Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Take note...

What do you do with all of your sightings? After you have spent a day out in the field you will return home with a notebook (possibly) and a head (certainly) full of species, numbers, places and a hundred-and-one other snippets of information. What then?

We all differ at this point I’m sure. For the record I take my field notebook and make a computerised record of the day, possibly adding a bit of narrative (if the mood takes me). If I have recorded a particularly early or late date for a migrant, a high count or a ‘new’ species for a site/county, then these will be entered into another data base. If I’m involved in any survey then the records will be uploaded via the relevant software. Photographic mages that I have taken will also be sorted and filed. I try to do this on the very same day, so as not to get a backlog as much as to ensure that I remember to actually do it.

I have a cupboard full of notebooks, trip reports and lists. It is a personal history of my time in the field (1974 to date). Although most of the important and valuable records have been sent to local bird clubs, lepidoptera and botanical recorders, the BTO and the like, the notebooks still remain a very useful resource. I have often had to get them out and go through them to extract information for specific requests. I can, if time permits, luxuriate in a little time travelling, by picking up a volume at random and reading it for pleasure (or not, if a particularly painful dip is relived). I might decide to collate a list for a particular site years after my first visit there. If I do, all the information is here.

There must be thousands of such notebooks residing in thousands of amateur naturalist’s houses up and down the country. Much of the information contained within them will be in the public domain already, either with the relevant recorders or having been posted on the internet. But don’t lose sight of the source material – the original notes. You never know when you may want to revisit them!

I look at my cherished pile of notebooks and wonder what will become of them when I’m no longer around to add to them. My family insist that they will keep them, to look after them, although I can visualise the skip being lowered onto the driveway minutes after I’ve been laid to rest...


  1. Fairly similar to you Steve:
    Field notebook, then written up neat into an annual daily narrative diary including descriptions of all rarities and scarcer species, photos etc. Also have a Birds of TG42 10km square in the making including all available historical records with max monthly counts of seabirds, skuas and wildfowl etc, wader counts, passage migrants etc. That way we know when a good count is on / or at least potential during a seawatch etc. The aim is to produce a publication for the patch similar to a county avifauna but on a smaller, more personal scale, containing all accepted rarity records, notable movements, max counts over the years.

    The actual notebooks are pretty scrappy but vital as you can't remember all the details of everything you see. They're essential for seawatching.

    If I didn't record it all and set it in context it would seem pretty pointless in the long run.

  2. Tim, I look forward to being invited to the drinks reception on publication day of 'The Birds of TG42'. I welcome the number of birders who are publishing very local, and sometimes totally personal avifaunas - long may that continue.