The Cornell Lab Bird Academy Discussion Groups Joy of Birdwatching Activities: Helping Birds in Your World

    • Bird Academy
      Bird Academy
      Share your experience participating in this lesson's activities. Comment on as many or as few activities as you'd like.
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    • Eva
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      I have greatly enjoyed this course!  I do 6 of the 7 actions to help birds.  I am motivated to drink shade grown coffee.  I have noticed the grassland species have declined.
    • Ann
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Activity 1:  I love birds, & I love the natural world.  I think those of us who experience this love of nature do so because we have a deep sense that this is how we are meant to live.  While Christianity has influenced western civilization in many ways, civilization has chosen to ignore some vital aspects of Christianity.  Cultures that were closer to understanding how humans should co-exist with nature have suffered from their exposure to "the civilized world."  And yet these words of wisdom were written more than 2,000 years ago.  Impractical?  Perhaps to our way of thinking.  But the natural world will probably outlast us humans if we don't learn to control our greed & fear of nature. "Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?' or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?' All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all."
    • Nancy
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Topic Two:  I am already participating in some citizen science activities, such as the Great Backyard Bird Count and Project Feeder Watch.  I would like to add the Christmas bird count and e-bird checklists to my activities.  I have joined the local Audubon Society, knowing that they support things that save birds.  I recycle and reuse many plastics we acquire.  We avoid using pesticides in our lawn and garden.  We keep our cat indoors except for short, closely supervised outings in our backyard.  I would like to learn more about using native plants in our flower beds that would be beneficial for birds, bees and butterflies. Topic Four:  My family bought me a good pair of binoculars for my birthday, which I have enjoyed learning to use.  It is so helpful to have them to look for birds that I hear on walks, or identify those that are far away. I have started using the merlin app to identify birds, especially by sound.  I want to learn to identify birds more accurately by their songs. Last month I started going on a monthly Audubon Society bird walk at the local nature center.  It was so helpful to learn from the other people on this walk, and I want to go on these walks as often as I can. I want to start keeping a life list of birds I have seen.  We have bought 4 new bird feeders for our backyard since I started taking this course.  It is a joy to watch the many birds who come to find food there.
    • Krystal
      Participant
      Chirps: 11
      Activity 1: I'm not sure my perspective on birds has changed due to the course as I always thought they were important but the course has helped me appreciate how much impact we have on birds through our often thoughtless actions that alter their envrionments. In some ways I think the course has made me feel more hopeful, learning how we have made some gains in correcting this. Activity 2: I have been trying to convert my yard to all native plants for some time, although it is a slow process. My next project is to replace the grass in front with what I saw described recently in an article as "tidy wildlands" -- native groundcover, wildflowers, and native bushes.  My backyard is further along in this goal and it is such a joy to watch the birds, squirrels, butterflies, bees, and lizards as they go about their lives there.
    • Diana
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      I have taken this course at the same time I joined a naturalist club and the two are “glove in hand” to each other, helping me to see, recognize birds and their environments.  Also it has caused me to reflect on the changing populations of species throughout a 60 year period. I have had the great fortune to live in a house I designed on a rural property, with plenty of windows, and a garden that I have planted that has changed during this time.  I have an awesome view of feeders (to have feeders or not have feeders, that is  the question) from my kitchen windows from which to admire the comings and goings of birds . Of course the species has changed all over my farm in that time: climate change and habitat change as plants die and are replaced.  We used to be accompanied by meadowlarks along a fence line as I walked every morning with their wonderful song.  No longer (not because the meadowlark are gone, gone, gone but we planted the field adjacent to that fence line with 80 acres of grapes, replacing a grassy wild field). Our area still hosts a May Meadowlark Festival, which is sold out so  I have to be a volunteer to see any of it, AGAIN! Deciding my love of nature and painting could go hand in hand I am delighted to be embarking on a more formalized pursuit of birds and nature and I am loving this course!  Thank you for the eBird and Merlin apps too!
    • Rebecca
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      We used to have so many red-winged black birds in the fields on my way to work! And the Canadian geese used to stop over to glean in those same fields in the fall. Now that land has a different agricultural use, and they don't have the ecosystem they prefer.  We have a vast number of crows, though, and they are fun to watch.
