Lab Info / field notebook

Field Notebook

The field notebook will be used as a bird identification learning tool. Many of the birds that we see will not allow close approach or perch cooperatively in the open so that you can observe them easily. Frequently, you will have to make identifications quickly, based on fleeting or distant views. Keeping a field notebook will help you to make systematic, detailed observations of birds in the field. The mere act of writing your observations down will help you to memorize important field marks, and the notebook will provide you with a quick reference for common species. The discipline of keeping careful field notes is a basic skill for all biologists which will serve you well in the future.

We would like your notebook entries to be organized into three categories each time you go into the field: a daily journal, a species list, and identification notes for individual species. The daily journal is a brief summary of who, what, when, where, and why you were out, as well as a description of the weather conditions. The species list is simply a running list of species seen with time and location noted. Identification notes include detailed observations, notes, and sketches of birds not previously recorded in the notebook.

Daily Journal

For each trip into the field, you should make a separate entry. The entry should begin with the journal section. Include the following:

  1. Date and time of day
  2. Name of the place visited
  3. Weather conditions
  4. Major habitats
  5. Who was with you (i.e. were you alone, with your project group, or on a lab field trip?)

Species List

The species list section is a list of each of the species that you see on each trip noting your location and time. You can use either common names or scientific names and abbreviations are acceptable as long as they are clearly defined within the notebook.

Identification Notes

Your identification notes contain information on natural history, habitat, behavior, field markings, and sketches. The first time you encounter a bird in the field, you should enter a species account for that species in addition to listing that species in the catalog list. Future comments can be added to the account during subsequent sightings or an additional account can be made to include further notes on a particular species.

When describing a bird in your notes, try to be systematic. One approach is to start with the head and work toward the back along the dorsal side. Next, return to the front end and describe the ventral side - throat, breast, sides, and belly. Throughout your descriptions, use the terms associated with bird topography. Describe anything distinctive about behavior. For example, note where and how the bird forages, whether it flicks its tail, what sounds the bird makes, etc.

You can record your notes into any size or style of notebook that you wish. You should record notes directly into your notebook while you are in the field. You should record notes either in pencil or permanent ink. Sketches greatly improve field notes. It is usually faster and easier to describe a bird by drawing it than by describing it in words. Simple drawings by connecting two ovals, one for the head and the other for the body can be used to place field marks (e.g. wing bars, eye ring). The field notebook is worth 25 points and will handed in on the last lab period.