Observation Checklist for Journal Keeping

some of my field notebooks
some of my field notebooks

I write the observation checklist below in the back of my field notebook and nature journal. Following it has improved my note-taking tremendously. I begin every journal entry with this information. It is part of the Grinnell system of keeping a naturalist’s field journal.

•time (use 24-hour clock format; 1435 for 2:35p.m.)
•date (use international format: 03 September2007)
•locality (place)
•route (how did you get there)
•weather (temperature, cloud types, wind, rain, etc.)
•habitat (backyard, forest, desert, wetland, etc)
•vegetation (where, insect visitors, blooming?)
•animal behavior
•general notes
•sketches, maps, photos, information
•arrival and departure times
•list of species seen

To ensure that you are someone in the future can read your notes here are some tips.
•use acid-free paper (Moleskin Brand makes several models
•use fade-proof, waterproof ink (Micron, Pilot G7, and Stafford Uniball are good models)
•use numbers (“1”) instead of the word (“one”)
•use as few abbreviations as possible
•number journal pages in the margins

My book on using the Grinnell Scientific Nature Journal method is available through lulu.com.

Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.


  1. These last several posts will make it inevitable to go out and experience the satisfaction of nature journaling. Your helpful list of winter birds, the details of the Grinnell system, your intriguing photographic exampes, and -as always – your fine, crystal-clear writing style make it so easy to get started!Thank You, Donna! :o)

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