Spark your Bird Love with Nature Journaling

Spark your Bird Love with Nature Journaling

Want to learn how to be a better birder? Curious about the birds at your feeder or singing in your yard? Spark your bird love with this nature journaling course.

Interview: Doing work inspired by your calling

Interview: Doing work inspired by your calling

I was recently invited to be a speaker for an online summit, Your Business is Calling, hosted by Celia Marie, Business coach. I joined 7 other women who shared their stories of how they shifted from traditional jobs into creating business that are based on their calling.

My interview is below.

“This afternoon I spoke with Melinda about how her path to growing her business, Spark in Nature, started back when she was a young girl making nature cards for her family. Since then Melinda has worked various jobs from Marine Biologist, Flower Shop owner and Teacher all while still finding ways to pursue her passion for science, art and nature. She launched a nature journaling group that has evolved into nature journaling classes, workshops for her local Aquarium and Museum and so many other new and exciting opportunities. And as a bonus gift, Melinda walked us through a beautiful Tree visualization at the end. So be sure to watch until the end.”

Free Gift: Melinda has created a beautiful free gift: Nature’s Solution to Overwhelm.

You can check Celia’s website for how to access recordings of the interviews:

Despondent to Dynamic! Getting out of a downward drawing spiral.

Despondent to Dynamic! Getting out of a downward drawing spiral.

Have you even gotten stuck while sketching? Or has that annoying inner voice that is critiquing your drawing skills –or perceived lack of skills sucked you into believing it?? That happened to me recently– and this is what got me out and begin to rewire 

Valentine Love in Nature

Valentine Love in Nature

Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s that time of the year when signs of spring are in the air in some parts of the world. The birds are starting to sing more in Northern California.Love can be defined as “sustained compassionate attention” (John Muir Laws). So nature 

Spark your Curiosity: Nature Journaling online course-March 2021

Spark your Curiosity: Nature Journaling online course-March 2021

Do You:

Enjoy nature but don’t know what you’re seeing?

Want to be more confident in drawing nature?

Want to start a nature journal but don’t know how?

Join the Intro to Nature Journaling course

Here’s what we’ll explore in this introductory class live online in a small group class:

We’ll explore:

  • basics of keeping a nature journal,
  • what tools to use,
  • practice techniques to improve sensory awareness,
  • improve drawing and naturalist skills,
  • learn how to move beyond potential mental roadblocks,
  • and learn how to cultivate this practice in your life.

After this class, you will have gained the tools to:

  • see nature more deeply and develop naturalist skills
  • be more confident in drawing and recording nature in your journal.
  • know how to set up your nature journal pages
  • cultivate a sense of curiosity and wonder
  • deeper sense of connection with the natural world
  • have a tool kit of activities for further developing your skills

And if you are someone who thinks they can’t draw, not to worry. Drawing is a skill that improves with some guidance and practice, so anyone CAN learn to draw.

In nature journaling, we focus on the process (of observing nature) over creating a product (of a pretty page). Join us and you’ll get the basics to get started building your skills!

Class Details

Thursdays, 4pm-5:15pm Pacific

Six sessions: March 4, 18, April 1, 8, 15, and 22

Class tuition: $179

  • 6 weekly live online sessions (recordings will be available)
  • Private group for the class: digital bulletin board to share pages, and ask questions between classes
  • Class handouts
  • Recordings of all classes

Supplies Needed: A sketchbook, pencil and/or pen.

Other optional items: Colored pencils or watercolor, with water brush

Class topics:

Nature Journaling Foundations:

  • What, why, where, and How of Nature Journaling
  • Three languages: Words, Pictures, and Numbers
  • Quieting the inner critic
  • Observational drawing techniques
  • Using Senses: Hearing, seeing, touching
  • Cultivating a nature journal practice
  • Sketching warm-up practices to train your eye and hand
  • Live demonstrations of nature journaling
  • Activities and prompts

To register:

Any questions? Email Melinda:


After your payment is received you will get email confirmation.

Payment options and tuition assistance available, please ask.
If you’d like to help a fellow nature journaler attend this class, donations to the scholarship fund are grateful accepted.

Your instructor: Melinda Nakagawa

Hi, I’m Melinda. I’ve committed much of my life to guiding people into nature so they can developing a deeper relationship with the natural world. Nature journaling bridges nature, art, and science together. It expands our understanding of nature and creates lasting memories.

You CAN learn to draw and write! Its a skill that improves with guidance and practice.

I’ve kept a nature journal for over 22 years, and it evolved quite a bit over that time. Let me share with you what I have learned on my journey, so you can jump right into nature journaling with confidence!

