Already since his first known works, and specifically his landscape drawings, Bruegel's work bears witness to a special affection for nature or the world around him. Bruegel makes in the first half of his career the overwhelming nature the subject of various drawings. Far-reaching dales, imposing mountaintops with the presence of man here and there, symbolised by villages or tiny travellers. Grazing or passing livestock, hares, stags, mountain goats, bears, (starving) hunting hounds, birds flying overhead and attentive magpies are subtle additions.
Throughout his entire oeuvre, trees play a notable role: from gnarled, weathered oaks to tottering conifers. Often they function on the side as a repoussoir, as a means to lead the gaze of the art lover into the depths. Bruegel is also a master in the rendering of vegetation. In this respect, consider the ingenious constructed The Magpie on the Gallows. (Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt) His impression of The Twelve Months (1565) is masterful. Every painting breathes the (meteorological) character of the corresponding season and the influence of the existence of humans upon it.
Animals play an exceptionally rare leading role in Bruegel's works. Two exceptions are the pen and ink drawing Bears in a Forest (ca. 1554) and the small panel Two Monkeys (1562). It is conjecture as to the facts of the works. In the first there are bears in action, they are playing and foraging. The two characterised little monkeys show Bruegel's capabilities as a portrait artist of animals.