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

    • Nancy
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      During a global pandemic, birdwatching allows me to get outdoors and increase my knowledge of birds, their behaviours and activities to protect their habitats. I plan to research how to build nesting boxes for local bird species. In addition, I am going to expand my gardens in the spring to include native species which attract and nourish more birds. But finally birding helps my emotional and mental health, as I commit to this activity, share it with friends and challenge myself to learn more.
    • Learning more about birds has been a gateway for me to learning more about the environment I live in, and appreciating that humans are just as much a part of the ecosystem as any other bird, plant, animal, fish, insect... Many seem to have forgotten that, otherwise I think we (humanity as a whole) would be taking better care of the world. What we choose to do can have a positive or negative influence on the health of our world, and the health of birds. For one, I'm trying to do more positive things for birds: I'm planning on planting some native plants in the spring, and making my windows safer. And just continuing to watch and learn more about birds, to better appreciate, understand, and protect these fascinating neighbours of ours. Thank you for this course.
    • Kenichi
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      2021-01-17 15.49.54
    • Kyle
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Thank you so much for this course. 1.  Birds matter to me because of the beauty they bring to the world and the value they provide to the ecosystem. 2. I'm continuously trying to limit my use of plastic, but it's really hard.  I'm interested in finding shade-grown coffee.  Most importantly, I'm in the process of making my backyard a very bird-friendly habitat by finding some native shrubs to add to the trees I already have growing. 4.  I keep trying to find new birding locations.  I'd like to try another course, perhaps something related to waterfowl.
    • Birds matter to me for so many reasons!  They really are a joy to watch, as stated in this course.  But most importantly, they are indicators of ecosystem health, and without a healthy natural world, our human spirits will suffer.   Spending time in nature is key my emotional well being and birds are a big part of that! Seven simple acts to help birds ... I am already doing many of these!  But I will say I have not yet gotten stickers for my windows and thankfully have not had any birds that we know of fatally crashing into them.    We do have a window feeder now, so that the cats can enjoy from indoors.   Luckily our yard already had lots of native plants there when we moved in 12 years ago and I already have been trying for years now to cut down plastic use but could always do better, and feel good  that our family of five never even fills the smallest garbage receptacle the city of Seattle offers.  No pesticide use, except for a month ago, when we needed to treat our birch tree, or it would be overcome by the bronze birch borer and have to be taken down.  It didn't seem like there were many options left, late in the game to realizing the problem.  I think there is an 8th, very important thing every bird lover can do - write their state and local lawmakers and tell them you support legislation that will protect and conserve bird habitat.  Be as specific as you can.   I can't say whether I have personally noticed bird populations changing over time.  i will note, that growing up in AZ, my parents used to have very large flocks of Robins come through every winter and though I don't live there anymore, they report that only a few here and there are ever seen.  I'm sure there could be many reasons for this.  I have moved around a lot in my adult life and now, having been in Seattle for a time, can't say about the populations in that time period - also  because I have just begun to devote more time to watching the birds during the pandemic. Yes, this course, and Liz's Nature Journaling course got me hooked on learning as much as I can and now I can't stop!  I am a lifelong learner.  But I must say that the Pandemic made this all possible since my part time jobs are not happening right now, and these courses are also something I share with my three girls while we are all at home all the time.
    • Michael
      Participant
      Chirps: 11
      Birds matter to me because they show me the myriad connections between a species and its habitat, the amazing capabilities of these highly evolved animals and the vast reach of life on this planet. Taking the course deepened my appreciation and amazement. There's so much to learn and enjoy. We are now focused on the seven things to do for birds. In 2021 we will be reducing our use of pesticides and planting more native plants and flowers to beef up the natural food supply. Next steps on the journey are to become even more "bird aware" on our travels and to improve our observation skills. Will continue to use e-Bird to report our sightings.  
    • Luke
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      • Some Future Goals For Birding
      • Continue to hone my birding skills
      • Find more birding locations
      • Use shade grown coffee
      • Continue to plant native and bird friendly plants, trees and shrubs.
      • Join a birding organization
    • Luke
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      Activity 3: I can say that populations have changed in my lifetime for some birds. Eagles and bluebirds I never saw when I was young and now l see them often. I believe there are more waterfowl in this area than when I was a young. But for many birds I simply couldn’t say because I have only recently learned to recognize them.
