I hope I'm not whipping a dead horse here, but I thought I'd share a technique I observed a Southeast Arizona birding guide use that I have since adapted in my practice when birding afield.
If someone has already mentioned this, I apologize for repeating, as I didn't read all the posts pertaining to the 4-letter codes for bird species with regards to saving time when recording species.
When I first began recording data for the CACHE/SPARKS database, I was most overwhelmed with the numbers and species at Otter Slough CA and yes, spending much of my time searching for where I had written down (or had I written) that species on the list. Using standard notebook sheet of paper (26 lines per side), I'd write one species (full name) per line then add tick marks or numbers for larger quantities. On a spring or fall migration day, I'd use front and back of two sheets.
I remembered the guide using it as we walked through the thick Mesquite bushes in southeast Arizona looking for the Lucy's Warbler. He didn't fumble with pen or pad; he simply walked along and recorded what was observed where, to be later transcribed. This method is what I've adopted, using a digital voice recorder to keep track of sightings and observations. I began carrying one after I had been asked for a recording of a calling Black Rail.
Personally, this is very helpful and seems to work for me. I was carrying the digital recording device with me anyway in case of needing audio documentation on a reclusive yet calling rare, casual or accidental bird. I don't spend any time writing down information until later at home. If it's raining/snowing - no worries about soggy paper.
Later at home, when I'm transcribing the information, it is a second "chance" to relive and remember the events of day afield. I have even on occasion been so focused on one bird that I hear in the background of the recording another bird calling that I missed while out in the field. When I write into my field notebook, it is there that I use the 4-letter code. I'm sure I don't have all the codes correct, but as far as I'm concerned no one will be seeing my notebook, and I'll remember what was observed. I then use the notebook to sum up quantities of birds observed and then enter them into the ASM database or eBird if birding outside of a CACHE/SPARKS location.
I guess my point is that when you use a digital recorder, the species name spoken is "Black-throated Green Warbler". When transcribing the species name heard is "Black-throated Green Warbler". When I write in my notebook, the code I use is BTGW which I know is incorrect (correct code is BTNW according to USGS), but it's for my use and makes sense to me. If I post to the list serve, after stating Black-throated Green Warbler in the subject line or body, I may shorten it to BT Green Warbler afterward.
I'm not saying any one method is better than the other. I have read a lot of good ideas from the list! Just throwing out another method to consider with regard to spending less time in the field writing down the observations and having more time to view the horizons or ferret out that skulking thrush or warbler.
A word of caution though: If you do decide to use a digital voice recorder and are prone to have bouts of Tourette Syndrome, be sure to pause or stop the device after recording the species/quantities. It WILL record said outbursts! Ha-ha! Also have spare batteries and the always trusty pad and pen in the glove box! It's been on more than one occasion that I've left it on the hood of the truck and driven off in the heat of the moment! Ha-ha! Have a great day!
Good Spring Birding to All! Bring on Spring Migration!

Chris Barrigar
Stoddard Co.
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