    • 1. Birds matter!! They matter to me because they ground me. The beauty and diversity is always amazing to me.  Thus course has provided me with info I didn't know. I still consider myself a beginning birder so it's all helpful! 2. The most recent thing I did was putting decals on my big picture window to prevent bird strikes. I ordered them just after a tree sparrow hit my window and lay on the deck. I gently picked it up and kept it warm. An hour later it flew away! 3. Bird populations have definitely changed. I never used to see bald eagles but now they are fairly common. I don't see grosbeaks like I used to and we do have a regular red bellied woodpecker that we didn't use to have. The changes are good and bad. The general decline is heart breaking and all human driven. We need to collectively stop human population growth and protect habitat!!! 4. I want to get out more and get more into photographing birds. More in depth learning will be ongoing.
    • Crystal
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Activity 1: Birds matter to me because they make me happy watching them, even the common sparrows finches and doves. I also love photographing birds and the joy of getting a good photo of a hummingbird at a flower or a scrub jay splashing in a birdbath. Activity 2: Thinking about the 7 actions to protect birds, I have put tassels on the window that faces our yard. At some point I would like to get decals for it. I do not have a cat but I strongly believe in keeping cats indoors for the safety of the cat. I would like to look into native plants to grow that would benefit birds. I have grown coneflowers since I read that goldfinches like them but that seem to prefer to eat the leaves of my sunflowers. I have 4 hummingbird feeders and just recently we put out a bluebird house. I try to use as little plastic as possible and reuse and recycle as much as I can. I also eat vegan which is good for the climate. I currently use ebird but I would like to find more bird related citizen science projects to participate in. Activity 3: Yes, I have noticed bird populations changing. We used to have robins and house sparrows all the time in our backyard. They were always there.  Now we never have either and our yard has not changed and I have no idea why they left. Activity 4: In the future I plan to keep using ebird. I want to spend more time taking photos of birds but also doing something with them instead of just putting them on the computer like uploading more to ebird checklists. I also would like to take more of these courses, I really enjoyed this one. Last year I reached 200 birds on my life list, I would like to continue seeing more birds.
    • Kristian
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Activity 1: This course has drastically changed my knowledge of birds and I find them extremely undervalued, and they should be more appreciated by people. Nature in general needs to be appreciated more. Birds like any living thing are very important and matter and the more complex and more amazing things become the further we research and get to know about it. I feel if people took the time to pour value into their own life and learn more about the small things or things in general, people would be happier and grateful, and so would the planet. Activity 2: I think all these actions will help everything from humans to animals. The birds are a gift to the world and show the true complex beauty God has created. Activity 3: I have not been very observant of the bird population until recently sadly. I am now going further with a higher awareness to this part of nature. I do feel though over time since I was younger, the bird population have decreased. Activity 4: The next steps I have is to keep learning and growing in my awareness of nature. I think learning is vitally important and will do tons more than people forcing people to listen to them. I will keep promoting learning since with knowledge comes power in everything we do and the value we bring to the world including birds. It's very therapeutic as well and people benefit from nature as it helps us to slow down and enjoy instead of rush and chase.
    • John
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Locally, there is a growing concern about local bird populations.  Many residents have birdfeeders and have expressed that the overall number of birds and the diversity of species seems to have declined this year.  What are the reasons?  The spring started out wet, then went dry for a brief time, then became a wet summer and even fall?  Is there more natural feeds available this year?  I will be interested to see the results of the GBBC. Birds matter to me because they help mark the passage of time/seasons through ecological calendars.  Certain birds migrate into the area or out of the area based on time of year, amount of sunlight and temps. They are indicators of different habitats and the health of those habitats.  I note with some disappointment that the number of bobolinks in the local hayfields has declined in my 20 years in the area.  The fields are being used, but I believe the earlier harvest of hay has played a part.  They are just fun to watch. I can reduce my use of plastics.   I do actively recycle, but I can do more here to reduce my impact.  I am actively engaged in different types of citizen science and rotate through different activity levels.
    • Anita
      Participant
      Chirps: 20
      Activity 1:  I work for a statewide Audubon society, so birds matter to me because they are one of the most visible groups of wildlife and also offer great ambassador species to rally people to conservation efforts.  They're also so much fun to watch.  Activity 2: I try to follow all 7 actions to help birds, and I've also started living a more vegan lifestyle to preserve bird habitat.  I just started gardening this year, and am hoping to expand my native garden next year to include more options for birds, like blueberry bushes. Activity 4:  I really want to take a dedicated bird-cation to South America and also take the Hummingbird course offered by Bird Academy.  Since I live in a very small state, there aren't a lot of local resources about how to engage in community science through home actions, so I'm also working on a "guidebook" for people to create their own wildlife areas locally.
