Field Recording Methods

by Carl Strang

A recent comment by a reader reminded me that I have never explained some of my methods for preserve monitoring as I follow the continuing natural history of Mayslake Forest Preserve. Most of my observations I make during my lunch break, as I follow one of several routes I have developed to cover the 90-acre preserve. In spring and fall, when things are changing more from day to day, I sometimes will add a short morning walk on company time (preserve monitoring is one of my assignments, but not the highest priority). I carry with me binoculars, two cameras and a digital voice recorder.

Binoculars, voice recorder, and Pentax camera with telephoto lens. The other camera, a smaller Olympus model, I used to take this photo.

I take all notes with the voice recorder. It also is very good at picking up bird songs and calls, and some insect songs, which I then can compare to references if needed. The small camera is good for general snapshots, and I use it for most plant portraits.  It is not very good for telephoto work, and although it has a macro setting and takes decent close-ups, the auto focus can make the latter difficult. The Pentax camera usually bears a longer lens for telephoto opportunities. I can switch to a shorter lens for close-up macro work when hand focusing is called for.

I don’t carry a tripod, and I use the cameras’ built-in flashes, which are adequate for Internet postings and almost all my other applications. As I follow whichever route I have chosen, I count animals and note new flowers for phenology records, as well as behaviors, changes and events that collectively make up Mayslake’s ongoing story. I go out almost every day I am there, except in heavy precipitation. When I return to the office I take some time to transpose the recorded notes into my records, and these form the basis for various reports and summaries (including this blog) through which I share what I have learned.

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