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

    • Nicole
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      I have truly enjoyed this course and reading the posts from the community. Although I have always appreciated and respected the environment it has been only recently that I have really paid attention and tuned in to learning about birds and how they are essential on so many levels. I have also learned a great deal from watching birds at my own feeders and now that I am learning to photograph- I can and will sit for long periods of time just observing.  Until spending some time at Audubon sites and reading I had no idea of the number of birds we have lost during my lifetime- it is staggering. I believe I follow most of the 7 simple actions but since I live in a condo I will be planting natives on my deck as to encourage and support the birds and pollinators. I have been conscious about the plastics I use and have reduced that a great deal just from using a reusable water bottle. I don't drink coffee but I will be sharing and urging others to be mindful of this issue. As I sit typing this a bird just bumped my window. However, I believe it is because the starlings (sometimes 8-10 of them) are fighting at the feeder and get carried away- not sure if there is a way to protect them from the glass. The two courses I have taken have fueled my interest and love of birding, photography and inspired me to become more involved with citizen science and open to learning more about birds, their environment and what our responsibility it to them. The courses have inspired me to use merlin and ebird and to get up early to seek out new birds and learn as much as I can about their migration and behaviors. I will continue to take courses, read, watch, observe, take pictures and become more involved in learning about how to protect birds and educate others about their essential role in our lives and our planets health.
    • Alexis
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      Thanks to this course, I do a much better job of seeing rather than just walking and kinda sorta looking. In my neighborhood, I often see American Robins, sparrows (especially House Sparrows), cardinals, mourning doves, plus the inevitable European Starlings and crows. While taking this course, I’ve seen chickadees, red-winged blackbirds, a mallard duck feeding at and below the surface of the water, a pileated woodpecker in flight at dusk that I only believed because the Merlin app confirmed it, red-bellied woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, goldfinches, a house finch, an eastern bluebird, gray catbirds that I’d been hearing but hadn’t seen, and the list goes on. All this without going outside my usual routes for walking. I thought that current circumstances would mean putting on hold  my plan to become a better bird watcher. All praise to the Bird Academy for proving me wrong, and for making me feel less alone!
    • Alistair
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Great course that has made bird-watching even more pleasurable and fun. Wish I had done this a long time ago and now it has become a firm hobby favourite.
    • Mary Ann
      Participant
      Chirps: 13
      Activity 3- We have noticed a significant increase in eagles in our area over the years. In the winter, they are abundant on the Hudson! I can’t comment on any declining bird populations since I just really starting watching the birds! Activity 4- I can’t wait to be able go on official bird walks with these knowledgeable people from the local Audubon group. This class was so enlightening and I had plenty of quarantined time to put into it. I also want learn how to take great pictures of the birds I see- like some of my fellow birders have been posting! Thank you!
    • Mary Ann
      Participant
      Chirps: 13
      Activity 1 My story is that I retired in December as a Science teacher, snowbirded for 2 months south, and returned to NY at the height of Covid. Birding has been such a welcome escape from the doom and gloom around me! I have been doing Zoomed Bird Chats with the local Audubon chapter and getting out for birding walks. I am a newbie to everything but learning about birds and their lives has a been a real joy! The course was great- organized, planned-out well, great visuals! Activity 2 1. No pesticides on our lawn! 2. Native plants in front of my house 3. Definitely need to work on the coffee issue 4. My front window has vertical blinds that seem to help the window crashes. 5. Plastics are tough. My town recycles and we participate, but I want to try buying less and using less plastics. There is a pilot program that is called “Loop”, but I am not sure if we can use it in our area. The idea is to refill containers, like detergents, rather than buying a new one each time. 6. Citizen Science- Great to have these apps on my phone when I walk! They are so helpful!
    • Patrick
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      This course has completely changed how I look at birds and how I feel about bird conservation. This course was great hope all of you fellow birders learned a lot too.
    • Danya
      Participant
      Chirps: 20
      Activity 1:  All of nature matters to me - the environment, trees, plants, animals, fish, birds!  I already knew that birds are important to the environment; however, this course has made me get out and observe them more.  And, the more I observe and know about birds the more appreciative I am of them.  Activity 2:  I do all of the seven actions already except for having numerous native plants and purchasing shade-grown coffee for my husband.  I will certainly purchase shade-grown coffee from now on!  We are currently doing research on installing a rain garden in our backyard since we have pooling water, despite having put in yard drains a few years ago.  When we do, we will be sure to plant native Ohio plants, not the ornamentals.  We are also considering a bird bath to go along with our three feeders.  I listened to a webinar from the Ohio Historical Connection about bird migration, and the number one suggestion from the host was to plant native trees, especially oaks.  We have two oaks already, but I would be interested in planting another native tree to soak up all the water we get in the corner of our yard.  Activity 3:  We are in our early 50s and definitely have noticed a reduction in bird populations.  I remember seeing swarms of birds, especially during fall migration, growing up in eastern Ohio.   Activity 4:  We will be planting native plants in our new rain garden, purchasing shade-grown coffee, doing the eBird essentials class, and continuing to get out more to observe birds.  (My husband has taken so many pictures since we began our twice weekly bird watching at area metro parks since mid-April that I will need to make a Shutterfly album entitled, Spring Migration 2020!)  This course and the birding has really helped my mental heath during this pandemic.  Thank you!
