The Winter Journal

The Winter Journal

Nature Journals

From Nature Journaling

by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth

Winter is a good time to learn about the basics of nature. There are fewer things going on than in other seasons. The world outdoors initially seems barren -- until you focus in. Then you begin to see the skeletal shapes of trees and the dried remains of last summerÂ’s plants. Winter is an important time in the yearÂ’s cycle as the earth rests before reproducing and growing anew. In the northern hemisphere, December, January, and February are the heart of this season.


Identify the plants that remain as dried stalks. Find five different dried plants; cutting carefully, bring them inside to study. Do any of them have unusual growths on them, such as the galls on goldenrod stems? Can you identify milkweed, Queen-AnneÂ’s-lace (wild carrot), or evening primrose in their winter state? Can you find some plants that stay green all winter, such as Christmas fern or pachysandra?


Practice drawing the silhouettes of various types of evergreen and deciduous trees to get to know their distinctive shapes. Explore the differences between trees and shrubs, broad-leaved evergreens and evergreens with needles. Examine and draw the twigs, buds, and any fruits and nuts you find. Look at bark patterns of trees; can you learn to recognize a number of trees from their bark alone?


Read about and draw the five most common animals you think live near your home. Do each of these stay active all winter? Can you find the places where they sleep or hibernate? Which ones can you observe directly, or indirectly by the signs they leave? Become a careful investigator of the area you live in and record all signs of animal activity, including tracks, chewed seeds, and dens. Draw what you see and label it by name, where you found it, and what it tells you.


What birds live near you? Where do they find shelter? What do they eat? How do they communicate in winter? Notice that on bright, sunny days more birds are out singing and flying about. By February, birds such as pigeons, house finches, and sparrows are actively courting. Winter is pair-forming time for many ducks. Watch them in patches of open water and record their courtship behavior.

Weather and Seasons

What does winter mean to you? Record what you like and don't like about the season. Keep a monthlong record of weather, moon phases, and precipitation. Carefully chart sunrises and sunsets from mid-December to mid-January so you can determine the actual length on each day (in daylight), and track the changes before and after the winter solstice -- the longest night (and shortest day) of the year.

If you live in a snowy region, record the snow-crystal patterns, the depth of snowfalls, and the type of snow received in each fall. If you live in a southern region, record periods of rainfall or drought. Participate in and record the activities of winter festivals of various cultures.

from Nature Journaling by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth.  Illustrations by Clare Walker Leslie-copyrighted.


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