The bird student should early acquire the custom of making notes on such subjects as are of special interest. In listening to the song or call of some unknown bird, the notes can usually be written down in characters of human speech so that they may be recalled later with sufficient ac-curacy to identify the singer. It is well to keep a list of the species observed when on a trip. For many years in my field excursions I have kept careful lists of the birds seen and identified, and have found these notes to be of subsequent use and pleasure. In college and summer-school work I have always insisted on pupils cultivating the notebook habit, and results have well justified this course.
In making notes on a bird that you do not know it is well to state the size by comparing it with some bird you know, as, for example, “smaller than an English Sparrow,” “about the size of a Robin,” and so on. Try to determine the true colours of the birds and record these. Also note the shape and approximate length of the bill. This, for example, may be short and conical like a Canary’s, awl-shaped like the bill of a Warbler, or very long and slender like that of a Snipe. By failing to observe these simple rules the learner may be in despair when he tries to find out the name of his strange bird by examining a bird book, or may cause some kindly friend an equal amount of annoyance.
As a further aid to subsequent identification it is well to record the place where the bird was seen, for example: “hopping up the side of a tree,” “wading in a marsh,” “circling about in the air,” or “feeding on dandelions.” Such secondary information, while often a valuable aid to identification, would in it-self hardly be sufficient to enable an ornithologist to render the service desired.
That a young correspondent of mine entertained a contrary view was evident from a letter I received a few weeks ago from an inexperienced boy enthusiast, who was a member of a newly formed nature-study class. Here is the exact wording of the communication: “Dear Sir: io A. M. Wind East. Cloudy. Small bird seen on ground in or-chard. Please name. P. S. All the leaves have fallen.”