    • Jay
      Participant
      Chirps: 19
      Activity 2: Thinking about the Seven Simple Actions to Protect Birds, there are a few I’m doing already but more that I need to make a more concerted effort to practice. 1) Making windows safer. I’ve been shocked by the scale and scope of the problem with birds and glass (https://abcbirds.org/blog/truth-about-birds-and-glass-collisions). BirdNote also had a good episode on the problem (https://www.birdnote.org/birds-glass). The front window of our home is a culprit, so I’d like to try one of these products (https://abcbirds.org/get-involved/bird-smart-glass/). The Zen Curtain or  Feather Friendly solutions look promising. I’d welcome anyone’s thoughts or experience with these products. 2) Keep cats indoors. Not applicable in my case, but I sent some info around our neighborhood mail group, reminding folks to try keeping cats indoors or on “Catios” — especially during the spring nesting season. 3) Plant native plants. This has been an amazing (and fun) transformation for my back garden. Thanks to the course for the link to Audubon’s resources (https://www.audubon.org/PLANTSFORBIRDS). 4) Reduce pesticide use. Proud to say that I’m not using any. I’ve used neem oil in certain cases for pest insects on leafy plants (http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/neemgen.html). Collectively, I’m sure lawns must be one of the worst offenders. Folks dump all kinds of stuff on their front lawns and then (at least it seems to me) never use them anyway. I’m slowly shrinking the size of my lawn with native plantings and, otherwise, letting a variety of mosses, clovers, and wild violets take over. I keep them trimmed so as not to be a total social outcast! 5) Drink coffee that’s good for birds. Wowzers. This cuts close to home. I’d assumed my favorite Peet’s coffee was bird friendly or shade grown.. but, apparently not! Can’t find anything on their website about it let alone product labels. The Smithsonian has this useful resource for finding such coffees (https://nationalzoo.si.edu/migratory-birds/where-buy-bird-friendly-coffee)… needless to say, I’m looking for a new brand! 6) Reduce and reuse plastics. Hardly any plastics are recyclable in my area (only numbers 1 & 2). However, I’ve found a nearby town that accepts #5. For other plastic films/bags, I’ve found that nearby grocery chains accept these along with store bags. 7) Citizen science. This is definitely one of the more fun ones. This course has been a great introduction to eBird, Feeder Watch, and the Great Backyard Bird Count.
    • Sylvia
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Activity #1: The course reinforced my feeling that birds are endlessly fascinating, and symbols of a healthy environment, wherever they are. I never want to experience a "Silent Spring." Also as a musician, I relate so intensely to birds' music...happily anyone can enjoy birdsong though!! Activity #2: I live in a sixth-floor NYC apt., so don't have garden or lawn. But if I did, I now have your lists of ways to keep them healthy. Bird strikes are not an issue because of the bars on my windows (but if I ever move to the country, I like knowing how to make sure my windows are not death traps, thanks to this course). I drink tea, not coffee, so I thought I was off the hook on this one -- HOWEVER, it turns out that my favorite brand of tea might use pesticides. So I'm doing the research, and if it's not organic pesticide-free, I'll change tea brands! My cats have always been indoor cats; and I shop with reusable cloth bags and recycle any kind of plastic (and paper and glass...). Activity #3: Yes, I've noticed bird populations going down; i.e., here were no chickadees or robins wintering over in my northern Manhattan neighborhood this year. Activity #4: Changes I'll make include (a) seeing about doing e-Bird (thanks for offering a whole course on e-Bird since I'm a bit of a luddite), (b) changing my tea brand, and (c) continuing to support conservation organizations like the Lab, Audubon, and EarthJustice.
