shelter in its branches, and small rodents that are hiding under the trunk. We’ve seen a coyote digging under the trunk and then pouncing on something before moving along. I assume he found a small rodent meal.

Look at the tree trunk and you may see lichen, mushrooms, spider webs, ferns, and new trees growing.

Elk with the burn pile

Last autumn we left one of our burn piles with many dead limbs and dead tree branches as a place for critters to shelter over the winter. As anticipated, we spotted birds, squirrels, and elk attracted to the pile.

Our observations have led us to rethink our view of leaving dead trees, snags, and downed limbs as a natural resource for the varied wildlife we coexist with.

Of course, these are away from our house at a safe distance because we do want a defensible space if a fire comes through. They’re at least 100 feet from our house and we have a green space between the dead trees and our backyard. We’ve cleaned up the lower limbs from the trees nearer to the house to give us a clearer view of the landscape. I like to think there’s a safe buffer but we still take into account the importance of saving some of the dying trees for the sake of creating a healthy habitat.


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