    • Luke
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      I have planted a small wildflower meadow. It attracts hummingbirds. Some flowers hummingbirds like are monarda (bee balm), buddleja(butterfly bush), gladioli, runner bean and anise hyssop. It also attracts many insects and the birds that prey on them. When the flowers are finished I leave the dead flower stalks stand to provide seeds for birds. Goldfinches especially love the seeds of coneflower and brown-eyed-Susan. The beanpole in the photo is a favorite perch for hunting phoebes.683C081E-C965-4B20-BECE-0CA4BCAE7FE7
    • Luke
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      By letting a succession of  wild plants grow in the periphery of the lawn areas I provide food and cover for pollinators and other insects. This in turn attracts insectivorous birds. The wild plants also provide food directly to birds in the form of seeds and berries. At times the groups of wildflowers can be quite stunning. This patch is a favorite place of foraging wrens. The fall wildflowers in the photo were preceded by wild raspberries.71A79374-5F1C-426F-BEB8-001786BD71FF
    • Luke
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      B45DD786-8791-4724-BFBF-3E32BCA2B9BBOne thing I have been doing the last few years is leaving islands of lawn uncut. This encourages a greater variety of plants, insects and even small mammals, and hence birds, than a finely cut lawn.
    • Juli
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      Activity 4: In my birdwatching journey, I want to continue to build my lists and see birds in states I have never birded and countries I have never birded. I do also hope to return to Belize and do more birding there. I would love to go to a birding festival once gatherings become safe again. I plan to sign up for Project Feederwatch and maybe Project Nestwatch. I would love to participate in a Christmas Bird Count at some point. I plan to bird every day, keep learning, keep growing, and continue to look for ways to reduce my footprint and help the world and the birds in it. I have thoroughly enjoyed this course. It has inspired to to resume keeping a bird journal even though I now keep my lists all on ebird. The suggestions of things we can do to help birds will continue to inspire me to look for ways to do better and give more.
    • Juli
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      IMG_5955 (2)Activity 3: Interestingly some of the changes to bird populations that I have noted in my lifetime are the same as the ones that Kevin mentioned in the video. As a child, tromping through the woods and fields behind my house I would frequently come across Northern Bobwhites. Their calls always bring me back to my youth. Unfortunately, now they are not nearly as common. We do have some areas where they still can be found and I always consider it a good day if I get to hear their call. Bald Eagles were quite uncommon when I was younger. I saw them in our local museum but I did not see my first Bald Eagle in the wild until I was about 22 years old. Now (I am 51) I see them on a very regular basis. I see them probably at least once or twice a week depending on where I am birding. They can be reliably found at a lake five minutes from my house. I have seen them as I was walking across the parking lot on the way to work, walking into Walmart, driving down the street, passing over my own backyard, etc... Today I actually saw two active bald eagle nests at St Marks National Wildlife Reserve which is about half an hour from my house. Two other birds that came to mind with this activity are the Canada Goose and the Eastern Bluebird. We have a local park called Lake Ella, which consists of a small (man made I believe) pond with a sidewalk all the way around it. As a child I used to go to Lake Ella and feed the ducks. On very rare occasions a Canada Goose or two would show up there and I would be so excited to see them! Now Canada Geese are everywhere!!! I see them in the parking lot of the bank next door to my work, at just about every birding spot with water, flying over my house, on golf courses, standing by the side of the road, etc... The Eastern Bluebird is another bird that in my life time I have seem dramatic changes in it's population. I can remember as a child reading in Ranger Rick about bluebird trail and seeing pictures of this brilliant, beautiful bird and wishing I could see one. I finally saw my first Eastern Bluebird when I was 18 years old. It was sitting on a fence at an acquaintances house that lived out in the country and had a horse farm. I was so excited to see the Eastern Bluebird which I shared with my friends who totally did not get it. Now fast forward to today, I see Eastern Bluebirds on a daily basis. I have a nest box in my backyard that they regularly nest in. There are probably 100 of them that live in my neighborhood. I go running early in the morning and as the sun starts coming up, I see and hear Eastern Bluebirds lining the roads perched on the telephone wires everywhere I go. I am so happy that the Bald Eagles and the Eastern Bluebirds are thriving! I hope that conservation efforts will help the Northern Bobwhite so that we can continue to hear and see them, and do so more than we have been.
