International Nature Journaling Week 2023 ……… A Sensory Safari ….. Day 1: Color

June 1 – 7, 2023

It’s that time of year again …… International Nature Journaling Week (INJW), and I’m excited to be taking part in the fun. Beginning June 1st, a full week of nature-inspired workshops, interviews, prompts and other activities will be presented by an amazing line-up of nature journalers, artists and environmental educators from around the world. The host, founder and organizer of INJW, is nature journaler, teacher and environmental educator, Bethan Burton. This year the theme of INJW is a “Sensory Safari,” and Bethan, who also hosts her own podcast, Drawing with Nature, will take us through each day as we explore how nature engages at least seven of our senses: Color, Texture, Aroma, Song, Flavor, Movement, and Heart.

It’s not too late to get involved and there’s no cost for participants, so check it out! All workshops and resources, the schedule and links to videos are available at

Day 1: Color Across Continents

Imagine your world in black and white. Color brings life to our visual party and defines our sense of place. When I think about or see the colors of New Mexico …. the rusty reds and buff-colored rock and sand, the greens and blues of piñon pine and sagebrush, the lemon yellows and violet reds of spring wildflowers, all framed by vivid intensely blue skies ….. I know I’m home.
After Verena (a naturalist from Berlin) and Bethan (who is from Queensland, Australia) talked about the use and how-to’s of color in a nature journal, Bethan presented a mind-blowing workshop on color mixing, color theory, and the Magic of the Split Primary. Admittedly, I’ve been a hit-or-miss approach artist when it comes to color mixing; struggling to achieve a color match with my surroundings. But there was something in the way Bethan explained color theory and the use and mixing of warm rather than vivid primaries; and all at once I was mixing those elusive sage greens and brick reds! It was a real “duh” moment for me; color theory definitely is something worth understanding!

Below is the practice page I created during the workshop guided by both Bethan and Verena. For fun, they even encouraged us to make up names for our color mixes ….. names that conjure up an image of the color based on a familiar object, such as Rusty Bike, Brick, Cotton Candy, Moldy Cheese (you instantly know those colors, right?!).

Then we were invited to create a journal page with colors of home. I quickly swatched out colors I’ve seen all Spring. Then borrowed on some of my photos captured while traveling about central New Mexico, adding in a few wildflowers and one of the most decorated bird to visit our feeders. When I look at this page, the colors truly warm my heart. This for me is a bit of what nature journaling is all about. But just a bit. I know this week will go a long way to reveal more of the “bits” that have made nature journaling such an important part of my world!

Thanks for taking a look! I hope my pages spark in you a sense of curiosity and wonder, and that you would like to learn more. A good place to start is by visiting the INJW home page at


….. when out of the blue ….. Roadrunner!

May 29, 2023

Seems we’re now beyond the first exciting blush of Spring ….. the first new leaf, the first flower bud, the first darkling beetle; the first feather duster seed head of the Apache plume, the first hummingbird territorial battle, the first frantic squirrel noisily defending her nest.  

Having logged all the new flower species, insects, birds and mammals encountered on our favorite local trails, it’s now easy to daydream while hiking; easy to let your guard down and wonder about things like “where are all of the snakes hiding?” and “why haven’t we seen any roadrunners?”

It was while pondering these interesting questions along a stretch of trail bordered by oak scrub, that out of the blue, a short 10 feet in front of my next step, a roadrunner glided by and hop-jumped aboard a granite boulder! Shocked at how close and calm he was, I froze in place, not wishing to spook him.  Having such a magnificent bird so close is a rare (for me) and crazy cool encounter. After a moment of stillness and observation on both our parts, I dared to take a photo. That bird didn’t care one bit, and was so incredibly unconcerned about my presence that he began preening his feathers, ruffled and shook, and started scanning the landscape for lunch. 

Well, about a dozen or more photos later, it was time for me to resume my hike and catch up with Roy and Luna. I excitedly shared my encounter and photos with them (Luna wasn’t impressed) and wondered again, out loud, why we haven’t seen any rattlesnakes yet.  Surely that roadrunner was hungry. 

