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Junior Rangers - Autumn Diaries

Welcome to our 'Autumn Diaries' nature journaling activity for Junior Rangers (aimed at kids aged 8-14 years, but anyone can join in). The aim is to capture nature in autumn.

Nature journaling is easy, flexible and good for the soul. It has been practiced throughout history by naturalists, ecologists, artists and rangers. Record your curiosity and capture observations in a park or open space in your neighbourhood – or even in your back yard.


What do I need?

  • Your own notebook, artbook or printer (if you want to print off our weekly pages).
  • A display folder (if you want to print off weekly pages)
  • Pencils, paints, ruler, camera/phone etc
  • Your imagination! There is no right or wrong way to nature journal

How do I journal?

  1. Grab your notebook and pens and tools
  2. Find inspiration! Explore or sit in the bush or your backyard
  3. Capture ideas, notes, dates and any other thoughts and reflections
  4. Have a go at creating a poem or detailed scientific drawings
  5. Keep asking yourself ‘I wonder why….?’
  6. Look up things when you get home
  7. Think about any action you can take
  8. Download the Junior Ranger Autumn Diaries 2020 Booklet

Week 1: Autumn along our coast and marine parks

The first Autumn storms wash up ‘beach wrack’ and animals like by-the-wind-sailors. Many animals are starting to breed – Little penguins are starting to lay their eggs, blue-ring octopus are mating, spider crabs are coming inshore to mate and King George whiting are spawning in the gulfs.

Challenges for week 1

Challenge 1

  • If you live close to the beach or a marine park, go for a walk and take a photo of something washed up (or find a photo if you can’t get to the beach) and start journaling!

Challenge 2

  • Pick up at least 3 bits of rubbish (if safe to do so) and bin it. If you can’t get to the beach help with some recycling at home

Tips for week 1 - How to start journaling

Journaling tips – How to start

  • Make 2 drawings – one that includes the surrounding environment and another close up of your treasure
  • Give your page or drawing a title
  • Write down the date and time
  • Note the weather conditions
  • Is it an animal or plant? Capture its colour, texture and smell!
  • What would it eat or where would it grow?
  • Do you think it lives close to the coast or has it washed up from far away?
  • Write down any questions you have

Remember there are no right or wrong answers, just curiosity!

Actions for week 1

Write down a Junior Ranger action in your journal that you might like to do (examples below)

Further Links and interesting resources

Week 2 - a time for birds

When the first rains of Autumn fall, fungus starts to grow in the leaf litter. Seeds, like the sweet bursaria, fall to the ground and are eaten by small birds. Messmate stringybark and blue gums are flowering. This season is known as Parnati in Kaurna language and is a time of plentiful birdlife, and when small stone fruits, seeds and roots are eaten.

Challenges for week 2

Challenge 1

  • If you live close to a park, take a walk and watch the birds. Take a photo, jot in your journal the features of the birds you see using the journaling the tips from last week. When you get home draw more of your birds and try and identify them.

Challenge 2

  • Do you know what the colour variations of magpies are in Australia? Which one is found in South Australia?

Challenge 3

  • Can you identify which birds you can hear from Belair National Park in autumn?

Tips for week 2

  • Use the journaling tips from last week: write the date, time, make drawings, ask questions
  • What do you think it eats: insects, fish, flowers, small lizards, seeds?
  • Focus on beaks and feet:
    • beaks can be used to tear flesh, scoop or filter in water or mud, probe for nectar, worms or shellfish, peck insects or crack and chew seeds.
    • Feet help birds to wade or swim, hold onto food, perch or cling onto branches or seize and hold prey.
  • Capture characteristics: size, colour, beak shape, its call, and any colourful markings
  • Write a poem or some fun words

Actions for week 2

Write down an action in your journal that you might like to do (examples below):

Links and interesting resources

Week 3 - Autumn in colour - Trees and flowers

The soil is getting damper and seeds are starting to germinate. Some will become big trees and will need to grow well before next summer. Kaurna people refer to this time of the year as Parnati and it marks the time that bark is ready to be stripped to make canoes and shelters. Autumn flowers (like the flame heath) start blooming providing an important energy source for small birds.

Challenges for week 3

Challenge 1

  • Get colourful and creative, find flowers to paint or press, do a bark rubbing with charcoal on a piece of paper, or draw a tree.

Challenge 2

  • Do you know what the colour variations of magpies are in Australia? Which one is found in South Australia?

