If you’re new to backyard birding, keeping a journal is a helpful practice. It can help improve your birding skills. It can make your observations more valuable – for yourself and for various birding research centers. It can also provide powerful memories both for you and for posterity. And keeping a bird journal need not be daunting. Birding is for your enjoyment and experience so journaling about it can be as fun or detailed as you like.
Here are a few suggested tips to get you started:
- Pencils write well under any weather condition (if taking notes outside) and don’t fade over time. Otherwise, consider taking notes in permanent ink. Also, try varying your ink color and thickness for added interest and whimsy.
- Make sure to write down the date, time, and specific place in your backyard where you observed the birds.
- Write down the common and scientific names of the species you see, and avoid using abbreviations unless they are ones you are extremely familiar with and won’t forget later. A Field Guide is helpful in identifying the bird names and there are many good ones available for purchase online or in bookstores.
- Note the condition of the habitat in your backyard, including plant life, water and food sources, vegetation, and weather. This will help you identify opportunities for improvement as needed.
- Sketch and notate interesting behaviors, coloring, plumage, and vocalizations of unusual birds for identification later. And don’t worry if you’re not a great artist… you’ll get better as you practice.
- Make a note of the flock size in your backyard and try to estimate how many birds are in the flock.
- Decorate and personalize your journal with stickers, colored markers, doodles – anything that represents your individual style and taste, not to mention interest in birds.
You’ll want to thumb through your journal occasionally in an effort to improve your note-taking and observations, especially if you decide to conduct bird-watching for scientific reasons. Also, a journal is a great way to remember what birds you see and their quirky behaviors.
Eventually, you’ll develop your own short hand for taking notes in your journal. Feel free to experiment with abbreviations that work best for you. Soon enough you’ll be able to take critical notes quickly and effortlessly.
Study your notes frequently and add any observations you realize later that you missed. Comparing your notes on similar bird species can help you learn to identify more accurately the various birds in your backyard.
Your notes can also be transcribed onto a computer to share with birders online, and your observations may be valuable for local birding groups or conservation studies.
Use your birding journal to record each bird sighting in great detail and you’ll start feeling like a birding expert in no time!