What students are saying about this class:

“Melinda has a great way of acknowledging all levels and honoring them. I appreciated her science background and how she encouraged us.” -Laura Callaghan

“Your classes have made me a better observer and added so much quality to my life.  You’ve helped me to enjoy rather than just work in my garden, and see the diversity of life around me.  Thank you so much.” – Della Bossart

“My drawing confidence has increased tremendously. I definitely see nature with a new lens. I’m more curious (and I am already pretty curious!) Melinda is super encouraging and very knowledgeable as well as experienced. I love that she shows us her own process in the live video classes and shared her journal pages with us. Very inspiring!” – Gurusurya Kaur

“Melinda breaks everything down really simply and explains things well. She demonstrate things well and is very supportive and encouraging. I am now more confident in how to and what to journal. The class kept me engaged in completing pages throughout the week.” -Hollie Mansfield

“This class exposed me to many elements of art and drawing in digestible and non-threatening ways. As a result of the class, I am more observant and curious and I notice more things in nature than I did before. Melinda opened my eyes and mind to the fun of nature journaling. Her helpful comments about the flexibility of nature journaling freed me from intimidation and judgment.” -Constance Constable

Spark you Curiosity Level 2: Stoke the Fire

Spark you Curiosity Level 2: Stoke the Fire

After Level 1 course, continue to expand and reinforce your nature journal skills. Keep your practice going Practice and learn with others! Join the Spark your Curiosity with Nature Journaling Level 2 course Open to those who’ve completed Intro to Nature Journaling Level 1 course. 

Fresh new eyes on ordinary nature

Fresh new eyes on ordinary nature

I went out for a walk with my dog and was so taken by the beauty in nature that I had to start nature journaling while walking in the beach! I always have my nature journal bag with me–its a messenger bag with my journal, 

Mystery woodpecker: Detective work in your journal

Mystery woodpecker: Detective work in your journal

Recently I found the remains of a woodpecker in my driveway. It was a pair of wings, tail and a leg. It looked like a woodpecker, but at first glance I wasn’t sure which one it was.

What was more interesting to me at the time, was WHO killed this bird??

Use the journal to investigate

I decided to use my nature journal to document the evidence, and keep my notes as I tried to figure this out–and infographic.

An infographic is a page that uses words, sketches and numbers to explain some phenomenon–in this case the unfolding mystery and understanding of what I was seeing.

Different predators kill and eat their prey in different ways. I knew a headless bird or just wings might be indicative of a particular predator but I didn’t know enough about that yet.

So, I sat in my driveway with the bird remains and nature journaled it, carefully noting what I could find.

A foot, a body feather, an interestingly patterned tail feather (which could be an important clue to ID), and took measurements of everything I could measure. I noted that there was no head nor spine! The skin on the body remained, and it was dried up, so not a recent kill.

I’m a pretty novice tracker so I posted this page on the Bay Area Tracking Club FB page where there are experts there that might give me some clues.

Garth Harwood in the Bay Area Tracking Club FB page responded with some great information about how predators eat their prey –which I wrote down in my journal, and attributed the source of the info.

He also had some great possible scenarios. This bird was likely killed by a cat ( perhaps after naturally dying or hitting a car or window), and later scavenged by crows/jays.

His thought that it might be a Downy woodpecker now shifted my attention.

Bird ID

I am a long-time bird watcher and can identify living birds in the field– but looking at this carcass I realized I had not really paid close enough attention to these particular details enough for ID.

I needed some help. So I used my favorite online resource for feather ID, the US Fish and Wildlife Feather Atlas. I looked at three different type of feathers.

1. Tail Feather

I looked at the three woodpeckers in my area that have spotted wing feathers–the Downy, Hairy and Nuttall’s. The tail feather was distinctive, so I looked at the tail feathers of the woodpeckers. The Atlas shows all the feathers with measurements. My feather looked closer to the Nuttall’s in pattern and length.

Downy: 5cm, Hairy 8cm, Nuttall’s 7cm. Mine was 6.6cm.

1 check mark for Nuttall’s based on length and pattern.

2. Body feather

I found two barred body feathers attached to the skin near the feathers. I looked at field guides and photo references to see which birds had barred (striped) feathers.

Downy and Hairy had clean feathers and the Nuttall’s has barred feathers! 2 checks for Nuttall’s!

3. Primary wing feathers

I selected the 3rd Primary wing feather, measured it: 90mm.

Back to the feather atlas. Downy: 8cm, Hairy 10cm, Nuttall’s: 9cm!

3 checks for Nuttall’s.

Most likely a Nuttall’s woodpecker!

Based on the evidence I’d found, I have a high level of confidence that this is likely a Nuttall’s woodpecker.

But just like everything in science, I’m willing to change my ID if new evidence is presented that show it may be some other bird.

Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii. Photo: Wikimedia commons

This makes it memorable

Because I was genuinely curious and delved into researching this, and discovered through my own observations, and I journaled this process, I am way more likely to remember these identification clues for much longer than had someone told me it was a Nuttall’s right off the bat.

These journal pages are an infographic, combining words, sketches and numbers to explain ideas about something.

Now, take your journal and use it to make your own discoveries in nature, and share!

Micro world of Mosses

Micro world of Mosses

This week, one of our members, Victoria Grape will be sharing her passion for mosses. These diminutive organisms live in an entire universe unseen by most of us. Victoria will take us into the micro forest so we can get to know the incredible diversity, 

Reflections: Gifts of 2020

Reflections: Gifts of 2020

Stop and revisit As we move through the final days of 2020, I looked through my journal to reflect on the year. Like many of you, I spent so much more time at home than I ever have, and journaled every day. With entries tracking