…… and then, out of the blue was the snake! About 5 minutes further along the trail was a 3 foot western diamondback rattler with 7 furiously rattling buttons on the tip of his tail! Luna jumped sky high, Roy came to a skidding stop, and I quickly (but oh so cautiously) approached to take photos! A very cranky snake he was too! 

It was a good day for a hike!

A Sandia Mountain High

Sunday, May 7, 2023

After having just returned from a fabulous week in southern New Mexico (blog posts to come) where we hiked and hiked, and got reacquainted with the Spring-time desert flora and fauna, we seemed to be craving pine and fir trees and some mountain air. How high do we dare hike? Would there still be snow? These and more questions rattled about in my mind as we headed the truck up the 13 mile long and winding Sandia Mountain Crest Road (central New Mexico).  Ahhhhh …… so invigorating!

Satisfying our craving (at 8500 feet in elevation) and answering the question about leftover winter snow (not a single snowflake to be found), we pulled up to the Tecolote Trail trailhead and began our ascent, in shorts and T-shirts. The first half mile up was brisk, both in temperature and pace, but after I was well warmed up it was time to open my eyes to investigate anything and everything growing, sprouting and blooming.

This was the earliest date (May 7th) in the Spring we’ve hiked Tecolote, so I was hoping to see a variety of wildflowers that were new-to-me species. I wasn’t disappointed! Blooming beautifully were the minuscule Pygmy-flower rock jasmine (in the primrose family), Arizona valerian (a species of honeysuckle), along with lance-leaf bluebells (borage family), and White Mountain bladderpod (a brilliant yellow 4-petaled member of the mustard family). Covering the slopes everywhere we’re the bright yellow flowers of Oregon creeping grape (aka creeping mahonia), and common along the trail were flats and flats of the dwarf purple and white lousewort (in the broomrape family), it’s flowers growing close to the ground amongst its deep green dense and curly margined fern-like leaves.  Perky Sue (a happy yellow daisy) and the soft-like-a-teddy-bear prairie pasque flower (a type of buttercup) rounded out the bloomers that I could find.

These pages in my journal focused on the shrubs and trees showing growth alongside the trail, drawn from snippets collected during the hike.

It was a perfect morning for a hike! Wished you’d been there with us.

Until next time …… How’s your Spring is shaping up! Do you have a favorite plant that’s blooming, or a singing bird tending chicks? I’d love to hear your story.

P.S. This journal page layout was inspired by an amazing nature journaler, artist and teacher, Jean Mackay who loves all of nature and sharing her discoveries through illustration. Thanks Jean!

March “Littles” ….. Looking for Spring Amidst March Madness

April 3, 2023

March came in like a passive lion, allowing a few signs of Spring to peek through. My collection of nature snippets and decorative trail rocks was going well, until ……. Before long we were once again shoveling drifts and piles of snow, dumped on New Mexico thanks to California’s 13 atmospheric rivers that flowed from coast to coast. This was looking like the winter that would never end.

It was truly and literally “March Madness” out there. So, in the spirit of the crazy seasonal weather, an emergency road trip became necessary to search for some “Littles” filler. And I knew the perfect route to take …..

The Turquoise Trail Scenic Byway winds around the Ortiz Mountains and Cerrillos Hills, while passing through the historic mining towns of Golden, Madrid (MAH-drid) and Cerrillos (sir-REE-yoose). Today, there’s minimal mining taking place in them there hills. Today it’s all about art, and there’s some really weird stuff on display out there.

From Golden to just north of Cerrillos, the hillsides are adorned with metal sculptures like a Trojan horse, three boned fish on sticks, a scuba diver fleeing a curious dolphin, two-story tall origami made of folded metal, butterflies as big as pterodactyls, a squadron of green parrots, and a fleet of racing bicycles. You have to look around every bend in the road ….. they’re all there, and more!

