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 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.

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