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Birdwatching For Beginners - Course Review

  • Tue 17th May, 2022

What a brilliant morning we had at Strensall Common this morning! This has been our third outdoor walk in the local area around York. The forecast looked fairly grim suggesting heavy rain, thankfully we avoided the main deluge as we broke for mid-morning refreshments. By coffee time we had seen a large variety of common woodland birds, a habitat that we have been focusing on as many garden birds are also woodland species. Goldcrest singing above our heads, an elusive treecreeper and a frantic pair of great tits flying back and forth to their nest, were the highlights.

Treecreeper © Richard BainesTreecreeper © Richard Baines

Once the rain subsided, we wandered slowly out onto the open heathland to be constantly serenaded by a cuckoo and a skylark, experiencing birds by sound rather than just seeing them. The stonechats delighted everyone as both the males and females obligingly perched on nearby bushes singing and calling right in front of us. A female marsh harrier flying south was an unexpected and rare sight in this habitat and added to our growing list of birds.

Birdwatching course group indoor sessionBirdwatching course group indoor session

These outdoor walks have complimented our indoor sessions. The Indoor sessions have focused on using binoculars and field guides, learning about the different bird types and finding out about which species are typical of the many different habitats which Yorkshire is lucky to have. As newcomers to the world of birdwatching our small group of 8 clients have been gradually introduced to the ways in which birds all around us can be identified: picking up the skills of identification by calls and behaviour in addition to plumage.

European Stonechat © Richard BainesEuropean Stonechat © Richard Baines

The eight-week course has flown by, we only have two more weeks left. In our final session we will be covering the importance of nature conservation organisations and the role birdwatchers can play in some of the biggest citizen science projects in conservation. Our final outdoor walk will be at Wheldrake Ings, a fabulous wetland and National Nature Reserve. As our clients get to know their common garden birds they have been eagerly taking notes and are ready for their next venture when they can confidently go out birdwatching with more knowledge about the birds around them and how to identify any new species that they encounter.

Birdwatching course group at Strensall Common © Margaret BoydBirdwatching course group at Strensall Common © Margaret Boyd

Starting up this course for beginners has been exciting and a very enjoyable opportunity to pass on my experience to a new set of birdwatchers eager to learn. Our sessions have been relaxed and friendly with plenty of time for discussion and chat about a whole range of topics linked to birdwatching. Being based at the Harriet centre in York city centre has proved to be an ideal venue, easily accessible on bicycle. Our outdoor venues have also been within walking distance of the city centre, if not on bus routes.

I can’t wait for the next sessions to begin and to welcome a new group of people into the great world of birdwatching. To see our next course dates, info and book CLICK HERE

Margaret Boyd

YCN Wildlife and Birding Guide

Course Review; 

I am one of the first “ students” on the YCN “Introduction to birdwatching “course .

It is excellent in every regard and far more than just being able to spot and name the different species of bird which we see. Margaret’s vast experience has been evident, and she Is covering so much more than I was expecting. On day 1 amongst other things we were taught us how to use our binoculars correctly and set them up to with lots of help.

This has moved rapidly on from the different categories of birds , their preferred environment, their body shapes and easy distinguishing features, and really importantly their varied songs and calls. I feel we have barely scratched the surface of all Margaret could teach us.

A key learning point for me has been to slow down when I walk, very alien!! ….therefore giving  myself chance to pick up on the smallest of movements in a tree or on the water for example , to attract me to the presence of a bird. I can enthusiastically recommend this course to anyone !

Paula Clark