Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Nature Study is About Staying Curious

Hello all,

I greatly appreciate those who have commented recently. I'm glad that my work can be enjoyed by people around the world!

It's been an exciting journey into the world of birdwatching, art, and nature study. I initially became interested in birds almost two years ago during a environmental education internship at a local nature center. For part of my internship I participated in the Washington State Nature Mapping program, where ordinary people count and record local wildlife so scientists can track populations. I partnered up with one of the volunteers, who then took me out on the trail to show me how to identify bird calls. Her vast knowledge of birding blew me away! By the end of my summer internship I was hooked on birdwatching.

One thing I have noticed from my internship (and subsequent experiences, which I won't go into right now), is that once you start birding, it becomes a habit, almost a state of mind. Even when walking to class in the morning, I'm always looking into the trees or up at the sky and making an approximate mental list of what bird species I'm seeing.
Watching birds doesn't have to be a complicated endeavor with high-tech spotting scopes in remote regions of the world (although that can be really fun). All you really need are your eyes and ears. Birding is just about being curious.

Being a busy student entering my last quarter of college, I find that I just don't have the time to sit and write/draw my observations on a regular basis. Also, living in Washington State with cold, rainy, overcast weather for the majority of the year, it can be sometimes hard to be motivated to go outdoors! I think that a good technique for those in similar situations is to keep a sort of mental journal. If I see an unusual bird on a walk and don't have anything to record it with I try and remember all the details I can, then look it up later. I find that I go on my own nature study walks during the spring/summer when the weather is better, or when I get bursts of creative inspiration.

On a side note: after browsing through my bird field guide (I mostly use the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America) about a week ago I realized that the last picture under "Megan's Bird Behavior Field Journal" actually shows a male and a female Common Mergansernot Red-Breasted Mergansers.
The Common Merganser male is mostly white on the underside, while the Red-Breasted would have a speckled breast and grey markings on the underside.
*edit: ok, so it does have a dark marking on its chest. Maybe it is a Red-Breasted after all? I wish I could go see them and look again, but they're already starting to migrate to breeding grounds at this time of year.

I guess my overall message for this post is: it's okay if you're busy or find it hard to get outside. Being engaged with your community and with nature can be as simple as just keeping your eyes and ears open, staying curious, and by asking questions. Keep those questions in your head until you get the time to research, write, and/or draw about it later. And it's okay to make mistakes, learning from them is all a part of the process.

Happy Journaling! Hope you liked my first real blog post!

~ I've been getting e-mails about getting permission to share the nature journal. I'm currently in the process of figuring out the sharing and privacy settings.