One of the best ways to view the yard through a different lens, so to speak, is to literally view it through a different lens.
A camera is really a required piece of nature-walk equipment whether or not you're using it to identify your discoveries. Whether it's film or digital, it'll add a whole different dimension to the experience when you record it for posterity (and for follow-up, which we'll get to later).
Ideally, if we're talking digital, you'll want one with a macro setting. You want to get up close and see the veins in those leaves, the stamen on that flower, the scales on that little garter snake, or the innards of that translucent worm, and macro lets you do that. Zoom is also a great feature, as is the special setting for outdoors or nature that some cameras have built-in. With a film camera, different lenses let you achieve these types of results.
While cameras are nature equipment you don't want to forget, they're not make-it-or-break-it supplies. Those are, happily, a lot less expensive.