Tag Archives: cliff swallows

Writing about Nature in a Sketchbook

If you’ve visited my website http://www.kathy-oneill.com then you know that last year I went to western Nebraska to  learn more about cliff swallows. I’d seen them building mud nests all over a hotel in the Texas panhandle. 

With cliff swallow expert Dr. Charles Brown of Tulsa University and his assistant, Wes and I trekked through fields and waded into culverts. Using a flashlight and a dental mirror I got to peer into their mud nests and see their eggs! Dr. Brown has been studying cliff swallows for many years and has learned lots and lots of fascinating stuff about these birds that live together in colonies.  Don’t miss the good news about my trip and research at the end of this post!!!

And look carefully for Molly, too, and make a guess about why she’s hiding!

Before I traveled to Nebraska, I made notes about what I had already seen and heard, asked questions about my observations, and did some initial research.

 

Using these steps you can learn more about the plants and creatures you’ve been observing on your walks:

  1. Stand still and carefully observe, take photos, make drawings
  2. Make written notes about what you see and hear
  3. Ask questions about what you observe
  4. Look in books and safe, reputable online sources to answer your questions

1. Notes

In my last post I suggested you leave some white space around pictures in your sketchbook, because one of the easiest places to write about nature is to make notes in those white spaces. Here are some things to make notes about:

  • Where you were, what the land was like–forest, meadow, seaside, rocky, hilly, etc.
  • What kind of trees or plants you saw
  • What the weather was like
  • The things you saw, heard, smelled
  • The colors of plants or animals you focused on
  • Tell what you think creatures were doing

Here in my new neighborhood in Colorado is a large marsh, and since early spring when they first arrived, I’ve been watching hundreds of red-winged blackbirds. Here are some photos of the marsh and as close as I can get pictures of  the birds.  Because I couldn’t get closeups of the birds I drew one from a nature guide. But you can see my notes all around the drawing about the place and the birds.

2. Questions

Questions help focus your research. As you research you’ll probably think of more. Here are some I had about red-winged blackbirds:

  • Do only the males have the red and yellow shoulder colors?
  • Where did they migrate from or do they live in Colorado year round?
  • What do they eat?
  • Where do they build their nests?
  • What do their nests look like?
  • How many eggs do they lay
  • what do the eggs look like?

3. Research to answer your questions.

  • The nonfiction section of your library is a great place to start. Birds have a whole section, as do insects, mammals, fish, etc., etc!!
  • If you go online, be sure to use safe and reputable websites. For example for my questions about the cliff swallows and now the red-winged blackbirds, I start with the national audubon society’s website.  http://www.audubon.org
  • Use the blank pages of your sketchbook to write the information you find. Make notes about where you found the info

Have fun finding out about lots of interesting creatures or plants. God is so creative, and His world is amazing beyond our wildest imaginations!!

NOW…. my news:   I enjoyed finding out some amazing things about cliff swallows and then wrote a nonfiction article about them. It has been bought by a children’s magazine! I haven’t heard when it’ll be published, so I won’t tell you which one yet, but I’m excited, and I’ll let you know when it comes out!

What can you do with all your new knowledge? write a report, write a fiction story, make an informational poster , write an email or letter to a distant relative telling about your experiences….  For a few ideas, stay tuned for the Picture Lady’s next post. It’ll give you some ideas about how to write creatively about all your observations!

So don’t forget to sign up to receive the Picture Lady’s posts before you go!

AND check out my website http://www.kathy-oneill.com

There you’ll see lots of ways that I can help your class or group in person or by skype learn about and make art!!

And I’d love to hear from you about your summer nature walks and studies!

Finally, can you find Molly in this photo? Comment and tell me why you think she’s hiding.

I’ll tell you why in my next post.

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