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Yesterday, November 9th, was the first possible feederwatch day for this season. That means a greater degree of accuracy than I usually indulge in with my records. The electronic check sheets will want me to log in Chestnut Backed Chickadees, American Robins, Northern Mockingbirds and California Towhees instead of Chickadees, Robins, Mockers, and Towhees. For this and other reasons I have finally broken down and started using band codes in my own personal records. Before we get into all of that however allow me to say that

The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group.  It is a place to note of any observations you have made of the world around you.  Insects, weather, meteorites, climate, birds and/or flowers.  All are worthy additions to the bucket.  Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment.  Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located. Each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us.
So, moving on and crossing over the drunken snake's track below ...

The point of this group, briefly summarized, is to track what is happening in the natural world by noting the little periodic events that take place. The long form, by group founder Mark Summers, is here: first group diary

The first description of a bucket

The Daily Bucket -- a generic container for pitching in your daily observations. Is there something new sprouting on the hill? A funny lizard spotted on the garden wall? An unsual bird at the feeder? Drop it in the bucket. Give a date and a place in the same message if it all possible, to make the post as valuable as it can be for those trying to dig out the data.
From the first bucket including some other good stuff too, like "flat biology", which should be recorded in the buckets too, IMHO.

As Mark said:

Phenology is a science that anyone can practice without a lab coat, microscope, or PhD. It's the study of seasonal events such as first flowers, appearance of certain butterflies, etc. People have tracked these dates for decades -- even centuries -- and now there's a place on DK4 to record your own observations. A casual spot to tell what you're seeing in the park down the road or in your own back yard.
 

BUT

--

This is only meaningful to the extent that it really identifies something. "I just saw a bug" tells one little. I just saw a bug in Southwest Houston tells one something, and I just saw an anopheles mosquito in Southwest Houston tells one much more. Since there are a boatload of types of anopheles mosquito's, genus and species would be even more informative, but not so much if that information is something of a wild guess (more on that later).

Thus, though my yard has yet to contain any but Red Breasted Nuthatches, I should specify more than the simple "nuthatch" I usually record for my yard observations. When out and about, of course, note taking is maddening and often devolves into scribbles and random abbreviations due to the need to record a lot of different birds in a hurry, before I forget any and before any more pop into view. Hence the band codes, something I never considered until I read a wonderful diary by lineatus here:
lineatus' diary

The essentials, from the BBL Codes Summary Cheat Sheet at band codes
are as follows:

one word birds; first 4 letters (or less if it has only 2 or 3)
       Gadwall becomes GADW

two word birds; first two letters of each word:
        American Robin is AMRO

three-word birds with hyphenated last names; two letters from the first word and one each from the last two:
        Western Scrub-Jay is WESJ

other three words birds; one letter each from the first two words and first two from the last word:
        Red-tailed Hawk is RTHA (hypenated first name)
        Chestnut Backed Chickadee is CBCH (no hyphen)

four-word birds get the first letter of each word:
        Black-crowned Night-Heron is BCNH

There are tables, of course, one for birds that get banded:
Species Table and Recommended Band Sizes

And one for those that don't:
Species Alpha Codes for Gallinaceous and Other Birds

Using these saves time and reminds you to use the full name. It might also remind you to double check that you're recording the right bird. Hey, really, 3 kinds of scrub-jays, really?  

Now, about accuracy and precision.


 It is tempting to grasp at that extra level of detail, like nutalli versus pugetensis white crowns, which is well and good if you are really that proficient and get a really good look, but are you and did you? Correctness is more important, so maybe all you can tell is "a mess of crowned sparrows", or 4 GCSP and 7 WCSP, but pugetensis? For sure?

The late professor Howard Cogswell was a stickler for not recording more than you know, because often greater and lesser or short versus long billed can only be determined if you get lucky or have the bird in a hand. In those cases, "sp." is your friend, as in "Dowitcher sp." and it isn't the sign of being a weenie or beginner or anything. (You can also go all latin with this as in "Limnodromus sp.") I later learned elsewhere two frequently useful tricks for the East Bay, both latin: Aechmophorus sp. meaning Western or Clark's Grebe (the "eye below line" thing isn't a perfect indicator and is often hard to tell) and Selasphorus sp. meaning who can really tell a Rufous hummer from an Allen's all the time and hence either.

I hope that this is useful. I sure wish I'd been doing it when I tried to get daily counts while bicycle commuting, and doing walking counts at the Hayward Shoreline.

**

"Green Diary Rescue" is Back!

Meteor Blades has revived his excellent series.  As MB explained, this weekly diary is a "round-up with excerpts and links... of {diaries} bringing matters of environmental concern to the community... "

"Green Diary Rescue" will be posted every Saturday at 1:00 pm Pacific Time on the Daily Kos front page.  Be sure to recommend and comment in the diary.

**

Your Turn What have you noted happening in your area or travels? As usual post your observations as well as their general location in the comments.

Thank you.

Originally posted to Backyard Science on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 07:30 AM PST.

Also republished by Birds and Birdwatching.

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