Tips for Documenting Nature

Many people have a Life List of all the birds they have seen. Others keep field journals denoting all the wildlife and plant species they see during a trip. And still other just find a comfortable place to sit and sketch nature, adding annotations about the species or the weather. Bringing along a few items will help you get to know your species on a personal level. 

Pelicans on the south end of Coeur d Alene Lake. // Photo by Shallan Knowles
  • Regional field guides. I like Sibley and Lone Pine series for birds and plants. I usually have two or three on hand. Rite-in-the-Rain notebooks are indispensable in the field. Although not the best for sketching, it is amazing how well these work in any type of weather. Alternatively, a small sketch or watercolor book is a great way to personalize your observations. 
  • Photography equipment. When photographing wildlife, a camera with telephoto lens (at least 200mm) is the way to catch shots of waterfowl far out on the lake. Smartphone cameras work well for documenting closer things like leaves and frogs. Remember dawn and dusk are the best time to view wildlife. 
  • Other supplies. A few other things I usually bring with me are a pair of binoculars, waders for mucking around the water, a watercolor set, and a tripod for low-light situations.  

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