I always kept one and I would use it to chronicle my days out and the birds seen, to make sketches and descriptions of my rarities that I was to report to regional or national records committees and also to casually show it to fellow birders e.g. to have them check out one of my field sketches that just so happened to be on the page right next to a super rarity I knew this birder had never seen in his life.
I don't keep one anymore.
Because I once lost it. Here's the story:
When I had returned from Namibia back in the late 1990ies and a friend asked me to come birding with him, I didn't find my German bird notebook as it was still somewhere in the cardboard boxes amongst my other stuff I had stored away while being out of the country for 6 months. Of course I did not dare leaving the house without a notebook, and so I took the African Thesis Data notebook along.
Then - after viewing a beautiful Red-breasted Goose at the coast - it started to rain and I got nervous as I hadn't copied my thesis data yet to ... well .. anywhere and I feared I might lose all my data by getting my notebook wet. So I stuffed it under my belt and kept it dry under the rain coat as we slowly walked back to the car.
We got into my friend's car and drove home where I noticed something was different, something was missing: there was nothing pressing against my belly anymore.
I had lost my notebook somewhere.
First, I searched the car.
It wasn't there.
However, the rain still was there, harder than before.
Then my friend drove back to the coastal marsh with me - in the rain - and we began to search the path we had taken before back to the car - while it kept on raining.
Finally there was my notebook.
It was on the road out in the open, but it was not in the rain.
How can that be?
Well, it was completely submerged in a huge puddle of rainwater!
The hours and hours spent with a pair of tweezers, soft paper tissue and a hair-dryer.
In the end, I saved most of my data and reckon I might have lost 5 % of it, so I was lucky.
But I also was a wiser man.
From that day onwards I did not keep a notebook anymore but decided to shift to a device that would still allow me to record my observations and chronicle everything but that was less vulnerable.
It is thus with great pride and pleasure that I present the safety-device for recording your field observations right where you make them: out in the field, with no risk of destroying a wealth of data when things go awry by losing your entire notebook.
This is it, the ultimate replacement of the notebook:
All we have to do is fold it open twice, turn it around and re-fold it the other way ...
... once ...
... twice, and we're back to square 1, with four empty and blank "pages" for even more field notes and all our notes taken so far sheltered and concealed inside.
Being stable and handy, the field notes device also allows us to occasionally sketch birds we've seen but cannot identify out in the field, e.g. this strange warbler I ran into on one of my rambles through the Arb.
When counting incredibly large numbers of birds, I have found it quite practical to write the species down at the far left edge of the field note device and then note the number of birds in each group I encounter or - with birds that mostly occur as singles or in very small groups stretched out over a prolongued observation time - mark them with ... geez, how do you call that in English ... "bars" I add up in blocks of 5. Well, you'll know what I mean by looking at my example, in this case the Golden Eagle.
Eventually and on a good day out, even those new "pages" will be full and our sheet of paper, when unfolded, will look like this (notice that in this staged example, I eventually got a bit lazy in the upper left corner). What's next? Yepp, you guessed it, all we have to do is ...
... turn it around and fold it ...
... once (notice yet again the ingenuity of protecting your data inside) ...
... twice ...
... three times ...
And don't forget the ball pen!
This concept - in my humble and not quite un-biased opinion - surely deserves two thumbs up, but this is where I had clearly reached my limit without a tripod for my camera and one thumb up will have to do in this post. Feel free to admire.
And before I forget: of course you can also archive all your field notes devices conveniently by filing them away in a stable folder. This is why they have to be hole-punched.
This was post number 200 on Bell Tower Birding. Considering that I have been around since November 2006, I wouldn't really call it a milestone. Maybe a yard- or inchstone of some sort or maybe even something I should have shut my mouth about in shame but you know: it is what it is and it is number 200, so there you go.
Happy birding trails.
On quiet nights, I can hear the rustling of wings from the far North. Fall migration is coming!