USA NPN National Phenology Network

Taking the Pulse of Our Planet

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Record Animal Observations

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) โ€“ if you saw or heard that the phenophase is occurring
  • No (n) โ€“ if you saw or heard that the phenophase is not occurring
  • Uncertain (?) โ€“ 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.