    • Thomas
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      Activity 1:  I initially found birds interesting as a purely photographic subject.  My parents started putting out bird feeders around the time I left for college 20 years ago and whenever I would visit I would love to try my hand at photographing the multitude of birds in the yard.  Eventually I found myself living back at home for a few months after finishing grad school and one day while I was writing out a job application I heard a thud against my window.  I went outside and found a downy woodpecker on the deck below the window, stunned and breathing heavily.  Having had no real knowledge of bird strikes at the time, I figured he was a goner, but I picked him up and brought him to a safe spot on the deck railing to give him a chance, come what may.  I tried to go back to work on my computer but every time I'd start typing I'd lose focus - I would run back out to the deck every two or three minutes to check on him.  I worried so much about this poor little bird that I eventually just stood by him for a few hours, shooing away a few cats, blue jays and crows that started snooping around.  Thankfully, he eventually got back on his feet, tentatively hopped around on the deck rail, and flew off onto a nearby tree. My whole relationship to birds and the natural world changed that day.  I stopped just seeing birds and started caring about birds.  My bird education has been slow - I moved to NYC shortly after the downy episode and was/have been very disconnected from the natural world on a daily basis ever since - but the last few years I have really started diving into birdwatching and conservation.  I like to think that little downy, and that stupid bedroom window of mine, opened my eyes to a vast world of natural beauty that I only had a surface understanding of before.  I had seen plenty of amazing landscapes before that on vacations - Yellowstone, the American Southwest, national parks in Italy, etc, all stuff that's easy to immediately see as grand and beautiful, but after that downy I learned how to find the smallest or easily overlooked parts of nature just as grand as those big landscapes.  Even sitting here in my apartment in Brooklyn for months on end during the coronavirus lockdown there's beauty all around that I'd have missed in my younger days - seeing the sparrows gather nesting material in the backyard, noticing the male cardinal singing from the same perch every morning and every evening, knowing what the mourning dove pair is doing when they preen one another, and on and on.  Just like this course says, birds really are a gateway into the natural world and into the rhythms and cycles of that world.  And they teach you to care more about it. Hence, Activity #2: I'm an architect in NYC and now I have a chance to right that wrong done to that poor downy woodpecker and countless other birds everyday.  Just this year NYC passed a new law requiring bird safe glass on the first 75' of a new building (the law kicks in at a certain square footage I believe too, I don't have the text of the law handy at the moment).  Last year I asked the NYC Audubon to give a presentation in my office on bird safe architecture - everyone who attended was shocked by the scale of the bird strike problem and very moved to do something about it.  Flash forward to a few months later and the bird safe law was passed, thanks in large part to the NYC Audubon's advocacy and some local architects, among many others.  For my part, I have been and will continue to push the use of bird safe glass  and I'm working to convince the firm to write it into our construction specifications as a requirement on all projects, above and beyond the base requirement of the new law.  At each opportunity I discuss it with our clients not so much as an option but as an investment in sustainability (always an easier sell with our institutional and educational projects than with developers).  Eventually I'd like to become even more involved in the bird safe architecture movement and either work directly with a company producing new materials and systems to deter bird strikes or perhaps design a project as a test case to help develop new methods. Sorry for the long post, but this class got me thinking about so many topics and it's helped push me further down the road of advocacy and I just wanted to share that.  Thanks!
      • Jay
        Participant
        Chirps: 19
        So much to love (and respect!) about this post. Thanks for sharing -- and for your advocacy on behalf of birds.
      • Laura
        Participant
        Chirps: 7
        Wonderful post - thanks for sharing!
    • Sylvester
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      How do I share my experience? I can't find where to post... Please help me!
    • Link
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      Activity 1: There's this saying in the introduction in my field guide: "Birding is not an escape from reality. Birding IS reality!" (Kenn Kaufman's Field Guide to Birds of North America.) Birding helps me see the good in the world. For a long time I've seeking escape into other worlds (which is very far from a bad thing!). This shows me that I can still find a lot of good without having to look very far. Activity 2: I'm already beginning to practice citizen science, and I don't even drink coffee. I want to get into citizen science more seriously now after what I have learned. I want to plant more native plants in my family's garden for sure. Single use plastics, get ready to be reused! Activity 4: This course has inspired me to delve into citizen science. I enjoy watching birds and learning about them, so why not use what I learn to help them! As soon as this whole virus thing is over, I'm going to attend the Wasatch Audubon meetings whenever I can. I need to find some people to go birding with.
    • Mark
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      1. Birds are important to me for many reasons. However the greatest reason for me is that they are accessible as a manifestation of nature and the outdoors. They have a natural beauty that I find hard to explain and give me great joy when watching them. 2. I practice all seven to a greater or lesser extent but can always do better I guess. 3. There are less small birds. 4. The course has motivated me to do more bird watching and surveys. I will use Merlin and ebird more. In particular I will do more deep observation. A great course! Thank you for making it available.
