Nature Journal Methods

(Bird) Life Lists

I’m not sure if now is the best time to admit it, but I’m not very good at keeping a bird life list. Actually maybe the more important idea here is not the life list its self but rather the idea that not every method of nature journaling will work for everyone– and life lists are one that don’t necessarily work for me. BUT, they may be the perfect method for you…so read on to find out more about life lists.
On a resent trip to Hawaii I just wrote directly in the field guide the birds we saw
                                                     Life lists are generally associated with birdwatching. The idea is that the first time you positively identity a species of bird, you record the species of bird, where you first saw it and the date.
My Sibley’s field guide keeps my bird life list
There are several ways of doing this recording: some people keep a notebook where they write this information; other people simply mark the date and location in the margin of their field guide; and other people (like me with my pitiful little poorly kept lifelist) use an app on their phones. (my life list is kept on my Sibly’s bird guide app). You can also get lists of the birds that have been seen in an area. Such as in a given state, or a given nature park. At my nature journaling workshops I give participants a list of the 25 most commonly seen backyard feeder birds. (I think that might be about how many birds are on my life list– about 25).
In my opinion the tricky part of a life list is (a) the life list part– I keep forgetting whether or not I have already recorded a bird on my list and generally assume (incorrectly) that I have and (b) the whole positive identification part– I can never seem to trust myself that I do indeed know what type of bird it is and so I’m always hesitant to write it down.
I maybe bad at remember to keep a bird list, but I still enjoy recording new bird encounters!
I have, however, found a solution to problem b: lots of nature centers and Audubon organizations offer bird walks guided by experts who really know which bird is which so this is a great  way  to pad your life list and learn a few new birds (and fellow nature lovers) in the process!
Bugs and Beetles make for great life lists too!
The other secret I have about life lists is that they don’t have to be about birds. In fact I have found keeping a “bug and beetle” life list to be much more successful for me. For one thing you can actually catch a bug or beetle and put it in a bug jar to get a good enough look at it (and maybe a close up picture too) in order to really identify it. Also I enjoy drawing the bugs and beetles from my life list to help me learn to identify them. Bugs and beetles are simple shapes, but often have interesting colors and patterns which makes them really fun to draw and paint.

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