    • Matthew
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      Activity 1: I'm somewhat of a latecomer to birding, but the more I learn, the more awestruck I am. They're so beautiful to look at and listen to. The plethora of bird species reminds me of how there's room in this world for so much diversity and so many niches. This thought makes me feel more connected to nature, both nonhuman and human. Activity 2: I don't own a cat, but if I did, I absolutely would not let it roam freely outside. I don't drink coffee, but it was good to learn about shade-grown coffee as beneficial to birds—now I'll keep that in mind if I ever give it as a gift. I'm striving to reduce my use of plastics, opting for companies that use other materials for packaging. I don't use pesticides in my small vegetable plot in my communal garden, and one day when I might have a yard or garden of my own, I'm going to eschew turf for some native plants. Finally, now that I'm feeling more comfortable with eBird, I'm going to use it more often to add my observations to the gestalt of citizen science. Activity 4: I'm inspired to go on more organized boardwalks with my local Audubon chapter, and I'm eager to learn more from other Cornell Lab of Ornithology courses.
    • chris
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      birds for me are a way to connect with nature and my own culture, I love to learn about them and I have found it to be a growing experience whenever I get to spend time with them or learn about them.  Some of the things I am already doing is setting up bird habitat that is mostly bird houses and a few trees as well!  As for the next step in my birdwatching I think I want to learn more about my local birds as well as the ecosystem they inhabit so that I can add to it in a way that is both healthy for the birds but also healthy for the ecosystem in general.  I hope to spread my knowledge with my community some day as well once I have learned enough that I feel i can add to someones understanding.
    • Penelope
      Participant
      Chirps: 38
      Birds matter to me as an escape from the world. The noise of humans seems a constant burden, but the song of birds a constant gift; perhaps simply for the latter's unquestionable beauty. Words are common compared to the elegance of song, and perhaps this spring from my purpose of becoming a singer. After all--I was taught by the best: Birds. 
    • Gregory
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Activity 1: Birds matter to me because they are relatively easy to observe and deeply fascinating: behavioral adaptations, extreme physiological features, evolutionary history, migratory journeys, and so on. Observing them is the basis of what is probably my strongest connection to the natural world, as I cannot regularly access wild areas. Finally, they are important symbols of the places that have been significant in my life. Activity 2: I purchase some bird-friendly coffee for myself, I participate in citizen science with my eBird checklists, and I do avoid using disposable plastics when possible. When I have a garden at some point in the future, I plan to include native plants. I could probably do more to reduce the amount of trash I generate, and I could purchase exclusively bird-friendly coffee. I hope it will get easier in the future as the farming practices become more standard and widespread globally. Activity 3: I have only been observing birds carefully for about 5 years, so while I have noticed significant variation in the numbers of migrants of different species in different years, I don't have enough personal observations to feel confident about overall trends. I do think that the population of Canada geese in the neighborhood has grown over time, however. Activity 4: While I am interested in learning all sorts of information about birds, I am particularly interested in understanding and observing the behavior of birds at the ecosystem level. I would like to spend more time watching communities of birds: behavior at different times of day, composition at different times of year, and so on. I would also appreciate opportunities to observe birds which represent interesting branches of the evolutionary history of the entire class. What next steps do you want to take in your birdwatching journey? Has this course inspired you to try anything new or make any changes in your life? Share in the discussion.
    • Camille
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Activity 2/Activity4: We have a cat that is kept indoors. We are planting an native plant garden. I am learning how to be a citizen scientist with eBird. As a result of this course, I have downloaded the eBird course so that I can use this app more effectively. I want to help scientists protect and conserve our feathered friends by providing accurate data about the birds in my neighborhood and other places that I visit.
