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Keeping a nature journal is a great way to record any nature you see, from plants in the park to a spider in your living room.
Here we provide simple craft instructions so you can make your own journal, but you could also use an empty notebook or collect the information digitally.
If you keep up the habit, you will quickly build up a record of your local wildlife and surroundings.
Your findings could even help scientists monitor wildlife changes.
You will need:
Assembling your journal:
Now you are ready to record your plant, animal and other nature observations.
Record what interests you, in your own style. If you would like to contribute your findings to biological record databases to help scientists monitor wildlife changes, include:
These are what will turn your observations into a useful scientific record.
There are many ways to record your nature observations. Your journal will be unique to you, reflecting your personal style and interests.
Perhaps you like to include images - whether simple sketches, more detailed colourful drawings or photos that you've taken and printed out. You might prefer to write long, detailed descriptions or include a more diary-like account with records of feelings and emotions.
You can even stick in small collected items that you find or add pressed flowers. Use whatever tools work best for you.
What kinds of observations should you make? Again, this depends on your interests, where you are and the time you have available.
You could note down:
You could actively search for and examine animals in your garden by making a pitfall trap to catch insects and other minibeasts or making a light trap to spot night-flying insects.
Even as an amateur, your observations can be valuable to science, says Steph West from the Museum's Angela Marmont Centre for UK Nature .
'The UK's National Biodiversity Network Atlas holds nearly 226 million records, covering over 45.5 thousand species, with most of those records coming from amateur natural historians.
'That wealth of data, supplied primarily by people volunteering their time and effort through watching wildlife, means that we understand our biodiversity far better than we ever could through the efforts of researchers and scientists alone.
'It is vitally important, particularly at a point where we know that our environment is changing rapidly that we continue to collate these records.'
Steph emphasises, 'Any record that includes who [made the record], what [was recorded], when and where is of value, no matter how common the species is. In fact, our common species are very often some of our most under-recorded species, simply because people don’t bother to record them.'
If you'd like to share your biological records, there are many databases and schemes that you can contribute to. Find out more by reading our Introduction to biological recording.
The Biological Records Centre hosts a number of UK biological recording projects, from amphibians and reptiles to fungi. Find a scheme that appeals to you and start collating your records.
If you are struggling to identify things that you've seen, there are various ways to get help:
How can you maintain your nature journal habit? 'First and foremost, be curious,' says Steph.
'All of the most notable natural historians, including Pliny the Elder, Gilbert White, Charles Darwin, Dorothea Bate and David Attenborough have one key thing in common - they were and are endlessly curious about the world around them.
'As you can so often see from David Attenborough's films, that curiosity doesn't have to be about the new, rare or exotic, but can come from the most mundane, common species, if you only take the time to watch, listen and observe.'
If you'd like to grow your interest, there are many groups and societies around the UK, such as the Wildlife Trusts, which run walks, talks and courses where you can meet other people who share your interest and learn from them.
There’s plenty you can do online too. Facebook has many pages run by species-interest groups where you can get advice and help with identification, or follow interesting hashtags like #wildflowerhour on Twitter.
Many organisations run citizen science projects. Their online resources often make them a great way to start recording. Some have already developed long-term data sets that help us to understand how our wildlife is changing.
Check out our extensive list of projects suitable for beginners or browse some highlights below:
Stuck indoors? You can use your computer to take part in a wide range of digital projects. Check out the Zooniverse site for over 50 active projects, from watching penguins to hunting for asteroids.