It was fun “collecting” these images for my March “Littles” collection, but I needed one more. We had heard the story of Ethyl the Whale somehow living out of water, somewhere in Santa Fe. Sounded like the perfect weird addition to that blank spot on my page.

And there she was! Around the back side of the Santa Fe Community College, in a large, flat field was Ethyl, the 82-foot long blue whale sculpted out of single use plastics. Ethyl is HUGE! She not only holds the Guinness Book of Records for the World’s largest recycled plastic sculpture, she also delivers an important message about the health of our oceans.

Well, there you have it; my eclectic assortment of “Littles” to remember this March of 2023. Let me know what you think! I’m already looking forward to true Spring in April. Wildflowers should be popping up everywhere and maybe a few more bugs will make an appearance for my April “Littles.”

Thanks again to “Made by Fay” for the “Littles” inspiration!

Meet a Teeth Clacking, Jaw Grinding, Squealing and Woofing Peccary of the Desert Southwest….. the Javelina  

March 21, 2023

Another species we searched for while visiting the Sonoran Desert surrounding Tucson last December, was the javelina. Certainly this elusive little pig-like critter was nearly everywhere we went, as attested to by the thousands of hoof prints echoing their presence. And many of those hoof prints were fresh! Certainly there must’ve been squadrons of javelina hiding behind every mesquite tree around the next countless bend in the trail? 

But alas …. we never saw, heard or even sniffed out a single javelina. All we could do was record (and sketch) the herd of hoof prints, and then research this animal in the following months. Oh boy, did we really miss such a fascinating encounter.

Back at home, several months later, our friend Jim Silva was happy to share one of his javelina skull mounts for study and sketching. I’m thinking we may have been lucky not to have met up with a herd of their clacking canines during our travels! 

Maybe another time?  

Meanwhile …. If you’ve got a thirst for javelina knowledge, or just want to see my journal sketches, read on!

Continue reading “Meet a Teeth Clacking, Jaw Grinding, Squealing and Woofing Peccary of the Desert Southwest….. the Javelina  “

Coues …..Elfin Deer of the Desert Southwest

March 17, 2023

Even though we didn’t see any mammals while visiting the Tucson region last December, we knew they must’ve seen us! But little (pun intended) did we know, a diminutive elfin deer, the Coues Whitetail, was probably among the mix of critters observing us as we explored the area.

This tiny deer, with its oversized ears and flashing tail, is a native species found in the mountainous desert regions of the extreme Southwest and south into Mexico. 

A good friend, Jim Silva, who has hunted this species in southwest New Mexico, shared one of his skull mounts with me. Since sketching the skull and an antler, I’ve learned a bit about the Coues deer, including the highlights included on my journal pages.

“Coues” is most properly pronounced “cows” (but more commonly pronounced “cooz”), is also known as the Arizona Whitetail or Fantail.  Having lived in eastern North Carolina for a number of years, we are well familiar with the Eastern Whitetail, a small enough deer when compared to our local Mule Deer.  But it’s hard to imagine a deer smaller than the Eastern Whitetail.  Now we’re ready to return to the mountains of the Southwest and search for the Coues deer! Maybe late spring when there’s a chance of seeing a few fawns too!

What’s on your nature agenda for this spring? Ours is filling up fast!

Until next time! 

February “Littles” Seeds, Pods, and Other Curiosities

March 13, 2023

Like my January “Littles” page of the bird species that visit our feeders in winter, here’s another “Littles” to commemorate the not-quite-winter-or-spring month of February ….. Seeds and Seed Pods.  As a way to pass the time while waiting for Roy to finish up with a doctor visit, Luna and I conducted a focused scavenger hunt along a 2 mile circuit surrounding a large Albuquerque shopping mall. In no time at all, my collection bag was full.   But knowing my pages would need some local flavor and color too, I scavenged a bit longer and turned up a few more curiosities.    

Like with January’s page of birds, sketches of the species of seed pod and seeds (if collected) took less than 5 minutes each; my watercolor pencil paintings took about 10 minutes each. The restaurant logo and the frog design took a bit longer, and were done using my photos as reference. 

