Bird walk and nature journaling with BirdLife Castlemaine

by | Nov 29, 2021 | citizen science, Nature journaling, writing | 2 comments

This Saturday, Dec 4, BirdLife Castlemaine and District gathers together for the last outing of 2021. While the focus is of course on birds, convenor Jane Rusden has initiated a wonderful new activity after each bird walk – a nature journaling session.

Jane is busy with leading the awesome joint Djaara and BirdLife Castlemaine bird walks, held last weekend and this weekend, so I have stepped in as bird walk leader and nature journaling enthusiast! This is a BirdLife Castlemaine District event, however all are welcome – and for my Wombat Forest friends, this BirdLife group covers the region from Castlemaine (Mount Alexander Shire) to Trentham including Daylesford so this is OUR local group. And people even come up from Melbourne – so all are welcome.

The beautiful rocks and open forest of Leanganook

Nature journaling is wonderfully popular at the moment – and I think a large part of this is due to the work of Paula Peeters, also known as Paperbark Writer: where Australian nature meets science and art.  Paula’s illustrations and storytelling are simply wonderful, and Paula’s reporting via this medium during the Black summer fires helped me and so many others understand a little of the great tragedy occurring in her beloved NSW rainforest.
Paula’s book  “Take this book for a walk”  has step by step instructions on how you can combine  a healthy interest in the world around you with a notebook and a pencil and simply get started! And the booklet “Make a date with nature” is available for a free download! But make sure you subscribe to Paula’s enews and buy some of her wonderful conservation art products such as colouring in books, cards, and of course her enormously popular fairy-wren tea towels – and some items such as t-shirts profits supporting conservation! Paula relies on our support to continue her wonderful work.

“A nature journal is your own unique response to nature” Dawson Springs, by Paula Peeters

Jane Rusden‘s evocative bird and landscape art, and Trace Balla‘s artwork and stories of the people and nature on Djaara country also record the landscape around us in ways that increase our connection and understanding…And we are blessed with so many other artists…

But guess what!? Even if you haven’t  ANY inclination to draw – you can still keep a nature journal! My book Daylesford Nature Diary, published in 2013, drew upon ten years of nature journal entries to create a six season calendar based on written (text) observations. The only time I draw is when I am recording a new species of bird or animal, or behaviour. For example, last summer I had the great fortune to be able to watch a Square-tailed Kite pair raise two young – reported in Wombat Forestcare newsletter and here on this blog.

When the rufous-coloured nestlings were in “teenage” mode, I observed them at the nest but clambering around. I wanted to share the behaviour with my favourite fellow Square-tailed Kite tragic – Keith Fisher, from BARG (BirdLife Australia Raptor group) so I sent him the below sketch. Keith was able to immediately say “if they have never left the tree, they are branchers, which in Bazas lasts about 3-4 days, but in Square-tailed kites is a bit longer”. He also mentioned that I was “hilarious” ha ha. As a sketch though – it works! It shows the configuration of nest and branches, and the exact behaviour of the two young kites, known as branching. The point is – there is no such thing as a bad drawing if it communicates the information you seek to communicate.

These days, my nature journaling is a combination of my Instagram page, blog posts, and apps such as Birdata, iNaturalist and most recently FrogID. As folks know I am pretty prolific on these platforms. I am yet to find a way to use these electronic means as well as a paper-based diary, and if any nature journalers have any ideas on how to do this – do let me know!

Using paper and pencil or pen rather than a phone is ALWAYS more relaxing, and provides us with much needed slow down time. In fact, all my writing – book reviews, feature articles, even web copy begins on paper. I simply cannot think creatively at the keyboard, and writing in my favourite hardback recycled paper notebooks with a cup of tea feels like a precious and fun treat, like a painter at the canvas.

Saturday’s workshop then will be a quick dip into the use of nature journaling to enhance your understanding of the seasonal changes in nature around you, with guided exercises using both drawing and writing. For all the details – see BirdLife Castlemaine District’s latest enews here. In the meantime – enjoy noticing nature – by any means!


  1. Jane

    You are the most wonderful human, loved reading this so much and you’ve captured the essence of nature journaling brilliantly. Probably not surprising because you’ve been doing it all your life 😆 However you’re such an amazing communicator, which is what makes the difference here.

    • Tanya

      Oh Jane! Thanks so much! what a beautiful thing to say!