    • Edward
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      Growing up on an Alberta, Canada, pioneering farmland, and now owning 400 acres of land of which 200 acres are slough and uncultivatable, I have noticed a decline in waterfowl as early as 1990.  Circumstances have subsequently afforded me to have the cultivatable land rented out to a Certified Organic tenant and it is my belief that the past must be reconstructed.  I understand the concept of insect and bird sustainability.   I am committed to retaining and returning to 1970's status to the land where hordes of waterfowl, birds and animal life were seen and entertained all six of my siblings as we were growing up.  I simply want to do what I can to maintain the original land my father got to what it has been and has supported since time beginning.  I envision "urbanites" experiencing nature, listening to birds, seeing animal tracks and trails, walking thru original grasses, trees, shrubs and insects.  Hopefully experiencing what the area was like and should be like.  I am in the process of studying how to go about this. Any suggestions?
    • One thing I would like to do, is take a trip to, Cape Cod. For birding, only. I usually go to the Gloucester Ma., area. But, I think that some Cape Cod areas, may be better birding hot spots. For different birds. Are there more Heron/Crane variations ? I know the North Shore is great, but I need a different landscape.   I would like to research, more, where to find birding hot spots, and go there just for that reason. Birding. Birding only. More 'rarity,' or 'unique,' sightings, and more detective work, as to, where to go. OWLS/OSPREYS/EAGLES/VULTURES/PUFFINS, are on my list. -b.k.
    • One thing I have noticed, is that in the past year, I have seen many more Cardinals. And Blue Jays. I do not know if it is because I noticed them more, or due to bird feeders. But sometimes they are everywhere.  I am not sure about Eagles, but according to the Cornell stats, they are on the up and up. More of them. I wish I would see more of them. Because I only see them on occasion. Without much of a photo. opp. I have seen Vultures circling, but never in proximity. My next goal is to get a photo of a Vulture cleaning a carcass. And another Raptor, close up. Here is my only Raptor pic. A ?Black Vulture?SOLO RAPT.
    • I am contributing to eBird, regularly. And I am going to pant some Native Plants, in the spring. I have some birdfeeders, and a birdbath. I do not use pesticides on my lawn. And I will make my lawn more, 'bird friendly,' this spring. I want to make some custom adjustments to my property, to be more bird friendly. Mainly, more longer grass, and wildflowers. And at least some potted native plants, if not some planted ones. I get a lot of birds each year. I want to improve in 2021. More birdfeeders in sheltered places. Not just in the middle of the lawn. On branches, on the edge of my property. To feed birds while they are in a sheltered place. Not only out in the open. -b.k.
    • I like birds, for their artistic, and universal and historical appeal. All nations, and states, have birds as symbols.  A lot of artists, and musicians, have bird motifs. Free Bird, Golden Bird, Fly like an Eagle. Birds are a universal inspiration, and have a lot of meaning and diversity.   Also, is there and animal, that exists on the fringe, better than a bird. They are everywhere, and they rarely attack people, and interact with society, as a population. Insects attack, and are annoying. Coyotes cannot be trusted, and other animals have to hide. But birds are on the fringe, and are can be hidden, and are also everywhere. Without much drama. I learned from this course, that Birds, are important for insect, and rodent control. And for spreading seeds, of trees, to help forestation.  I also have become a better birding artist, because I know where to go, and what bird to photo. Next up, is the Red Winged Blackbird. To photograph in a meadow.  