Tips for week 3 - Rubbing, drawings and pressings

  • Use the journaling tips from previous weeks - write the date, time, make drawings, ask questions
  • Pressings - pick an Autumn flower (from your garden or from where it’s allowed). draw the flower, label its parts. Then press it between paper underneath heavy books (this will get the moisture out). When it’s dry stick it carefully into your journal.
  • Rubbings - use paper and charcoal (try using recently burnt wood as charcoal!)

Actions for week 3

Write down an action in your journal that you might like to do (examples below):

  • Visit a local nursery and plant some native species in your garden
  • Start your own collection of nature books to keep on your shelf

Links and interesting resources

Week 4 - Fungi, leaf litter and decay

As Autumn rains moisten the ground moss turns from brown to green. Creatures lay their eggs among the leaf litter and lizards burrow into the ground to hibernate until spring. Fungi is spreading throughout the soil helping to recycle dead plant and animal material. Colourful fungi is popping up, brightening damp forests.

Please do not eat any fungus from the wild. There is no safe way you can tell which ones are safe.

Challenges for week 4

Challenge 1

  • Take a walk in your local park and find some fungi. This time when you do your journaling, use your imagination.

Challenge 2

  • Draw white fungi or leaf litter using light coloured pastels on black paper.

Tips for week 4 - Imagining Underground

  • Use the journaling tips from previous weeks - write the date, time, make drawings, ask questions
  • Find out what 'group' of fungi it belongs to. Can you describe its colour and texture?
  • What would you find underneath a mushroom? Decaying leaves? Lizard eggs? A fairy?

Actions for week 4

Write down an action in your journal that you might like to do (examples below)

Learn more about fungi

• Start a simple compost bin at home and monitor how long it takes for matter to break down


Links and interesting resources

Week 5 - Animal tracks and traces

After the summer rains, the north east outback of South Australia comes to life. Yandruwandha and Yawarrawarrka country has only two seasons and this time of year is referred to as ‘punda punda’ (winter). Sandy habitats provide canvases for little feet and claws. Animal traces are found everywhere if you know how to look for them.

Challenge for week 5

  • Go to your local park and find some animal traces – animal footprints, scratchings and scats (animal poo!). Use the journaling tips to draw what you see or hear.

Tips for week 5 – Drawing paw prints and poos

  • Use the journaling tips from previous weeks.
  • Use your power of observation and deduction. Do you know what the animal might have been doing (was it climbing, hopping, eating?)
  • It’s a good idea to put something in your photo that will help you identify the track when you get home (eg a pencil or ruler)
  • When drawing scats (poo) try and capture what the animal has eaten (grass, bones)
  • Don’t forget to write down the location, weather and even GPS points
  • Most native animals will hop, bound, waddle, crawl or scurry. Sometimes it is hard to determine their movement. When marsupials are hopping you might only see the tracks


Actions for week 5

Write down an action in your journal that you might like to do (examples below):

  • Find video clips or stories of Aboriginal storytelling in the sand
  • Find out whose country you are on and the Aboriginal name of the animal tracks you have drawn.
  • Visit the South Australian Museum and find some skulls or even fossils to study

Links and interesting resources

Week 6 - Large animal behaviour

Winter is looming! Southern right whales have left Antarctica for our protected shores where they will give birth and protect their young over winter. Male western grey kangaroos often leave the female mob to live in large groups and emus are pairing up ready to nest in winter.

Challenges for week 6

  • Sit quietly and watch some kangaroos. Draw three types of behaviour - juveniles playing with their mums, fighting, hopping at high speed, moving slowly using its tail or grooming.
  • Find out what nocturnal, crepuscular and diurnal means. How would you describe the activity of the animal you are drawing?

Tips for week 6 – How to capture behaviour

  • Use the journaling tips from previous weeks. This time spend some time watching a large animal and try and draw its behaviour
  • Start your drawing using circles. You can use this technique for drawing most animals
  • Drawing weight and Balance - A kangaroo’s centre of mass is around its hips. They can stand, twist, crouch and sometimes use their tail to balance on
  • Drawing whales - Most of the time you only see their flippers or tails. If you can identify their ‘above water’ behaviour you can probably guess what they are doing below
  • While you are watching an animal write down some words or create a poem, for instance Haiku poetry has three lines of 5,7,5 syllables

Actions for week 6

Write down a Junior Ranger action in your journal that you might like to do (examples below)

Handy links and resources

Each week we will be adding new links to interesting resources.

Park information


Native plants and flowers


Marine plants and animals

Aboriginal heritage

Volunteer and nature groups

Activity ideas

Learning Resources