Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Butterfly Observation Journal

Some people are bird watchers.  I, however, am a butterfly watcher.  And, being the journal-obsessed person that I am, I have begun keeping a journal to record my observations.

I use a small, inexpensive Mead Journal and write in it with a black Sharpie Pen Grip.  (I like to always use the same type of pen in a particular journal - it lends some uniformity to the entries.)

For each entry, I write down the date, time, location, weather conditions, and temperature as well as the species of the butterfly (both common and scientific names) and some sentences on what the butterfly looked like, what it was doing, how I identified it, how sure I am of the identification (often, not very!), etc.  I will also note whether or not I managed to photograph the butterfly (probably not - they fly fast and when they land, like to position themselves under grass blades).

Lorquin's Admiral, Limenitis lorquini
Observation journals like this one are great for anyone who wants to keep a journal but who is not interested in the more personal kind of journals.  You can keep a journal of your observations of insects, birds, the weather, the traffic, the people you see while shopping at the grocery store, or anything else.

If you are interested in becoming a butterfly watcher, I recommend that you read The Audubon Society Handbook for Butterfly Watchers by Robert Michael Pyle.  This book even contains a chapter on "Records and Field Notes."  Pyle writes:
"Even more than binoculars or forceps, the notebook is an essential item for the serious observer who wants to learn as well as enjoy.  Any sort of notebook will do - I've tried dozens of species, from little spiral memos to weatherproof professional models.  The paper should be of good quality so that  it will not deteriorate in a few years from its own acid; and the pages should be bound in firmly, so that a gust of wind will not swipe a whole week's writing in an instant.  You want a book that will be easy to carry and handy to use but not so small that it gets overlooked or easily misplaced."
Sounds like good advice, and I love how he describes the different kinds of notebooks as different "species"!


  1. This is a great idea. I used to amuse myself pretty often back in my mother's front garden by watching for different butterflies in the spring. And of course, every year when the monarchs came, I sat out on my balcony and tried to count them as they flew over my house.

    I'm hoping I can see a greater variety up here in the Northwest!

  2. Thanks, Finn. I've only ever seen one Monarch in my life, so I envy you being able to see them in migration. Good luck with your future butterfly observations!

  3. What a perfect place for a Rite in the Rain notebook!! A fabric bound---you will be amazed at its quality and how well it will hold up.


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