Why Keep A Bird Watching Journal?

A bird watching journal will preserve your birding experiences.

Whether you are keeping track of the wild birds that visit your bird feeders or the birds in your nearest National Forest, your hobby will be enhanced by keeping a bird watching journal.

My own experience has taught me that recording what I see in my journal increases my focus on what I am watching. Watching becomes more than just seeing. It becomes an act of interpretation of what I am watching. My journal has become a checklist to remind me what to look for.

Keeping a bird watching journal is a personal activity. It is entirely up to you what to include in your journal and no one should tell you how to keep one. There aren't any rules that you have to follow. You could simply keep a list of the bird species that you see, which is sometimes called a life list.

But if you want to record more detailed information you can include some basic observations. For example:

  • Date and time
  • Gender
  • Location of sighting
  • Number of birds seen
  • Behavior observations
  • Habitat description
  • General weather conditions
  • Bird sounds
  • Sketches of things you see

Enjoy the freedom of knowing that your bird watching journal belongs to you and has no rules. Don’t worry about your writing ability, grammar and spelling, they don't matter as much as creativity and enjoyment. Your journal should encourage observation and creativity, not perfectionism. Don't be concerned with how neat it is. If you need to line something out, line it out. Add information in the margins if you need to. But above all, just have fun!

Once you have become comfortable with recording your observations, consider adding some drawings. This will be especially fun for kids.

Try drawing what you see, the trees, the mountains, even the birds. This will add life to your journal.

Supplies to Make Your Own Bird Watching Journal

There are several nice bird watching journals available on the market. Some are leather bound with pre-printed pages for entries. But keeping a journal does not need to be expensive. In fact, you may be more creative and less intimidated if you use a less expensive book that you make yourself. Start by assembling your supplies. Be sure to include your children in the process if they will be contributing to the journal.

Blank Notebooks

Notebooks without lined pages provide more flexibility. They will make it easier to add sketches, leafs, or feathers. Choose a size that is comfortable to write in. If your children will be contributing, an 8 x 11 journal is best. That way you will have plenty of room to glue in their artistic endeavors. It doesn't matter whether the book is hard or soft cover. You may want a hardcover or clipboard if you think you might take the book on nature hikes or walks through your neighborhood. Find a book with paper that has a smooth surface and is of reasonable quality - especially if you will be drawing in it or gluing things to it.

Pens and Pencils

You may want to keep a special pen with your journal. Using the same ink color will provide some visual consistency from entry to entry. You can use colored pens and pencils to highlight dates and decorate your pages. But if you prefer simplicity, a disposable pen is just fine.

Art Supplies

If you want to create a scrapbook you may want to include art stamps, ink-pad, spray adhesive (for sticking pictures in your book), watercolors, kneaded eraser, ruler, scissors, and even stickers in your journal kit. Make sure that the supplies you use are acid free, in order to keep them from yellowing. It’s important that you have lots of fun collecting and using these items so that you will be less inclined to abandon your journal once the novelty wears off.

Remember when I said that there were no rules? Well there is one: HAVE FUN. Creativity is best expressed when you enjoy what you are doing. If you want to add photographs, add photographs. If you want to add pressed leaves or flowers to you bird watching journal, do it. Don't limit yourself by what you think your abilities are…surprise yourself.

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