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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of four. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Notebooks for notekeeping

A few versions of my homemade camera trapping log, and the Moleskine notebook I use for general field notes.

New Year is time to make record books for camera trapping.

I print 4 pages of the data form in landscape format on the front and back of one piece of 8.5 x 11" paper, and fold it in half.

When I have 24 sheets ready, I stitch together 4 signatures of 6 sheets each.

Each notebook has 96 pages, each page good for one camera trap set.

Last year I filled one notebook by the end of October.

I carried on with a spare notebook I had made for practice, but the stitching was loose and I realized my craft is still in the primitive stage.

I highlight the set number when the set is closed
and  all the data fields are filled in. 

This year I made minor revisions to the data form, and decided to glue the signatures after stitching.

I'm pretty happy with the results, which look and feel like they will hold together.

I also added a title page and a ribbon to mark my page.

I've learned about this ancient art from Bibliophile's Bookbinding and Hobby Blog.

It's written by a mysterious Icelandic lady who inherited a plastics plant and binds books for recreation.

She covers her books with tanned fish skin among other things, and she has all the book binding links you need to get started.

One of my frustrations is hand-trimming the pages for the finished notebook.

An exacto knife isn't equal to the task.

The pages can end up uneven and ragged.

So I'm grinding a blade for a guillotine cutter which my neighbor Richard advises me can be bolted to the cast iron front of my 15" wood planer.

"Clamp the notebooks in a wooden press on the out feed rollers with the edge under the blade".

He says the pages will be impeccably trimmed when I crank the planer's bed upward.

I'll keep you posted on that one.


Dan F. said...

You read my mind with this post - I've been trying to decide what information to record for my camera sets this year. What does Plot ID mean? Is that a grid reference to a custom map of the area?

I wonder if any of the Print on Demand vanity book publishers can print to a pocket-sized booklet? Given my sewing skills, I'd probably sew my logbook shut.

A question for all the camera trappers out there: How do you name or refer to camera locations in an area that doesn't have named features? I'm trapping in a much smaller area (~200 acres), and am struggling to distinguish (in my memory and in my notes) between sets that may be 100 yards apart on the same stream, peninsula, or wetland.

I've thought about using grid references or GPS waypoints, but those aren't very memorable. I could give them sequential identifiers (Otter Latrine Alpha, Otter Latrine Bravo...) as I find them. I could name the various landscape features. I've tried naming after the animals I find there, but that changes over time. (Beaver Crossing is now Otter Haulout, for example).

Suggestions welcome.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Yes, plot ID refers to a block in a grid, if you use that system. We use a grid only at the Chimineas Ranch which is about 30,000 acres. Its redundant information in the notebook because if you take GPS waypoints you can always place the location on a map and see what grid it is in. Actually Craig has a GPS unit with the grid on it. That way we know when we move into a new block when prospecting for sites. We never put more than one cam in a block at a time.

You are right that set numbers aren't memorable, so we name areas by topographic features and map names. We're also named anonymous canyons, like "Badger Head Gulch".

I would suggest getting a 7.5 minute topo and marking your waypoints on it. There's a variety of mapping software out there. I use MacGPSPro and like it a lot. Reconciling your visual perspective of a landscape with the topographic reality of the map is an education in itself, and sometimes enlightening.

The thing about note keeping is that your experiences don't become muddled with time. If you don't lose your camera trapping log, you have all the records there. If you put the info on computer you have a backup.

Tyler Montbriand said...

Fish leather! No idea there even was such a thing. :)

Dan F. said...

I actually write GPS mapping software for a living (ExpertGPS.com), so I don't have an excuse for not marking my sets on a map. I usually don't carry a GPS unless I'm in unfamiliar territory - too much like work!

Right after I posted my last comment, I discovered the lulu.com lets you print pocket-sized perfect-bound books on demand. I just designed and ordered a 120-page camera trapping logbook, with 100 one-page forms for each camera placement, and 10 two-page camera logs at the back for keeping track of each camera's time in the field and maintanence issues. $6.90 for the book, plus $4 shipping.

I'm not sure how well a perfect-bound book will open wide so I can fill in the forms, but they didn't offer spiral bound in the smaller sizes. I'll post something once I've had a few chances to use it in the field.

Chas S. Clifton said...

I have had some adventures with small-press publishing, and I agree that an X-acto knife and steel ruler are not enough for trimming.

Even hand-operated paper trimmers let the books or pamphlets slide around too much.

I was only happy when I could borrow a proper print-shop paper cutter, one that could clamp and immobilize a stack of books or magazines while the big blade came down, "Zzziiit," and sliced the pages.

It's either that or learn to love deckle edges.

Anonymous said...

Got a random question for you codger (or anyone who might know). I'm looking for a good wildlife camera trapping forum to post my pics on. Currently, I mostly post on outdoors/hunting forums and while these are ggood places and the folks are nice, I sort of get tired of the flippant anti-wildlife sentiment that occassionally prevails (especially towards predators). I also get tired of picture after picture after picture of nothing but deer being posted. I'm not anti-hunting in the least (especially when it comes to deer), but just get tired of feeling like I have to keep my mouth shut when folks rant about eradicating coyotes (while thinking feral pigs are okay).

Also...I'm too stupid to figure out how to make home-brew camera traps, so it would have to be a forum that is ok with using commercial cams...


bigcatdetective said...

Brilliant idea.Whilst i won,t make my own book i can see the real value in trailcam records so have started to fill in a little book,just have to keep it updated!In answer to "anonymous" if you start your own blog you can join a network like OBN then you can post all the pics you like without hassle as people don,t have to look at your blog if they don,t want to....

Chas S. Clifton said...

Anonymous 7:03 --

You could try something like Woodlife. It is mainly British, but there are probably other North American forums for discussion of "bushcraft" that include wildlife study.

Keep looking and good luck.