White-capped noddies basking in the sun

White-capped noddies basking in the sun

Some years ago I had the great good fortune to visit Heron Island in the Great Barrier Reef. I was tutoring a group of ecology students, and what with daily snorkeling trips, helping out in the kitchen, and assisting the students with their research projects, I didn’t get a lot of spare time (it was a tough job but someone had to do it πŸ™‚ ).

Pisonia forest small

But I managed to do some drawings of noddy terns and the Pisonia forest where they were nesting and roosting. Although hardly great works of art, I treasure these little drawings. They take me straight back to that stunning, sun drenched coral cay, with noddy terns sitting pertly on the hot sand, buff-banded rails darting in and out of the undergrowth, and muttonbirds wailing from their burrows.

Noddies in Pisonia

Last week I introduced the practice of nature journaling, with some pictures from the rainforest. In this post I’d like to further emphasize that some of my favorite journal entries are the simplest ones, scribbled down in a moment. It takes surprisingly few words and marks to record a critter and its habit. Of course you can make it very detailed too, if you like. But my point is that you don’t need lots of time or skill to produce something that you will value later.

Noddies001 smallMore recently I had a flying visit to Green Island – also on the Reef – while on a work trip to Cairns. Green Island is far from pristine, and rather awash with tourists. But I managed to do some snorkeling and be wowed once again by the many different types of reef fish. Back on dry land I jotted down my impressions of what I had seen from memory – sketches and notes to help me identify the fish later.

Reef fish 1Reef fish 2Curiously, sometimes I find the doodles I make from memory can capture the essence of an observation or creature more accurately than a labored and detailed drawing from a photo (and you can do lots more of them in the time it takes to do a much more detailed drawing). I think this may be partly why I enjoy looking back on these very simple drawings as much as looking at some of the more complex ones. Maybe I am also less critical of myself – after all, it was a quick sketch from memory, nothing else.

Jetty fishTriggerfish

So if you are interested in nature, I once again encourage you to have a go at nature journaling. Make it as simple or as complex as you like. But I think either way it will help to crystallize your memories and observations, and thus create a special momento for the future. Simple but accurate records of species, their habitats and behaviours can also be used by citizen science projects, and be of great scientific value, especially in our rapidly-changing world.