I am currently reading a birding book titled Good Birders Don't Wear White: 50 Tips from North America's Top Birders. It is a compilation of 50 short essays written by 50 of America's birders and naturalists. Some essays are quite funny while some are very dull, but the best are those that make me consider trying something new. That's what this post is about.
In the past, I have taken notes while birdwatching but often they are simply lists of species that I see in a given day. However, I often use a dilapidated, spiral-bound notebook that is terrible for the job (the pages get ripped out, the writing smears, etc.). I have never went out of my way to buy a durable notebook for field notes. However, I'm going to now. Note-taking in the field has always intrigued me and I don't know why it's taken me so long to jump on the bandwagon. Maybe I'm just lazy. When I do find the perfect notebook, it's doubtful I'll utilize it every time I go birding but I should take it with me at all times. There's a good point made in Good Birders Don't Wear White; that taking notes on field marks, behaviour, habitat, structure, size, molt, age, etc. will all heighten your skills as well as quicken the pace of the learning curve. There are often subtle field marks that I sometimes forget in certain species, and other times I'll notice a certain behaviour or action that I haven't observed before. A mental note is made. How long does this mental note last? Well, if I take detailed notes, it'll last forever (and probably better stick in my memory). Also, on days when birding is slow (these summer months have been rough in the city), note-taking will be a great way to continue learning and heighten my skills while I'm not putting so much effort into searching for migrants.
Now, whether or not I start to sketch my sightings will be determined later. My drawings will likely look like something that a 3 year old child might concoct and run to their parents who stick it up with a fridge magnent with a cringe. However, perhaps my skills will be honed to the point that I can draw a bird without hanging my head in shame or setting the drawing on fire.
Perhaps I'm just feeling studious but it's an idea I plan to entertain. Perhaps I'll get frustrated after trying to write down detailed notes of the first bird I see (statistical analysis predicts Rock Pigeon) and give it up completely. However, if it helps my identification skills and the notes aid in memory, I think it's worth a shot. Also, someday it might be handy if it helps me to be prepared when the bird I'm looking at requires a rare bird report. And anyway, I'll only be down 2 bucks for a wasted notebook.