Miss Pelican's Perch

Looking at my World from a Different Place

The Importance of Making Fields Notes


In Keri Smith’s book, How to be an Explorer of the World, she provides a list of how to observe your surroundings and make field notes of those observations.   I love her list.  The first item on the  list is the most practical:  “1. Always be looking (Notice the ground beneath your feet.)”  I have made “looking” so much of my daily routine that it has become second nature.   I drive my friends nuts by saying “didn’t you see such-and-such just now?”   (They usually don’t).

Yesterday, I was walking across the grounds of the place where I work on the way to another office.  I decided to take a more scenic route across the grounds and walked along an area next to an undeveloped patch of ground.   Looking down at the ground I noticed tracks.  Lots and lots of animal tracks of some sort.   Whatever made them had walked in the mud and then onto the pavement leaving muddy little footprints.  They were different sizes of the same type of track so I suspect this was a parent and several little ones.    I became intrigued, and since this is not something I see every day, I whipped out a camera and snapped a few pictures.  (A tip to you writers:  along with your writer’s journal, carry a camera at all times for moments like this).

When I got back to my office, I googled “animal tracks” and determined that the tracks belonged to Procyon lotor, or the Common North American Raccoon.  I was not surprised.  Procyon lotor have become quite common in my urban setting over the last few years.  They breed like crazy and have no predators to keep them in check.    Still, the raccoon is typically not part of my daily professional workplace experience.

I had no plans for the photographs other than to move them from my camera to my computer and to clean them up so the tracks could be more discernible.   In the process of doing this, I accidentally created these manipulated images.  I was delighted in what Photoshop did with the color of the pavement.  Roses, blues, greens, and yellows were not what my eye saw, but apparently it was what the camera saw.


My tip for the day is to always be looking and be ready to make “field notes” along the way. You never know how you can parlay those observation notes into something very cool.

To see the complete list of Kerri Smith’s tips on exploring the world, click HERE.

Text and images LJGloyd (Pelican1), (C) 2012.


6 thoughts on “The Importance of Making Fields Notes

  1. I love my camera- and that’s great advice. Always have one handy. I know phones have them. But I don’t use my phone camera for my field notes. What I do need is to put together a real field journal. What I have is pretty sad. Once I filled it up I started taking notes on loose pieces of papers and jamming them between the pages. And I keep it together with a bunch of giant rubber bands that snap and break at the worst times!

    • But I bet that type of journal has a lot of character. I use a moleskine journal with plain pages. Moleskines are pricey but the paper is good quality and stands up to the black felt tip pens I use (to write upside down if necessary). I use a stretchy woman’s pony-tail band to wrap around my journal.

  2. What a fun adventure! And a very good tip!

  3. Cool, Lori! Here, we have endless bunnies on campus, as well as very overweight squirrels.

    • Many years ago we used to have lots of bunnies, but the were chewing up everything and then one day they all vanished. Poor bunnies. We have possums, overweight and totally fearless squirrels, and red tailed hawks. I have been told there are foxes around but I have never seen any. Oh, and I have seen arrows of Canada geese this last year. Until then, there have NEVER been any around.

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