    • Julian
      Participant
      Chirps: 11
      Activity 2: I like to reuse all my shopping bags, and I think it's important to bag up trash before putting it in a dumpster. I've noticed that a big source of litter in my town is when the automated garbage truck moves trash inside its different compartments. Especially if it's windy, loose trash blows right out and ends up in ditches which lead to bigger waterways. I would love it if there were biodegradable garbage bags, but at least I can bag something up tight to keep it from blowing around. Yard fertilizers and pesticides are harmful to ocean fish after rains wash the chemicals eventually to the oceans. Does a yard really have to be free of weeds and covered with water-hogging unnatural grass? I let my backyard grow a little wild, and the birds love it.
    • Nancy
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      #2 - There is much more I could do to protect birds.  As a big coffee drinker, I will definitely try to find shade grown/bird friendly coffees.  I sometimes order from Gimme Coffee right in Ithaca and found out today that they carry a bird friendly variety.
    • Sandra
      Participant
      Chirps: 31
      Activity 4: I started taking more bird pics, while walking my dog. We are fortunate to have a large number of marshes, lakes and mountains. My dog is young and impatient. I decided today that i need to visit some hotspots on my own. It is so much fun to sit quietly in the woods or marshes and watch; rather than walking around. I am still working on finding birds by song, and i want to further my education. I have shared a lot of pictures with friends, and i am also discussing with them what we can do for birds. What's the next course? CheersMissionPrkMay2020(34)
      • Catherine
        Participant
        Chirps: 17
        That is a lovely picture, Sandra! What is the bird???
    • Sandra
      Participant
      Chirps: 31
      Activity 2: I have always been environmentally conscious; recycling, reducing waste, natural cleaners, vegetarian, spreading the word. I am working on shopping more locally, to reduce environmental impacts. I contribute to nature groups. My new birdbath hasn't attracted any new friends; the new bird feeder is ready to go up. It's fun sneaking into the bushes to get a peak at the birds. It's a new game; who is that birdie? I am connecting with birders out and about. Children and adults ask what I am taking pictures of. Fun!belmontApr2020 (16)
      • Sylvester
        Participant
        Chirps: 6
        Whoa! Great picture of a black-caped Chickadee!
    • Sandra
      Participant
      Chirps: 31
      Activity 1: It is no surprise to me about the decline of bird populations. I knew about the increase in Bald Eagle populations. While a symbol for the U.S., Canada has alway had more Bald Eagles (to my knowledge). My love and interest of birds goes back at least 3 generations. My life slowing down has meant more time outdoors, where I have always felt peaceful. I restarted my interest in photography a little while back, and this has added to my awareness of birds. Learning to take pictures in flight is fun; the birds, not me. Lol. In British Columbia already this spring I have seen many migratory, returning, breeding and hybrid varieties that I knew existed. I am working on recognition of bird song and sound; hard work! I had always wondered about the different feeding habits and variety of birds. To my delight I have discovered I have many friends who are enthusiasts. During this time indoors for friends around the world, many friends have let me know how much my bird pictures cheer them up. Each time I post a picture I look up information on the bird in Merlin. I remember more birds when i was young. I was sad to see so many migrate last winter, and sadder still to see them in decline. This Mallard is looking at us sideways; wondering where things have gone wrong with his home.feb21-2020 (49)
      • Sylvester
        Participant
        Chirps: 6
        One day, I saw a couple of Mallards resting by a closed swimming pool! I wondered why Mallards will stay at a swimming pool...
    • Nat
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Activity 1 - I've always loved birds and watching them outdoors. I knew they were important for most of the things listed in this lesson but during the self-isolation of the pandemic their importance has helped me be positive and able to enjoy the nature that goes on and on around me (I've been able to stop and smell the roses or watch the birds in this case). The humans may have pulled an all stop and might be going through a life changing event but the birds and all of nature keep on moving even when they go through similar things constantly and come out the other side sometimes a little worse for wear but still there and living their lives. Activity 2 - I try to keep my windows reflection free and have stuck pictures on some of them to prevent the birds from hitting them. My cat stays indoors (safer for her - no owl, raptor or other predator can scoop her up or having her be hit by a car and safer for all the birds that grace the yard although she can keep away all the mice she wants!) Activity 3 - When I was just a kid (mid 1970s) the Canada Goose population was seriously endangered. To see a flock migrating was quite an event! Now they are everywhere often considered a nuisance! This is also happened with the Wild Turkey - it is one of the most successful reintroduction of a species in our area! Activity 4 - I don't think I'll change my bird watching ways or have any life changing experiences, but I will watch more carefully and appreciate the sight of a bird more than before. Happy Bird Watching everyone!
