How to use your Nature Watch diary

Here are some useful hints on how to use this diary:

  • Encourage your whole family, class or workmates to get involved, anyone can record interesting and useful observations;
  • Set aside time once a week to observe and record nature in your backyard or local park. Try to make the observations at different times of day;
  • Always note the time of day, date, month and year for each observation;
  • Keep weather records, these can be taken from the local TV news, or newspaper, or include comments such as ‘cold, raining’ or ‘strong westerly wind’;
  • On your first expedition simply get familiar with the area you are watching;
  • Subsequently, look out for changes;
  • Remember to note the regular occurrences as well as the unusual;
  • Be systematic and organised, don’t use scraps of paper or if you do transfer the information to your diary as soon as possible;
  • Remember to summarise your observations each month. For example how many rainy days, total rainfall for the month, number of bird species seen, etc;
  • Use some of the recommended field guides listed in the reference list to help with species identification, you will be amazed at how quickly you remember the names;
  • Take photographs to keep in your diary, as well as relevant newspaper clippings;
  • Use the notes section for more detailed accounts of your observations, you can also make sketches of anything that is unusual or fascinating;
  • Keep your observations for comparisons in future years, you will soon start to see regular patterns emerge. (refer to the timeline spreadsheet concept)

Acknowledgements: Kevin McDonald, Alan Reid, Gould League Victoria, Louise Duff, Alan Morris.

Nature unfolds with the seasons

Seasonal patterns reflect the annual orbiting of the earth around the sun. Thus flowering plants undergo a regular sequence of bud formation, flowering, formation of fruit, and setting and dispersal of seeds.

With animals, there is also a pattern in their appearances or activities during the year, as seen in their reproductive behaviour, and in seasonal migrations. Studying collected data will reveal patterns, leading to predictable trends such as ‘wet seasons’, mating times, and major migration times.

Research by Alan Reid suggests that Aborigines have understood the workings of the land and its shifting climates intimately for many thousands of years.

Aboriginal tribes have observed nature and followed its calendars or timelines by monitoring significant events, such as the migration and mating patterns of birds, changes in local vegetation, the effects of major weather changes and natural disasters such as fires and floods. They use calendars with from five to seven seasons depending on location, suggesting the European concept of four equal seasons has little relevance in Australia.

Use these monthly diary sheets to help you record and keep track of the seasonal patterns:

Visit the Bureau of Meteorlogy for more information on climate data.