Lab Info / field notebook

Field Notebook

Use your field notebook as a bird identification learning tool. Keeping a field notebook will help you to make systematic, detailed observations of birds in the field. Describing and sketching your observations will help you to memorize important field marks, and your notebook will provide a quick reference for common species. Taking careful field notes is a basic skill for all field biologists. Developing this skill takes time and practice, but it will serve you well in the future.

We would like you to make notebook entries each time you go into the field, both in class and on your own. Organize your observations into three categories; 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 (temperature, wind speed and direction, cloud cover, precipitation). The species list is simply a running list of species seen with times and locations noted. Identification notes include detailed observations, notes, and sketches of each species seen in the field.

Daily Journal

Make a separate entry for each day you are in the field. 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 includes each species seen on each trip to the field, noting the location and time of each observation. You can use either common names, scientific names, or BBL species codes.

Identification Notes

Your identification notes contain information on natural history, habitat, behavior, field marks, and sketches of individual species. You should begin a species account in your notebook the first time you encounter a new species in the field. Reserve 1-2 pages in your notebook for each species. You can expand your accounts as you make additional observations.

Develop a systematic approach for describing species. For example, start with the head and work toward the back along the dorsal side. Then descriibe the ventral side, throat, breast, sides, and belly from head to tail. Use the terminology associated with bird topography provided in lecture. Describe anything distinctive about the bird's behavior. For example, note where and how the bird forages, movements of the wings or tail, songs and calls, etc.

Record your notes directly into your notebook while you are in the field using either pencil or permanent ink. Make additional notes after leaving the field if you wish. Sketching the bird will greatly improve your field notes and accelerate your learning. It is usually faster and easier to capture a bird's key field marks with a sketch 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. We will review notebooks and provide feedback on 5 February and assign a final grade after the field identificaion test at the end of the semester.