      • Catherine
        Participant
        Chirps: 17
        Since I live on the Island of Montreal, the Canada geese often stop in the St. Lawrence River to rest, and take off in great, noisy flocks.... which I have always loved! The only thing is,..... when I see them in the Fall, it means winter is near.... And I've become personally aware of the turkey story: apparently it had become almost totally absent in the wild in the southern Quebec area until the reintroductions started.... in the 60's? So I have been thrilled to see them walking along Highway 401 in Eastern Ontario, and was just waiting for them to show up in Western Quebec, when a friend sent me a photo of one in his yard--in Laval, just north of Montreal :) Yes!
    • I noticed this year our classroom bird feeders were visited predominantly by sparrows ( I think they were tree sparrows). Previous years we have had a lot more goldfinches, chickadees and juncos.
    • Jason
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 1: Good question! I think birds matter to me in the same way that all nature matters to me. It is our world. Without it, we can't survive and thrive. We are just one species in this vast and diverse (though alarmingly less and less diverse) world. I find birds beautiful and awe-inspiring, but no more than when I see mammals or fish or trees that really speak to me. I guess birds offer a way to observe wildlife that is much more present in our world than mammals and easier to observe than fish. I'm not sure this course has changed my way of thinking about birds, but it has given me food for thought as I've been out on my walks and on the balcony watching for birds. I've really enjoyed the course! Activity 2: I've become a big user of ebird, so I'm contributing to citizen science. I also try to use as little plastic as possible, and reuse where I can. I'm not using pesticides in my garden and do buy some organic foods. What could I do better? For sure I could buy more organic food and eat less meat, which would likely mean less forestland turned into pasture. I could use even less plastic than I do today. I could turn my garden into a place more welcoming for birds. I could look for coffee that is shade grown. One thing not mentioned in the list of actions to help birds is getting involved in a local organization with an aim to protecting or even expanding wilderness areas for animals. Activity 3: I've always been interested in nature around me, but I have to say I've never paid close enough attention to observe changes in bird populations in my vicinity. I've also moved around over the course of my life, so I haven't had the opportunity to observe the same place for the whole of my life. Activity 4: I'm pretty much brand new to birding, so there are so many things that I want to do 'next'! The pandemic has made it impossible to travel, even to nearby regions. When that factor disappears, I'm looking forward to exploring new regions and habitats to find new birds and to spend more time in wilderness-heavy zones. I haven't yet had the chance to go birding with anyone aside from my immediate family, all of whom are even newer to this than me. So I'm looking forward to getting out with more experienced birders sometime soon to learn from them. And I'm looking forward to taking my kids on some organized activities with birds -- I've found one nighttime owl session near our place that I'm excited about! So many things to explore.
    • Karen
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      I moved to my current home, on a farm in Virginia, 24 years ago.  Every evening, Spring through Summer, Bobwhite Quail could be heard.  We would occasionally see flocks of Quail in the pasture and fields, or in the orchard.  Over time, the numbers of quail declined and I haven’t heard or seen one in the past 3 years.  In 2011, I was noticing the declining numbers of quail and attributed it to the rising number of coyotes in the county.  I ordered and released 2 dozen quail on our farm hoping to see the population recover.  We planted Lespedeza, blackberries,  and Purple Hairy Vetch along our hedgerows to encourage the quail to live on the farm. Sadly, the sightings of quail continued to decline and I have not seen or heard any for the past 3 years. On the other hand, 24 years ago it was rare to see a Wild Turkey on the farm and today we have a very large flock of turkeys that roam the farm.  I often see more than 2 dozen turkeys in the back pasture.  They are also often seen foraging in the hedgerows around our fields.
    • Manyu
      Participant
      Chirps: 42
      Activity 4 - I will explore different habitats, this course has motivated me to do so. Will also study migratory birds in Bharatpur bird sanctuary this year. This course will add a lot to my hobby. Actually this course will help me to take my interest beyond hobby.
    • Manyu
      Participant
      Chirps: 42
      Activity 3 - I think I have observed population of house sparrows go down drastically during my lifetime. Also , in my village when was 10 there were many vultures, now one rarely sees them. Though I am also noticing the House sparrows are bouncing back :) .
    • Manyu
      Participant
      Chirps: 42
      Activity 2- Seven simple actions : - More tress, increase wild lands, no kite flying, setting up clay water pots, less carbon footprints, avoid pesticides and fertilizers and promote bird friendly bird watching. Will do these more aggressively : -Setting up of clay water pots, less carbon footprints, plant trees. What else can I think of ?  - I think Indian schools must take children to bird sanctuaries.