Written By Jessica Alba.

Posted on October 23rd, 2018.

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Since I had a good time nature journaling at Leon Levy Preserve, I decided to bring my notebook out with me again to the Nature Conservancy’s West Branch Preserve in Hamden, NY.


During my last journaling session I set goals for myself, which I enjoyed doing. I wanted my journaling to be a way to remember my experience and to learn something new, so once again I summarized my hike and sketched some things I wanted to try and identify later. You might be wondering “Why not just take pictures, especially if you’re going to try and ID the things you saw afterwards?” and the short answer is that I like drawing. Taking photos also works great, so if that’s what makes your journaling time well spent then go for it.


The beginning of the trail cuts to the left and takes you along a meadow where wildflowers grow, including milkweed, but my favorite part of that trail was where it stopped and led to the biggest tree I have ever seen. A giant oak with branches bigger than the trunks of the trees surrounding it grew up and out of the forest. Here’s a picture I took with my 10-inch red notebook for scale. I know it’s no California redwood, but for the Catskill Mountains I thought it was more than impressive.


Beyond the oak were trails that made loops up the mountain. I followed the one that ran with the stream in hopes of seeing the waterfall. The climb was steep and sweaty but in the end was worth the trek. I found a log bench to sit on and wrote about my hike up until that point. The water rushing down the hill and the pine trees that shaded the ground left me feeling cool and relaxed. Here’s what my view looked like:


After a little while I got up and searched for something else to draw. Eventually I spotted a few tiny green mushrooms growing in some even tinier fern-like plants. I know mushrooms come in several varieties and that ID-ing them might be hard, but I was up for a challenge. While I was sketching I saw a robin-sized bird fly over the stream out of the corner of my eye. It settled on a branch above the water just long enough for me to get a rough image of it down on paper so I could search for it later. Then I packed up and began my descent.

Kingfisher Source: MDC Discover Nature

Once I was back in Wi-Fi range I opened my Merlin bird ID app and put in the description and location of the bird. Turns out it was a belted kingfisher. Belted kingfishers eat a wide variety of foods, including fish, frogs, and crayfish, so it’s not surprising that the one I saw was flying on course with the stream.

Next, I started searching for my mushroom. Just as I had suspected, there were an overwhelming number of fungi to choose from. I don’t know much about mushroom anatomy, so I looked instead at color and location, and have come to the conclusion that I found a ‘shroom referred to as “green-headed jelly club”.

Mushroom Source: Francis Bossé, Flickr

 If you’d like to try journaling but aren’t sure where to get started, click here for more ideas.

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