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.
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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 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.


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The Latest Comments

  • I am excited to have my daughter’s tree this year, since my landlord has removed the lovely yew next to my patio, which was the only shelter for birds at my feeder.
    by pmalcpoet, Mon, 20 Dec 2021
  • Goldfinches will continue as long as Swiss chard is available. I'm watching one eating chard right now (mid-November in Vermont).
    by Brian Tremback, Sun, 14 Nov 2021
  • Birds are on the decline though sunflowers are rarely touched and for weeks hardly .eaten. I'll try a few sparing nuts on the table and a fat ball broken for jackdaws and tits but mealworms were a summer favourite being my go to choice
    by Paul Harabaras, Thu, 04 Nov 2021
  • I’ve been enjoying goldfinches eating coneflower/ echinacea seeds in my new pollinator garden! I will leave the plants out all winter for them if the seeds keep that long? Or should I deadhead and put them in a dry area? Im in CT and thought they migrated, but didn’t know they put in winter coats! What do they eat in winter without bird feeders?
    by Anne Sheffield, Sat, 04 Sep 2021
  • Hi Gary, I will pass your question along to Birdsquatch next time I see him. He knows infinitely more about nocturnal wildlife than I do. Where do you live? That's pretty important in figuring out the answer. But the thief could be raccoons, deer, or flying squirrels. Do you live in the woods? Are there trees near your feeder, or must the culprit climb a shepherd's hook or pole? Dawn Hewitt, Watching Backyard Birds
    by Dawn Hewitt, Mon, 30 Aug 2021