I’m not sure why it took nearly the entire month to decide what to do for my February “Littles.”  In hindsight, the decision should have been obvious, because I love seeds and the seemingly unlimited variety of pods.  Now I have a record of a few city seeds that will soon germinate, helping change the landscape from brown to spring green! 

Let me know what you think! I’m looking forward to March, when wildflower seedlings will be popping up which may appear in a few “Littles” boxes as well!

Thanks to “Made by Fay” for the “Littles” inspiration!

Chasing a Dream … a poet, a few goats, and a circular pantoum : March 3, 2023

March 3, 2023

A dear friend of mine, and poet, is constantly inspiring me with her skill in creating original and verbally illustrative prose. I love the visual images she can conjure with perfectly chosen and placed words. Happily, my collection includes many of her award-winning pieces, including poems she has penned to interpret beautiful works of art. Amazing!

Wanting to send her a unique birthday gift, complete with an original poem and illustrations, became my challenge. And what a challenge!

Continue reading “Chasing a Dream … a poet, a few goats, and a circular pantoum : March 3, 2023”

Winter Birding on Sedillo Hill: January 2023

East Mountains, Tijeras, New Mexico elevation 7,300 ft

February 15, 2023

The design for today’s post was inspired by sketchbook artist Fay. I came across her blog (see link below) while searching for nature journalers who are active in creating art and who also share some unique approaches to page layout and composition.  “Littles” is the name Fay has given to one of her unique approaches.  This is where she lays out several pages full of empty boxes with the goal to fill up a box a day for an entire month.  Not only does this encourage a daily drawing and painting practice, but it’s her way of creating a record of what she’s observed for an entire month.  “Littles” reminds me of a hyper-compressed perpetual journal.

After seeing Fay’s blog post with all her miniature drawings and paintings, I knew this would be fun to try, and I had to learn more.  So we chatted and Fay encouraged me to give “Littles” a go.  And I did …… with a “little” twist!  I’ve been thinking of ways to keep a visual record of the birds visiting our feeders during the winter.  And I needed an approach with minimal fuss, without feeling each bird needed a detailed description. Ta da! 

So here’s my “Littles” page of the bird species that visit our feeders in January.  I kept my sketches to less than 5 minutes each; my watercolor pencil paintings took about 10 minutes each. My sketches were done using my own reference photos, and relied heavily on my many hours of observing these species’ poses and behaviors.

Let me know what you think! I just may create a “Littles” page for our February birds. Maybe by March, when all of our snow has melted, hints of new spring growth may appear in a few “Littles” boxes as well!

Oh and …… Follow Fay!  Her blog “Made By Fay” can be found at the link below.  If you enjoy my posts, I will guarantee you’ll love what Fay does.  She is an extraordinary visual storyteller, and enjoys drawing what she sees from her home state of Washington and on her travels about.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

February 14, 2023

Ahhhh! February …. long celebrated as the most romantic month of the year. If this rings true for you, why? Is this the month when hugs and kisses are most popular? Maybe it’s more about exchanging flowers, cards and a giant heart-shaped box of chocolates? No matter the reason, apparently what began as a pagan celebration way, way back in the year 270 AD, was officially designated as a “romantic holiday” in 1375 by the English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, in his poem “Parliament of Foules.” If nothing else, his “designation” kicked off an annual tradition of card giving, at the very least.

And what about the cards? Remember those vintage Valentine’s cards shared with hopeful wannabe elementary school classmates? Then this card giving thing morphed into pastel colored candy hearts with sayings like “Be Mine” ….. “U R Cute” …. “Crazy 4U.” Do candy hearts still exist today? If so, would they say “Text Me” …. “Ur Tweet is Sweet” …… or maybe “Friend Me on FB.”

Flambé is not into flowers or candy (much), but she does have a few lovers and tons of friends. So in honor of all her followers, whether romantically inclined or otherwise, she’s just popping in to wish everyone a wonderfully romantic Valentine’s Day!

Now go kiss your sweetheart!