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All the new birds we have been seeing in our yard lately gave us the urge to record our observations. We grabbed some paper and colored pencils, and drew all the birds that we have listed.

bird drawings

It was great fun and started an interest in developing a more formal nature journal. Although I am a scientist, I also love art and writing. Making a nature journal is a wonderful way to combine all three.

First I took a look at this book:

Drawn to Nature Through the Journals of Clare Walker Leslie by Clare Walker Leslie (see details below).

The book starts out with some simple and lovely ways to record the weather each day. This would be an easy and age-appropriate way for young children to get started creating a nature journal. Note: Weather observations would also tie in nicely with the upcoming book-based movie, "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs."

Then I found this video about natural journals from my alma mater, SUNY College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry. Hey, I remember having dendrology labs in that cemetery (dendrology is the study of trees).

The Handbook of Nature Study blog is a wonderful place to explore journals and nature. I love to visit this site when I have plenty of time to look around at all there is to offer (which is not often enough, I'm afraid). This blog completes the exercises laid out in Anna B. Comstock's classic Handbook of Nature Study.  Barb calls them "outdoor challenges." Barb also has the Harmony Art Mom blog where she shows the art side of natural journals. This video is from one of her lessons.

Making a Leaf Rubbing For a Nature Journal

Edit: The link is now broken. For a shorter reference, try The Nature Journal as a Tool for Learning.

The author of that article mentions the "Grinnell System," which is a more formal method of recording observations used by scientists. Edit: The link is broken. Although I was able to find a site that discusses the Grinnell System, I am still going to look into it a bit more. Have you ever heard of it and/or used it? Do you know any references?

Science, art and writing, all rolled into one. Nature journals have it all.

Some books to look for:

Drawn to Nature Through the Journals of Clare Walker Leslie
by Clare Walker Leslie


Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You
by Clare Walker Leslie, Charles E. Roth


Illustrating Nature: Right-Brain Art in a Left-Brain World by Irene Brady

Disclosures: I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles, covers, or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.

7

The deserts of Arizona have quite a few unusual arthropods. The sight of some of them can cause visitors to hop right out of their boots. Last night I had one of those in my upstairs bathroom. Here is what I saw:

giant crab spider

It is sitting the bottom of the bathroom door, to give you some idea how big it is. What would you do if you saw this?

I have to admit I took these photos in a rush. Not because I was afraid of this giant spider, but because I was afraid our kitten might catch and eat it. I wanted to put it outside quickly in order to save its life.

giant crab spider

This is a prime specimen of a giant crab spider, one of the largest spiders around. It can easily get to be 2 inches across. Giant crab spiders don't build a web, they chase down other arthropods for food at night. Crickets are a favorite snack. They are called crab spiders because their legs extend sideways rather like a crabs.

Can you see the eyes? The big black structures in front are its chelicerae, or jaws. Although it can bite, it is not particularly dangerous. The only potentially harmful spiders we have here are black widows and Arizona brown spiders, a relative of the brown recluse.

I went and got a large glass and a card. I set the opening of the glass over the spider, slid the card under gently so I could lift it from the surface, and then carried the spider outside. It ran away into the night when I let it go. I wished it good luck.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has more information about the giant crab spider and other desert arthropods.

When we looked for insects today, we found some insect eggs on our lemon leaves. What are they?

Lacewing Life Cycle

Can you see the egg? It is the white oval on the hair-like stalk.

lacewing egg

The insect that laid this egg was featured as "Bug of the Week" early on. It is the beautiful green lacewing adult.

green lacewing
The egg has actually hatched, because it is white and the end is open. The lacewing larva that crawled out probably looks something like this on I found on June 18.
green lacewing larva

When the larva has finished development, it spins a cocoon around itself, forming what looks almost like a spider egg case. In fact, I'm sure a lot of green lacewings are destroyed each year due to mistaken identity.

My son and I found this lacewing cocoon underneath a bird's nest that fell out of a tree last week.

green lacewing pupa

The green lacewing is a beautiful, beneficial insect that goes through a lot of changes during its life cycle.

For more information for kids, try:

Nature Close-Up - Ant Lions and Lacewings  by Elaine Pascoe


Disclosures: The book was from our local library. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.