Recognizing that there are no such things as right and wrong, here are some thoughts for what you might include in your field journal (and field notebook!). But remember, it’s your field journal so you can do what you want.
Fact: Careful observations and sketches help you really learn birds.
It’s all very well showing some of my notes from recent years (Part 2), when I’m an experienced birder, but what did my notes look like when I was a teenager? It’s pretty clear, however, that I wouldn’t have come close to winning any Young Birder of the Year field notebook competition!
A field notebook is, well, what it says: a notebook you carry in the field (in my case, 24/7 in my pocket, with 2 pens), where you can write down birds as you see them. It’s the raw data of your field journal.
Young birders are sponges that absorb all sorts of information, ask questions, and never seem to tire out – although they can certainly exhaust the adults who work with them! I’ve been involved with YB events for 15 years now, and in 2013 I was a judge for the field notebook module of the ABA Young Birder of the Year competition, sponsored by Leica Sports Optics.