What is a species list?
When I find that I do not have a lot of free time to compose more elaborate nature journal entries, I create a species list. If you have no idea where to begin a nature journal, this is a fantastic place to start. Heck, you don’t even need a journal! You can keep it as a note in your phone. For instance, each day, as you see a bird out your window, or a mammal on your walk, make a quick note of what you saw.
But, what if I can’t identify the bird? That’s ok. Everyone must start somewhere. Maybe you could start by adding, “two unidentified bird species.” Or make a short one sentence description. For example, “a blue, white, and orange bird with a long tail.” If you find yourself with a couple free minutes, google that description. I have a bad social media scrolling habit, so I find that when I’m standing in line at the grocery store, instead of scrolling, I google. Maybe you’ll discover the name of the bird you saw.
In January, we worked on the van a lot. Research into van systems and our first projects dug into the time I had to go birding and journaling. So, I created a species list instead to keep up the habit of noticing who else is around! This is one of my Five Tips to Make Nature Journaling a New Habit.
Without further adieu…
January’s Species List:
January 1st, 2021: White Crowned Sparrow, Golden Crowned Sparrow, Anna’s Hummingbird
January 2nd, 2021: Cooper’s Hawk, Red Tailed Hawk, White Crowned Sparrow (2), Cedar Waxwing (4)
January 3rd, 2021: Red Tailed Hawk, Scrub Jay, Brown Headed Cowbird (6), Brewer’s Blackbird (20+)
January 4th, 2021: Northern Flicker, Great Blue Heron
January 5th, 2021: Red Tailed Hawk, Unidentified Hawks on Telephone Poles (3)
January 6th, 2021: Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Small unidentified brown birds
January 7th, 2021: White Tailed Kite (First one!), White Crowned Sparrow (4), Golden Crowned Sparrow (2), Anna’s Hummingbird, Desert Cottontail
January 8th, 2021: Red Tailed Hawk, American Robin (4)
January 9th, 2021: Western Fence Lizard, Red Breasted Sapsucker, American Robin (4)
January 10th, 2021: White Crowned Sparrow (3), Golden Crowned Sparrow, Red Breasted Sapsucker
January 11th, 2021: California Quail (20+), Mourning Dove (10+), Northern Flicker, Brewer’s Blackbird (20+), Western Meadowlark (2)
January 12th, 2021 White Tailed Kite, Turkey Vulture
January 13th, 2021: Red Tailed Hawk, White Crowned Sparrow
January 14th, 2021: Scrub Jay, Red Tailed Hawk
January 15th, 2021: Rock Pigeons (10+), Common Merganser (2), Common Goldeneye (6), Turkey Vulture (2), Red Tailed Hawk (2), Raven
January 16th, 2021: American Kestrel (First one!), Red Tailed Hawk (2), Turkey Vulture (4), Rock Pigeon (10+)
January 17th, 2021: Red Shouldered Hawk (First one!), Western Bluebird (4)
January 18th, 2021: White Crowned Sparrow (4), Mourning Dove (6)
January 19th, 2021: Western Fence Lizard, Desert Cottontail, Small brown bird with some yellow on shoulder
January 20th, 2021: Starlings (Massive Flock, hundreds) California Quail (6), Western Meadowlark (4), Red Tailed Hawk
January 21st, 2021: White Tailed Kite (2), Red Tailed Hawk, Red Shouldered Hawk, European Starling, Common Goldeneye (2), Turkey Vulture (3), White Crowned Sparrow (10+), Western Bluebird, House Finch, Western Meadowlark (3), Rock Pigeons (20+), Small brown bird with some yellow on shoulder
January 22nd, 2021: White Crowned Sparrow (2), Anna’s Hummingbird, Unidentified Hawk on Telephone Poles (4), Scrub Jay (2)
January 23rd, 2021: Western Bluebird (2), Northern Flicker, Mourning Dove (3), Turkey Vulture
January 24th, 2021: Red Breasted Sapsucker, Red Tailed Hawk, European Starling, White Tailed Kite (2), Scrub Jay (2), Golden Crowned Sparrow (6), White Crowned Sparrow (4), Turkey Vultures (4), Mourning Dove (5)
January 25th, 2021: Brewer’s Blackbird (4+), European Starling (20+), Scrub Jay, Kestrel, Common Goldeneye (6), Double Crested Cormorant, White Tailed Kite (2)
January 26th, 2021: Scrub Jay, White Crowned Sparrow
January 27th, 2021: Anna’s Hummingbird (2), Unidentified Gulls (10+)
January 28th, 2021: White Crowned Sparrow (2), American Robin, Anna’s Hummingbird
January 29th, 2021: Northern Mockingbird, California Quail (7), White Crowned Sparrow (4), Turkey Vulture (5), European Starling (4), Common Goldeneye (4), Double Crested Cormorant (7), Red Shouldered Hawk, Burrowing Owl (First one!), Desert Cottontail, Black Tailed Jackrabbit (4), Bushtit (8+)
January 30th, 2021: White Tailed Kite, Red Shouldered Hawk, Red Tailed Hawk, European Starling (4), American Robin (2), Desert Cottontail, Turkey Vulture (2)
January 31st, 2021: Northern Mockingburd, White Crowned Sparrows (2), Turkey Vulture, Desert Cottontail (2), Mourning Dove (3), Dark Eyed Junco (4), Kestrel, European Starlings (20+)
The Nature Journal Species List
I created a four page spread for the species list to not cramp my handwriting. Because this post would be only writing, I added some color with the green paper accents. If you are creating your own, this spread can get super elaborate or become even more plain. It really depends on your style and how much time you put into it.
Over the past month, I have found a good rhythm. First, I started a note in my phone so I could easily record the species I saw on the fly (pun intended). Second, I set aside four pages in my nature journal and gave it a title. Third, as each day goes by, I type the species I see into my phone. Lastly, I write the notes from my phone into my journal every few days. In short, when I do not have a lot of free time, this process helps me attain the goal I set.
With this process in mind, I left a little room at the end of the list for a few overall impressions. Therefore, I had a few field notes. Moreover, I noticed that I had three new firsts for the month!
Species List General Field Notes
In conclusion, I saw mostly birds this month. This entire month, we have stayed in Northern California at low elevation. Our focus has rested on the van conversion and not on naturalizing. However, to exercise I went on frequent runs (read: small jogs) and lots of walks. Because we’ve been in a rural suburban area, I did not see much other than birds, so I allowed that to be my focus. Our February outlook will probably be similar! Luckily, I’m getting better and better at using National Geographic’s Field Guide to Western Birds of North America.
My biggest observation occurred when I saw the massive flock of European Starlings. First of all, the flock was enormous! Second, I noticed that they did not like the neighbor’s yard. Rather, the flock landed in the yard where we are staying. Then, when the flock took off and searched for a landing spot again, it landed back in this yard. On one hand, I thought it might have to do with the two lazy dogs in the other yard. On the other hand, the neighbor’s yard had nothing but artificial lawn sod to make the “perfect lawn.” All the while, the yard the flock preferred was a natural lawn full of spiky California golden grass and mole holes.
Speaking of the enormous flock of European Starlings, I had another interesting observation: the flock contained other birds. As I moved my camera to see various portions of the landed flock, I noted a few species. In addition to the European Starlings, I saw a few Brewer’s Blackbirds and some Brown Headed Cowbirds. Moreover, slightly to the side, I saw a few Western Meadowlarks lurking near the flock. Certainly, they were all enjoying the safety in numbers!