Whether in your backyard or out in the forest, birding is a fun an relaxing way to spend a few minutes or a few hours. Seeing a new species for the first time is both exciting a rewarding for beginning and experienced birders alike. Keeping a record of the birds you see in a field notebook helps to solidify your experience, and can make you a better birder. If bird photography is your aim, it will help you remember where to return to likely see a species again, and what the best conditions are for getting that great shot. Here's how to keep a record of your bird watching.
Whether your notes are informal or tracked in a spreadsheet, every birder needs to begin their records in a field notebook. The best notebooks are waterproof or water resistant, since you can't always keep your notebook dry in the field. Carrying a waterproof pen with you is also a good idea. These types of notebooks can be purchased at stores that sell camping and outdoor gear.
Make sure your notebook is large enough for what you want to accomplish with it. It must be compact enough to carry with you, but large enough that you don't feel obstructed from capturing all the information that's important to you.
After you obtain your notebook, you should decide what types of information you want to keep track of. This can be adapted as you use your notebook, since you may find further details you want to jot down or details you find less important and want to cut. Make your notebook your own.
The details you keep track of in your field book are up to you; however, some headings could be: Species, gender, number of birds seen, location, date, time of day, behavior observations, description of habitat, bird sounds heard, description of plumage (breeding plumage or otherwise), etc. If you're also taking photos, you can jot down camera setting such as aperture and shutter speed, lens used, and other pertinent info.
Feel free to sketch what you see in your notebook, or add photos you've taken. Whatever you do, have fun with your field notebook! Let it become your birding journal. If you feel hindered by it, change it to make it work for you.
Keeping these records while birding will help enhance your experience; it will help you remember what you are looking to observe in a species - what behaviors, characteristics, or details to watch for. It will also help you get to know the birds you are observing, beyond what you read about them in birding field guides. From your notes you will be able to better make predictions about when and where you can see a species, as well as their migration and breeding patterns.