Bristol

Bird Recognition for Beginners

Bird Recognition for (complete) Beginners

What it is:: A 10 month course in bird recognition designed for people who are complete beginners and have little or no knowledge of basic bird identification. Perhaps you have always wondered about how to identify birds and didn’t know where to start; or were concerned that other birdwatchers would put you to shame with their knowledge and competence; or were worried you might need massively expensive equipment. If so, set aside these worries: this is the course for you.
The course starts with a planning meeting, followed by approximately eight monthly field trips. Numbers are limited to seven people to ensure everyone is able to participate effectively in observing and learning to identify the birds we are interested in.

When it is: Normally the 2nd Monday of each month from September to June, subject to a detailed programme which will be finalised at the beginning of the course. Changes to the dates and times of up to two of the meetings will be necessary to fit in with high tide times at coastal locations.

Where it is:: First meeting at group leader’s home in South Bristol, then monthly field trips at countryside locations between 10 mins and approx 1 hour’s drive from central Bristol. Car sharing will be encouraged.

The programme will begin with basic principles such as understanding habitats; groupings of bird species; individual identifying features; age and sex differences; and choosing binoculars. Field trips will first introduce participants to common garden and woodland birds, and then there will be a logical progression across a range of species presenting increasing difficulty for identification. This progression will build on participants’ growing knowledge, and will cover farmland birds in winter, ducks and geese, waders, birds of prey, regular summer visitors etc. A small number of ‘target’ species will be chosen to provide the focus of learning for each trip. One or more dawn chorus walks will be included in the programme).

Participants should be mindful that birds are wild creatures and rarely present themselves in convenient ways when their presence is required for us to identify them! Binoculars will therefore be a necessity, and unfortunately, u3a cannot provide loaned equipment for those who don’t have their own. You will need to beg, borrow or buy a pair in order to participate effectively. Information about choosing and using binoculars will be given at the first meeting, and the intervening month between then and the first field trip will give you time to make arrangements. It may be best to borrow binoculars from a friend or relative at first, to see how you get on, rather than spending money too quickly - with the risk of regretting it.

Participants should have walking boots and cold/wet weather clothing and be willing to walk short to moderate distances, usually little more than 2 -3 miles. In the event of severe weather conditions (e.g. strong winds, continuous rain, or heavy snow), we will try to re-arrange outings as appropriate, but may have to cancel completely depending on circumstances. It will sometimes be muddy under foot.
The group will not be suitable for people who are already competent in basic principles of bird identification and can confidently identify most common British birds. For those who are developing their skills and knowledge from scratch, you may see or know birdwatchers who have spent a lot of money on telescopes, cameras and accessories. Don’t worry, IT IS NOT A REQUIREMENT THAT YOU HAVE A TELESCOPE OR A CAMERA FOR THIS GROUP.

Learning materials: Photographs and information about the target birds for each field trip will normally be circulated by email in advance, so it will be helpful for you to have access to a computer/tablet and/or printer to make best use of the material. These handouts will be designed for you to study at home before joining the trip, so that you can use the information while we are out.

Both the 2019-2020 and the 2020-2021 groups were disrupted by the pandemic. They are being given the opportunity to attend a new programme of (joint) monthly meetings across 2021-22, starting in September to 'fill in the gaps' of meetings they missed. As a consequence, the waiting list for the group will have to remain closed until we start recruiting for September 2022.

To contact the group convener, just click on the 'send a message' symbol at the top of this page. Yes, the symbol is a pigeon (“pigeon post”), but the absence of colours other than various shades of blue means that we can’t identify precisely which species it is!

Updated 19/05/2021 GS

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