Nature Journaling: This Saturday!

Nature JournalingWe thought we’d bump this great event back up to the top: this Saturday, November 13 is our Revealing Nature Through Journaling event at Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve.  The forecast is calling for a gorgeous day: sunny and 66 degrees, the perfect weather for exploring one of Pittsburgh’s natural treasures.  Plus, you’ll learn how to take that experience of nature home with you without disrupting so much as a leaf.

Your $25 registration gets you:

  • A workshop led by Heidi Mullendore, park naturalist for Canoe Creek State Park
  • Materials, including your own nature journal to work in and take home
  • Lunch
  • A 20% discount at the Audubon Nature Store for the day of the workshop

Head over here to register.  You can also sign up over the phone at 412-682-7275, ext. 227.

We’re particularly hoping some of our local educators can make it–because we’ve had so much success with nature journaling in our High School Urban EcoStewards program, we’re excited to get more students involved in documenting their observations.  We hope you can make it!

This workshop is presented by the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy in partnership with Audubon of Western Pennsylvania and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Parks.

Revealing Nature Through Journaling

Nature journalingOne of the reasons we’re so happy to have Marijke Hecht on our staff as Director of Education is that she brings a renewed focus on developing great programming designed to get people outside.  One of those new programs is a great opportunity to spend a fall Saturday learning how to capture the beauty of nature.

“Revealing Nature Through Journaling” is a workshop that will teach you some user-friendly writing and drawing techniques for recording the things you observe in nature.  The program will run from 9:30am to 3:00pm on November 13 at the Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve.  We’ll take advantage of this beautiful setting to spend some time outside practicing techniques.  Our instructor for the day will be Heidi Mullendore, park naturalist for Canoe Creek State Park, who has been journaling and teaching for years.

This workshop is perfect for beginners, and should be especially appealing to teachers and those who work with young people.  The High School Urban EcoStewards program has been successfully incorporating nature journaling into its curriculum this year, encouraging students to keep a record of what they learn when they work in the parks.

The cost for the workshop is $25, which includes lunch and materials.  Everyone will receive a journal to take home.  To sign up for this workshop, click here.

“Revealing Nature Through Journaling” is presented by the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy in partnership with Audubon of Western Pennsylvania and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Parks.

Pick a Spot and Stay There.

Last Thursday I wasn’t feeling terribly well, but I’d been in the office all day and hadn’t taken my photo-of-the-day for Project 365.  Some days when this happens I just trudge outside my apartment and take photos of my neighbors’ flowers, but I was feeling slightly more ambitious.  So I decided to go down to Nine Mile Run, which I’ve been doing a lot lately (macro photos can be really addicting!).  Since I wasn’t feeling like walking, I decided to follow the old nature-photography adage that often the best photos come to you when you just pick a spot and stay there.  After a little while you become part of your surroundings and the creatures don’t notice you enough to keep their distance.

So I picked a spot with a lot of blooming milkweed plants and stood there for about 45 minutes.  Here are some of the small citizens of Nine Mile Run that I encountered in my milkweed patch and along the trail as I was headed home.

A grasshopper that was not terribly shy about my being in his face:


A brown butterfly (which, unfortunately, I can’t ID!):


A damselfly that was even more elusive than they usually are:


A curious-looking moth with a blue body and a red proboscis that I think may be a yellow-collared scape moth:

Scape moth

A ladybug just hanging around:


Right around this time I spotted a hummingbird, which unfortunately was a little too fast for me (there’s a picture of a big gray blur that represents my best effort).  Still it was exciting to watch.  I think it was somewhat scared off by this very active Eastern tiger swallowtail, which was flying at the same flowers:

Luckily, the next best thing to a hummingbird flew right into my focus point moments later: a clearwing hummingbird moth.  I LOVE these guys.

Hummingbird moth

Then something started making quite a racket, and I looked up and saw this bird.  I’m not sure what type of bird it was, but I also saw a great blue heron right when I was taking up my perch in the milkweed.


I assumed this was another kind of grasshopper, but after poking around trying to identify that moth, I now think it might be a katydid.


I believe this is a viceroy and not a monarch because it has an extra band of black on its wings.


This skimmer must not have detected me, because I can hardly ever get this close to them.


A bug I’m going to intelligently identify as “orange guy” (edit: a soldier beetle, perhaps?):

Orange guy

A red spotted purple whose wings really complemented the stream color (and unfortunately, the color of the trash):

Red spotted purple

The last thing I saw was (I think) a pearl crescent.

Pearl crescent

Spotted any interesting bugs lately?  Maybe you should enter a picture of them in our photo contest!  (Wink wink, nudge nudge…)

Nine Mile Run, close-up

Last Friday I had the privilege of accompanying naturalists Chris Tracey and Pete Woods on one of their periodic surveys of the Nine Mile Run wetland restoration area.  Every now and then, they head down to the stream and record whatever species they find there–from grasses to wildflowers to the tiniest insects.  It’s a great way to keep up with the increasing biodiversity that’s present since the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association’s restoration of the site was completed several years back.  It’s also an important way to monitor whether invasive species are beginning to take over any parts of the landscape.

I’m not great with scientific names or identification, but I do love taking photos that make nature’s tiniest residents seem larger than life.  With the exception of the first photo, all these were taken with a macro lens.  Thanks to Chris and Pete for the species IDs!

A wide view of the stream, with lots of purple chicory in bloom.


An up-close look at the chicory and its blue stamens.  What a gorgeous flower.


We guessed that this one was a member of the extended tomato family, eventually settling on horsenettle.


A lovely slender spreadwing damselfly with perfectly translucent wings.


On the left is a dense blazing star, which Chris speculated might have been introduced by someone.  It was the only one we saw in the whole area, so it hadn’t been part of the planting mix.  On the right is common teasel, which blooms in a unique way: flowers initially form in a ring around the head.  The ring grows for a few days, but the flowers don’t last long so the ring may die, giving way to a second ring, which seems to be what happened here.

Blazing star and teasel

A red marsh hawk dragonfly:

Red dragonfly

A large milkweed bug on swamp milkweed:

Milkweed bug

Now a bee on swamp milkweed (how do they ever choose what to forage?):

Bee on milkweed

A close-up look at Queen Anne’s Lace:

Queen Anne's Lace

A purple damselfly (called a variable dancer–Argia fumipennis) and his mate.  I love how in nature the males are the ones who have to be all attractive to impress the females; I sometimes think our culture could learn a little from that!

Purple damselflies

And the shot of the day: the purple damselfly was an incredibly cooperative photo subject.  I wish the ebony jewelwings I’m forever chasing around would show the same willingness to be still!

Closeup damselfly