Signs of the Seasons Field Guide: Quick-Start Guide

This is your one-page guide to participating in Signs of the Seasons. This page provides an overview of the basics, but we recommend reading the rest of the guide for much more detailed instructions and tips on how to get set up, observe, and contribute data to the national database.

Select a site to make phenology observations.

A site is an accessible area where you will look for your selected animal and plant species you choose to observe.

Select plant and/or animal species to observe.

Choose plants and/or animals from the Signs of the Seasons species list in this field guide.

Tips for observing Plants: Observe the same individual plants each time you visit your site. For example, you should observe the same red maple in your back yard all through the year.

Tips for observing Animals: Look for all of your selected animal species each time you visit your site. For example, if you select American robin and Monarch butterfly, record whether or not you see or hear those species at your site each time you visit.

Create an Account with NPN-USA’s Nature’s Notebook online.

Create your own account with Nature’s Notebook at All you need is a valid email address. Make sure to indicate your partnership with Signs of the Seasons when you create the account.

Register your site with Nature’s Notebook online.

After you create an online account, use the online mapping tool to register and describe your site(s) in Nature’s Notebook.

Register your plants and/or animals with Nature’s Notebook online.

Register your individual Signs of the Seasons plants and/or animals.

Record your observations.

Go to the Signs of the Seasons “Indicator Species” webpage to download and print datasheets, phenophase definition sheets, and fact sheets for each one of your species. Use the phenophase definitions and fact sheets as references while making observations. For each of your species, record on the correct datasheet:

  • Yes (y) — if you saw a phenophase occurring (e.g., open flowers or animal mating)
  • No (n) — if you saw that a phenophase is not occurring
  • Uncertain (?) — if you were not certain whether a phenophase was occurring
  • Do not circle anything if you did not check for that particular phenophase!

Enter your data in Nature’s Notebook online.

As you collect data during the season, log on to your Nature’s Notebook account and enter the observations you recorded on your datasheets. Alternatively, you can use the Nature’s Notebook smartphone app to enter data online.

Key Resources