    • Ruth
      Participant
      Chirps: 17
      Activity 1 -  As I have grown up as a young girl and adult, there is the symphony of sounds from birds in the environments I have lived and important to me. Activity 2 -  Most of the "seven actions" I practice but the coffee use for birds is a new action. Activity 3 -  I was aware of the Endangered Species Act and do check for endangered birds. Activity 4 -  This course has given me options for learning more about birds and looking at other courses. Ruth Bates
    • Stephanie
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      I grew up in Massachusetts with my father being employed by MassWildlife for 40 years.  I’ve always been interested in the natural world and always curious about birds, but never really had the time to explore them more deeply until now.  I have been doing birding with Massachusetts Audubon and joined Project Feeder Watch last winter.  I have been amazed and fascinated at how much I have learned already by doing those two simple things and by taking this course. I plant to utilize e bird going forward.  Admittedly, I was a little intimidated by it at first, but watching the segment in this course has made me realize how simple or involved it can really be.  Nest Watch also interests me, as we have blue bird boxes that are variously occupied by blue birds, tree swallows and house sparrows at different times. Happily, I have observed blue bird populations increase in my local area over my life time.  As have northern cardinals.  When I was a child in the 1970’s, they were a rarity.  This past winter I counted 12 at a time at my feeder on many occasions!  And thanks to the efforts of my father and his coworkers during the early 70’s, wild turkeys have gone from extremely rare here, to commonplace! Of the 7 Actions I could do to protect birds, I currently do most of them, but did not realize coffee growing methods were an issue and will try to do better there!  And as above, I plan to increase my citizen scientist participation.  I hope to learn enough about birding to begin volunteering to lead bird and other nature walks myself at my local Audubon sanctuary in future.
    • Marjorie
      Participant
      Chirps: 31
      Activity 4: I want to start tracking the birds that I see. I plan to use the ebird app.  I hope to take part in the Christmas Bird Count this year.  This course has inspired me to take additional courses, get my binoculars out more often and to listen with intent to learn the bird sounds in my area so I know who is nearby.  I have always enjoyed birds but now I want to KNOW them better. Thank you.
    • Marjorie
      Participant
      Chirps: 31
      Activity 3:  I am noticing that we have some Eagles nesting in our part of Southern Ohio now. For years we did not see any at all so that is a good sign.  A few years ago I heard that the bluebirds were scarce and we were asked to help.  Several people (myself included) have put up nesting boxes to lure them back and give them a safe place to raise their young. Of course, sometimes other birds use the boxes but that is ok too.    Below  is a picture of one of the 20 nesting boxes recently installed at our local lake / State park that we often visit.  I will be checking these for nest activity this spring and summer. IMG_7827
    • Marjorie
      Participant
      Chirps: 31
      Activity 2:  I do try to plant native plants and I hang suncatchers on my large windows to help birds realize it is a window and not a space for flying.  I plan to read the other tips mentioned for window safety.  I do not use pesticides.  I will try to reduce my use of plastic and I did not even know about seeking out shade grown coffee. I will put that on my list to research as well.  So much to learn yet it is good to know that small changes can have an impact if we all do our part.  
    • Marjorie
      Participant
      Chirps: 31
      Activity 1:  I love to watch birds. I find it relaxing to sit and listen to their calls and songs.  I appreciate those who eat bugs (especially mosquitos) and those who drop seeds or pollinate flowers.  We have a lot of Turkey Vultures around and I always found them ugly and did not like seeing them attack road kill. However, I had not thought of what a good job they were doing to clean up the environment and keep germs away from other species and humans. I was interested to learn about all the good they do and I will look upon them more fondly in the future.
    • Carol
      Participant
      Chirps: 13
      Activity 3:  I have been lucky enough to see Bald Eagles occasionally now, while never having had that opportunity when I was growing up. That is always a stop, take notice and enjoy moment.  As far as the reduction in everyday birds, I hadn't really noticed.   My feeder still gets used, and I hear lots of birds singing, but was distressed to learn of the drop in numbers. Activity 4:  I plan on continuing watching birds and increasing my Life list.  When I go on trips, I always try to spend some time birdwatching to see new bird species.  I have signed up to take The Nature Journaling and Field Sketching Course to add another dimension to my Bird Watching.
    • Carol
      Participant
      Chirps: 13
      Activity 2:  I didn'teven realize that there was bird friendly coffee.  I will be taking a look in the grocery stores to see what is available.  We have been recycling for years and are careful to never leave any trash anywhere but a trashcan.  I do have a few windows that could probably be made safer for birds, so I'm going to look into that.  I do grow a lot of Brown- eyed Susans that I leave standing in the fall for the Goldfinches to eat the seeds.  I also enjoy feeding the birds.