Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Capturing Notes in the Field

"Let the collector's motto be 'Trust nothing to memory'; for the memory becomes a fickle guardian when one interesting object is succeeded by another still more interesting."

Charles Darwin

Taking notes in the field has been a passion of mine for a long time. I have stacks of pocket-sized notebooks full of observations made over the years and I'm in the process of re-writing these notes in a neater format along with photos that are related to each entry. Some folks use word processing programs and type their recordings, but I prefer mine to be handwritten. I do this because I feel something is lost when you type them up. Handwritten notes have character and personality. Each stroke of the pen or pencil contains a part of the person that made the observation.

At one time I used 4”x 6” lined spiral notebooks, but now prefer Moleskine notebooks, specifically the 3 ½” x 5 ½” unlined reporter’s version which has acid-free paper. My pen of choice is the Sharpie pens that don’t bleed through, are water resistant and acid free, specifically the Sharpie Ultra Fine Point and the Sharpie Ultra Fine Point Retractable. But sometimes I’ll use a good old fashioned #2 pencil.

Record birds, insects and other animals you see. Behavioral observations, sensory observations (colors, smells, sounds), weather data, date, locality. Include drawings, gps co-ordinates, personal musings. Record everything no matter how insignificant it seems, because later, I promise, you'll be glad you did. The same goes with photographs. With today's digital cameras you can take pictures of everything and later cull what's not needed.

The really cool thing about this is when my 2-year old granddaughter learns to read she can pull out paw paw’s notebooks and enjoy reading about the many things he observed while in the wild.

Related books to read:

Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You

The Art of Field Sketching

How to Keep a Naturalist's Notebook

The Sierra Club Guide to Sketching in Nature

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