Field Notes Friday 0017: Celebrate the Milestones

Come on, admit it: when you’re good, you’re good. You’ve been improving. I’ve been improving. Lets celebrate it!

What brought on this magnanimous and self-congratulatory mood? A simple glance, an outside dining experience, and comparing my abilities and knowledge of only a few years ago with today.

The weather is solidly, blessedly Spring-like today: warm, sunny, with those cumulus clouds that pop up like evenly-spaced cotton balls on a summer day. Of course, I wanted to eat outside when I went to a restaurant.

Halfway through my meal on a shady patio, I glanced unthinkingly around. My eyes flicked past chairs, trees, signs. As if I were the Terminator of Tree Identification, the species names of the two trees I’d barely noticed jumped out at me. It was so fast it wasn’t like a thought process; it was like knowing. in a glance and seemingly without thought, I had identified two trees.

That’s special enough. That’s worth celebrating. But here’s where the comparison gets me exuberant.

When I first saw those trees several years ago, I didn’t even know they were different species, let alone different organisms.

It took me many return visits before I got curious about their bark, their leaves. I hypothesized they were different individuals, but I had no clue what species or how to find out.

Across a span of several years, without concentrating on the effort, I ran into these trees’ relatives in urban and wild settings. I was around other naturalists, interpreters, citizen foresters, and ecologists who confirmed their identity. And then, I started recognizing them. On my own. I’d see the species, and after a few moments’ inspection, mentally categorize them. Applied knowledge.

So being able, after only a few years, without cogitation, to know a species at a glance, and from such a slender view and at a distance, is like suddenly realizing you can speak a second language. I am ecstatic. A richness is opening up to me as I learn about the life all around me.

How are you improving? What skills or knowledge are you gaining that you can celebrate RIGHT NOW? All of life is a journey, a process – don’t wait for perfection to enjoy the application of your knowledge and skills. Perfection will never come, but improvement can be a constant source of joy.



Field Notes Friday 0016: Backyard Wildlife Surprise

I’ve made my first official Happy Naturalist video! I debated sharing this because I’d love for all my videos to be more polished and professional (like Orry Martin or Kelly Rypkema’s videos), but I finally decided that the information is more important than the gloss, and I’ll just do the best I can with the equipment and knowledge I have. My videos, as I hope you’ll see, will improve in production quality and information. But you’ve got to start somewhere! And this video isn’t half bad for an addition to #FieldNotesFriday.

Here are 2.5 minutes of discovery, even in the mud.

  • I’d never have known we had a visitor without that mud. That’s making lemonade of lemons, don’t you think?
  • The name of the song is “Loving Everything I Find.” Isn’t that appropriate?
  • So which visitor do you think came to our yard?
  • Bonus for identifying the birdsong!

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Field Notes Friday 0015: Quantity, Quantity, Quantity

It’s time for you to get brave. It’s time for you to learn the secret to sketching – the underlying, most secret, most essential knowledge that will make you a better sketcher: quantity trumps quality. If you let go of seeking to produce quality sketches, your quality will improve.

I wouldn’t have believed it, but encouragement from a friend at the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program plus a push from the John Muir Laws blog have sealed the deal. I’m a new convert to quantity over quality. I hope you will be, too, if you’ve been timid about sketching (as I have been).

Here’s my first attempt at my new brave task: occasionally, sketch everything around you. No holding back. No judging. Embracing ‘mistakes’ as learning opportunities. Just try it!


I hope by sharing my attempts to improve my field notes and observation skills, you’ll feel more free to explore and improve your own abilities. Perfection is never the goal; appreciating our world and helping others to do so is.

To get connected to the community of scientists, naturalists, educators, interpreters, conservationists and restoration folk who participate in #FieldNotesFriday, click here: