Sunday, March 26, 2017

Keeping A Nature Journal in Ottawa

I have made a resolution to keep a dedicated 2017 Nature Journal starting this spring (if spring ever arrives in Ottawa). 

Some pages from my March 2017 Nature Journal

It seems that I have been keeping a nature journal forever.......some years much more intensely than others.

My Nature Journal from 1986
In the past, I loved sketching birds and I used my Nature Journal as a way of studying and remembering distinctive features of various species.

My Nature Journal: unfinished bird sketch dated 1980
I also used my Nature Journal to study trees, their overall shapes and distinctive features. I admire folks who can look at a tree far off in the distance and know exactly what it was just by its shape and location.

My Nature Journal dated January 1986
I attended an event in 2015 hosted by the Ottawa Field Naturalists Club where we were looking for fall shorebirds on migration at Mud Lake and Shirley's Bay.

The sketches below were done from photographs after the event as a way of recording what we did, where we went and all of the birds that we saw that day.

My Nature Journal: Birding at Mud Lake
My Nature Journal: Birding at Shirley's Bay
 My Nature Journal Sketch Book

I have decided to dedicate my Fabriano Venizia sketchbook (that I purchased at the beginning of this year) to gather all of my nature 2017 nature sketches.

I decided to stop using the Fabriano Venezia sketch book as my 'daily sketchbook' because is too heavy to carry in my sketch bag; the book does not stay flat when opened and requires many clips and I am disappointed in how the cotton paper holds my many mediums (watercolour, gouache, graphite, ink etc.)

So I've re-purposed the Fabriano Venizia sketchbook into my 2017 Nature Journal! It will make a perfect book for scribbling my nature notes in as well as pasting sketches that are cut out from my other sketch pads like this cardinal below, that I originally sketched on a mixed-media pad.

Today's sketch to record the Northern Cardinal that I saw while dog walking

My Nature Journal Field Guides 

Below are some of the Ottawa reference books and materials that I have on hand to add information to my sketch notes. Of course the internet is an amazing resource as well.

My field guide home library

My Nature Journal Links for Ottawa

One of the first activities I did in my 2017 Nature Journal this year was to map out the trees in my neighbourhood where I walk regularly. To do this I needed online help from the City of Ottawa's Tree Inventory where every tree (that the City of Ottawa is responsible for) is mapped and named (in Latin) with the radius of the tree trunk! I love this resource!

I will be adding this helpful nature-journaling link and many others to the list below. Keep checking back for new additions.

In Early spring, the buds begin to swell. Its fun to look for them on daily walks.


John Muir Laws: The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling

Nature Journal Links 

I will be posting some of my 2017 Nature Journal pages here on my blog. If you will be nature journaling and/or blogging your nature adventures in Ottawa, please add your link in the comment section below.

Likewise, if you have interesting links you would like to share on Ottawa-Gatineau natre and sketching opportunities, please add that in the comment section below as well.

Happy sketching!


  1. This is another incredibly interesting and useful posting, Cindy. It's worth revisting several times. While I don't keep a nature journal (and maybe I should), I have begun to keep dedicated sketchbooks as an experiment. I think it encourages you to sketch certain themes. As for the Fabriano Venezia, I agree that the paper acts like blotting paper rather than watercolour paper. I like the Strathmore 500 series sketchbooks instead. They are slightly smaller but have good quality paper. Finally I thought that I'd mention that in our neighbourhood, we've had cardinals all winter long. Maybe there were a few weeks when they disappeared but they've been present at my feeder this winter. (They are very noisy now.) keep up the excellent postings!

    1. Thanks so much Michael for your kind comments. So good to hear that you shared my disappointment with the Fabriano VeneziA too (I thought it was just me and kept giving it another try before abandoning it to use as my nature journal. ) I read that feeders helped the cardinals to push their historical range north and that they stay at well- kept feeders. They are still such a delight for me to see them downtown. Looking forward to seeing you out sketching with us again soon!

  2. Ten million hearts. I'm so envious of your diligence and hard work - I'd love to page through your nature journals.

    1. Thanks so SO MUCH lunarbovine for your kind comments!