Dec 30, 2013 | Featured Web Article

Backyard Bird Journaling

A journal is a great way to keep track of the seasons, of arrivals and departures, seed consumption, activity level, all sorts of tidbits that you might find worth remembering in years to come.
Share:

The start of a new year is just around the corner. Now is a great time to consider starting a backyard journal to help you keep track of the bird information you observe each day.

Keep it near your primary feeder-watching window, and add to it throughout the day.

A year from now, you'll know when to say goodbye to your winter visitors, and when to expect the earliest spring migrants.

Consider purchasing a multi-year diary, so that you can compare feeder activity and weather for several years in a row, right on the same page.

It's a great way to keep track of the seasons, of arrivals and departures, seed consumption, activity level, all sorts of tidbits that you might find worth remembering in years to come.

Getting started:

  • Get a journal dedicated to your yard bird watching activities, preferably one with space for multiple years on each page
  • Keep a pen clipped to it, and always keep the day's date marked
  • Keep it near the window you use most often, ideally next to your at-home binoculars

What to track:

  • Species, including new arrivals, and those whose residence in your yard is seasonal. Keep tallies by species if you can.
  • Bird behavior, including the start of spring singing, courtship displays, molting, and breeding plumage
  • The temperature and weather that day
  • Seed consumption levels
  • Note anytime you add or replace feeders or types of food
  • Which birds are eating what
  • Anything else that grabs your eye
  • Your feelings: If the new plumage of a goldfinch or the sight of a parent titmouse feeding its young warms your heart, write that down. If a squirrel cleaning out your feeders rankles you, put that down, too. If a Cooper's hawk took one of your doves, how did it make you feel? Express yourself!

If you miss a few days, or a week, or a month, forgive yourself, and resume journaling. Habits can take time to develop. But years from now, the notes you take today will be a source of rewarding memories, and your skills at understanding your yard birds will be sharpened with very little effort.

About Dawn Hewitt

Dawn Hewitt is the managing editor at Watching Backyard Birds and Bird Watcher's Digest. She has been watching birds since 1978, and wrote a weekly birding column for The Herald-Times, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Indiana, for 11 years.

What do you think? Tell us!

comments powered by Disqus

New On This Site

The Latest Comments

  • I have experienced this when a house wren punctured 5 blue bird eggs last spring in our blue bird box. Then I hung out a wren box by the trees and he got busy filling it and left the bluebirds alone and they successfully raised another brood!
    by Susan, Sun, 07 Apr 2019
  • I also have several turkeys that live in the woods behind me. They visit early morning and near sundown. Living in the country with a mountain and brook behind my house, I have animals visiting 24hrs a day. My turkeys are awesome. They know me and wait for their breakfast. They hop up on my patio wall to look in my windows. I also noticed the 2 birds that are the lookouts. They come over to eat as the others march across my lawn to my neighbor who also feeds the animals. We also have coyotes that, I am sure, have eaten turkey dinner. The squirrels run around and chase them to protect their seeds and cracked corn. I feed my 3 raccoons peanut butter jelly sandwiches, which they share with a possum and 3 skunks, at the same time, by the way. No food goes into my garbage. Meat scraps go to crows and hawks. Everything else, even soup, gets eaten before the sun is completely set. That keeps bears away if no dishes are there to entice. I break up bread in tiny pieces now and turkeys 'gobble' it up. So happy to find another person that enjoys wildlife. Nothing is more satisfying than walking out side and spotting Daisy the skunk, calling her name and watching her tripping all over herself, running to meet you. Thank you for your valuable information.
    by Stella Kachur, Wed, 27 Mar 2019
  • This is exactly my experience. The local feed store had some on sale so I thought I'd try some. Actually I was shocked at how it is avoided, and I've been feeding birds for more than 40 years. I suppose I've never had it out as the ONLY food source, but when I put it out along with the blackoil, peanuts, cracked corn and suet cakes, absolutely nothing would touch it. Even when I dumped some on the ground the rabbits wouldn't eat it, nor would the squirrels. Eventually some turkeys and deer ate some--when they could find nothing else underneath the other feeders. But even they left plenty on the ground which they NEVER do with cracked corn, sunflower, etc.Every person should try some if they're inclined and decide for themselves since every situation may be a bit different, but for me/my species, safflower is a big no.
    by Colin Croft, Sun, 03 Mar 2019
  • I have questions about the Zick Dough? It says not to use in cold weather. It is still in the 40s here. Too soon? How long should I expect a supply to last? And, use a tray feeder? Thanks.
    by martindf, Sun, 25 Nov 2018
  • Glad I found this. I'm a snowbird and was worried about all the birds that come to feed at my birdfeeder. I have Cardinals, sparrows, doves, Blue Jays, chickadees. I hope they'll find food elsewhere while I'm gone.
    by Donna, Sat, 03 Nov 2018