The mangrove kingfisher looked thin – its feathers were flattened against its body. It sort of drooped on the branch. Tail down, beak open, wings held away from the body. And see the wobbly end of its beak? That’s not really what the bird looked like, that’s me. Hands unsteady, trying to do my first bit of drawing after a 40 minute ride in the summer heat to reach the mangroves at Nudgee Beach.

The workshops I ran at the Woodford Folk Festival between Christmas and New Year went really well, with lots of lovely feedback. You meet the nicest people at nature journaling workshops! I was also reminded that there seems to be demand for a more extensive nature journaling book, set in Australia. So I’ve started working on a follow-up book to Make a Date with Nature, which will include many more inspirations for nature journaling, arranged by habitat type. Yesterday I went to the Nudgee Beach mangrove boardwalk for ideas and observations.

I’ve found it a bit hard to get into my work this year – partly recovering from the Woodford Folk Festival I think, partly recovering from helping a friend move back interstate, and maybe just that start-of-year weirdness when lots of other people are still on holidays and maybe you’re wishing you were too. Anyway, yesterday I shook off the inertia and found myself walking along the mangrove boardwalk, surrounded by wonderful plants and critters. I’m going to show you my progress through the day, from the wobbly start to the more detailed end.

It was very hot and sunny, but I was determined to work through it. What to draw first? The tide was retreating, the mud was bare, and different kinds of crabs were appealing, as they went about their business. Some had attractive burgundy pincers… But I felt like I needed to get familiar with the plants first, as they are such a major part of the ecosystem. I was just about to start when a kingfisher landed on a branch in front of me, and I quickly did the above sketch.

But then, back to the mangrove plants, starting with a contour drawing of Ceriops australis, the yellow mangrove (thanks Keith M. for correcting my ID!) which was flowering. (A contour drawing isn’t supposed to look like the subject of the drawing, it’s supposed to get you looking at the subject. See Make a Date with Nature if you’d like a more detailed explanation).

Then I did a couple of other quick pencil sketches, this time looking at the page. Still pretty wobbly!

Next was a quick colour impression of the same plant, with paint:

I started to feel I was getting into the swing of things now. Perhaps drinking two cups of tea, eating my lunch early, and drinking half my water bottle also helped! It can be hard to keep hydrated on these very hot summer days. It was time for a more detailed drawing and I found some Ceriops with both flowers and developing fruits…

These fruits are actually little baby plants. After dropping off the parent plant they can keep growing into trees if they manage to lodge in the mud in a suitable place. Another characteristic of the yellow mangrove is its buttress roots:

I also did an ink sketch of another mangrove species that was flowering – Rhizophora stylosa –Ā the spotted or red mangrove. This species is characterised (in Brisbane at least) by its stilt roots. It’s also called the spider mangrove for this reason.

I wasn’t very pleased with the composition of this picture – the pointed end of the branch (which is actually new leaves enclosed in stipules) is awkwardly coinciding with the end of a leaf. Maybe it was time for more food?

The last drawing I attempted was this view of the mangrove forest, with paints and carbon & sepia pencils. The large trees are the grey mangrove, Avicennia marina ssp. australasica with the yellow mangrove appearing as small trees in the understory:

I finished it back home with coloured pencils.

I never did get a chance to sketch the crabs. Or the other species of mangroves. Plenty more to explore next time – which is the joy of nature journaling! But I was glad I pushed through the initial unsteadiness in the drawings and ended up with some interesting impressions of mangroves. I spent the evening recovering after a very enjoyable day, but a little bit too much sun.

Here’s another sketch I did of the mangroves at Osprey House some time ago, this time with pastels and pastel paper:

Happy nature journaling! This weekend’s nature journaling workshop at Indigiscapes is already sold out, but stay tuned for more workshops this year.

And I hope you are also getting back into the swing of things, whatever your thing might be.