Nature’s Notebook

Connecting People with Nature to Benefit Our Changing Planet

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If you and other observers share the same plants and animals at the same site, follow the instructions below for observing at a group site.

Image credit:
Alyssa Rosemartin

Learn How to Observe with a Group

Follow the steps below to learn how to observe at a group site.

Or, learn how to observe if you would like to set up a personal site

Your first step will be to join Nature's Notebook. You'll create your account with a username and password.

Read about joining Nature's Notebook below, or view this section of our How to Observe Handbook

Click below for more information in Video or PowerPoint format. 

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Read about choosing sites and species below, or view this section of our How to Observe Handbook

If you are participating in a local, organized effort, you might want to join a group so you have access to their sites. To do so, first make yourself a member of the group in Nature’s Notebook. If you’ve already joined Nature’s Notebook, go to your account page and click “edit”. Under “partner groups” select the partner group you wish to join, and click “add,” then save your changes at the bottom of the page. If you haven’t yet joined Nature’s Notebook, add yourself to the partner organization as you register

Click below for more information in Video format.

  

Next, go to your observation deck to find the group site. On the left panel, in the “My Sites” dropdown, you’ll find the name of the group you joined. Click on the group name to see the site or sites associated with the group, and submit observations.

If you'd like to start your own local effort and create a group site, visit our Set up a Group Site page.

To make your phenology observations you will need the following items:

  • Phenophase definitions and instructions: Check the profile page for each plant and animal species to see the list of phenophases for those species and instructions on how to recognize them.
  • Datasheets, clipboard, pencil: You can download and print a datasheet for each plant or animal from the profile page for that species, or generate a personalized datasheet packet from your Observation Deck. More..
    OR
  • Mobile Apps: Download our Nature's Notebook app for Apple or Android devices and make paperless observations.
  • Binoculars are optional, they are helpful for observing animals as well as phenophases in tall trees

 Click below for more information in Video or PowerPoint format.

     

Read about gathering and submitting observations below, or view this section of our How to Observe Handbook

For Plants

It's best to visit your site(s) regularly. One to two times a week is good, but several times a week or even once a day is even better during times of the year when things are changing quickly (for example, spring and fall). More...

For plants: Visit each of your individual plants or patches and check their phenophases. For each visit when you make an observation, record the date and time on your plant phenophase datasheet (or mobile app), and for each phenophase, circle one of the following choices:

  • Yes (y) – if you saw that the phenophase is occurring
  • No (n) – if you saw that the phenophase is not occurring
  • Uncertain (?) – if you were not certain whether the phenophase was occurring
  • Do not circle anything if you did not check for the phenophase

    It is very important to record this information, even if nothing has changed since your last visit! Knowing when a plant is not in a given phenophase is just as important as knowing when one is. More...

For most plant phenophases you can also report on the intensity (or abundance) that you observe, like the percentage of open flowers you see or how close to full size the new leaves have grown. Phenophase intensity choices vary by species and can be found on the profile page for each species. More...

If a phenophase, like leaf color change or flowering, begins and ends while you were not observing, you can make a note of it in the comments section. More...

If you are watching for a phenophase and it does not seem to be starting when you expect it would, continue to watch for it and record that it is not occurring. This could mean the phenophase is occurring later or not at all in a given year, and this could be very valuable information. More...

Once a phenophase has ended you should continue to look for it and record whether or not it occurs again. Sometimes phenophases will occur a second or third (or more) time in a season, whether because of rain, pests, or changing climate. More...

If there are phenophases and/or intensity measures on which you do not want to report for a species because you find them too difficult to observe, just ignore them. You can cross them out on your datasheets, and do not circle or enter anything for them when you enter your data online.

Click below for more information in PowerPoint format.

For animals

Look and listen for all of the species on your animal checklist. You can do this by one of four methods:

  • incidental (chance sighting while not specifically searching)
  • stationary (standing or sitting at a single point)
  • walking (a single pass or transect through your site)
  • area search (multiple passes through your site, possibly crossing the same point more than once)

If you are using one of the last three search methods, try to spend about the same amount of time looking for animals at each visit. We recommend three minutes as a standard, but you can spend as much or as little time as you like. You will probably not see most, or any, of the animals during each visit, which is ok. More...

For each visit when you make an observation, record the amount of time you spent looking and which of the four methods you used (there is no need to report time for incidental sightings). Record whether or not you saw or heard each animal species on your animal checklist, and for each animal you did see or hear, you will need to fill out the animal phenophase datasheet. On this datasheet record the date and time, and for each phenophase, circle one of the following choices:

  • Yes (y) – if you saw or heard that the phenophase is occurring
  • No (n) – if you saw or heard that the phenophase is not occurring
  • Uncertain (?) – if you were not certain whether you saw or heard that species or that phenophase
  • Do not circle anything if you did not check for the species or phenophase

It is very important to record this information, even if you did not see a particular animal species! Knowing when an animal is not present, or when an animal is not in a given phenophase is just as important as knowing when it is. More...

For most animal phenophases you can also report on the intensity (or abundance) that you observe, like the number of individuals you see feeding or the degree of overlap in frog calls. Phenophase intensity choices vary by species and can be found on the profile page for each species. More...

If a phenophase, like mating or nest building, begins and ends while you were not observing, you can make a note of it in the comments section. More...

If you are watching for a phenophase and it does not seem to be starting when you expect it would, continue to watch for it and record that it is not occurring. This could mean the phenophase is occurring later or not at all in a given year, and this could be very valuable information. More...

Once a phenophase has ended you should continue to look for it and record whether or not it occurs again. Sometimes phenophases will occur a second or third (or more) time in a season, whether because of rain, pests, or changing climate. More...

If there are phenophases and/or intensity measures on which you do not want to report for a species because you find them too difficult to observe, just ignore them. You can cross them out on your datasheets, and do not circle or enter anything for them when you enter your data online.

Click below for more information in PowerPoint format.

The final step in observing is to submit your observations online via your Nature's Notebook account.

In your Observation Deck, select the correct group (using the dropdown under Sites) or public site from the list of sites. Go to "Enter Observations" in the right hand box on the Observation Deck. Each column on this page represents one visit’s worth of observations at a site. Enter the date and time of your visit at the top of a column, as well as any additional information (e.g., snow on the ground) from your coversheet. Then for each of your plants and animals, click 'y', 'n', or '?' for each phenophase. If you did not check for a particular phenophase, do not click any of the choices. You can report intensity or abundance for any phenophase for which you clicked 'y' or '?' by selecting a value from the "What value?" dropdown menu, or entering a number in the "How many?" box. When you are finished, click the 'Submit observations' button in the lower left corner of the screen.  More...

Click below for more information in Video or PowerPoint format.