    • Juli
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      Activity 2: As far as windows, I have only once had an issue with a bird hitting a window. I had my hummingbird feeder hanging in front of my sliding glass door. The hummers were being very aggressive and chasing each other when one chased another into the glass door. I felt horrible. I promptly moved my feeder to a different location. I do not have a cat but if I do ever get one, it will be a strictly indoor cat. There is a wild cat that lives in my yard and my neighbor's yard. I have seen her hunting birds and I always try and interrupt her hunting, and give her food so she will not feel the need to hunt for food. I wish I could catch her and keep her inside but she will not let me touch her and my dogs would never let me keep her. We have a large yard that has lots of natural area. Our yard backs up to completely unmaintained woods. We grow lots of native, bird friendly plants. We use very limited fertilizers, with the preference being cow manure. We do not use any pesticides. We started drinking bird-friendly, shade-grown coffee and we love it! It is delicious! Not only do we order it for ourselves but we also give it as gifts to our coffee-loving friends and family. We also take every opportunity we can to tell others about it and point them in the right direction if they are interested. My New Years resolution last New Years was to quit using plastic bags from the grocery store. For a long time I was trying to make that transition but I would either forget to bring my bags all together or put them in the car but forget to bring them into the store. On New years I decided that if I forgot them I would buy more every time until I remembered. Now it has become a habit to bring my bags every time when I go in the store. Another small change I made was I got a metal, re-useable straw. It is a small thing but small things do add up. I have been a person who recycles ever since we got recycling where I live. At my work we do not have a recycling bin or pick up service, so I bring all of our recycling home and put it in our recycling bin. I need to quit drinking bottled water. So that is something I will need to come up with a solution to and implement it. As far as citizen science, I participate daily on ebird. I enjoy the idea of contributing important information and I do my best to report everything I see as accurately as I can. I have never participated in any surveys. I hope to look into and hopefully participate with Project Feeder watch and Nest watch in the future. I would love to do a Christmas Bird Count as well. I try to support businesses that are environmentally friendly. Although I have a fairly limited budget I make small donations to various organizations that conserve land and protect wildlife. I purchased a bird stamp this year. I also purchase bracelets for myself and to give as gifts from 4Oceans. Another thing I like to do is pick up litter while birding. I am always so disappointed with all the littering people do in our beautiful natural areas, and well everywhere!
    • Juli
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      Activity 1: Why do birds matter to me? I have always been a great lover of nature and I have always loved birds. I enjoy their songs, their beauty, and their unique behaviors. I get great joy on a daily basis, out of watching them, whether it is, at one of the feeders in my yard, a soaring vulture or a chickadee hanging upside down from a gumball. knowing that bird health is a measure of the health of the world around them gives us yet, another reason to really care about their well-being. I care very much about the health of the Earth and all of it's inhabitants. I do think being a birder really brings all of these feeling to focus and makes them more urgent and direct. I have always wanted to do the right thing for the environment. It takes work and commitment. Being a birder helps keep me motivated to work hard and always look for improvements that I can personally make, as well as, ways that I can help in a broader sense. It is very helpful to have access to direct steps I can take to do my part, as laid out in this course.
    • David
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      My Mom and I completed the course together and we agree that birds matter to us because: (1) they're a part of the natural world all around us that is relatively easy to tap into on a regular basis, (2) they're beautiful visually and auditorily and enhance quality of life, (3) they are part of a healthy functioning ecological system, including residential areas, and (4) the variety is highly stimulating to human curiosity.
    • Sara
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Birds matter to me in that I have always loved nature and wildlife but only recently started paying more attention to birds after trips to Belize and Egypt when I saw very strange looking birds, I enjoy making lists and submitting them to cornell for science as my first BS was in Geology and it reminds me of things I used to like doing. I already reduce my single use plastics, have for quite sometime especially as I have travelled to many countries and see the appalling usage of plastic water bottle scattered around because of tourists, currently I am in an apartment but one day I will have a piece of property and it will most definitely be a certified habitat, and not only because I am allergic to grass pollen and hate lawns haha
    • Aiden
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Birds are beautiful, wonderful creatures. They are an important part of nature, and they bring so much joy to people's lives. They are a great window into the natural world, and they help many people to get outdoors and experience nature. Also, all creatures deserve our protection and respect, definitely including birds. I am not sure how this course changes this for me. For activity 2, I am currently engaging in citizen science (eBird), and something I can do is reduce plastic use. This would help many creatures, not just birds. I have not noticed bird populations changing over my lifetime. Part of the reason that I have completed this course is as research for a large project that I am doing, where I am creating a documentary on birds. I have been getting out and birding much more, and once this project is done I need to make sure that I am getting out and birding often so that I don't lose this great hobby. Next steps really involve just making sure to keep birding. Also, I have been doing some photography of birds, and I enjoy it. I may want to get myself a better camera and start doing this more. I would say that this course has developed my interest in birding, and definitely my abilities in it. Thanks for a great course!
    • Lesley
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Why do birds matter to me? I am unapologetically announcing that, as the name of this course says, I find joy in birdwatching. Each and every day, I am thrilled by bird sightings at our backyard feeders, and by whatever I see flying overhead, such as the resident bald eagles, or birds spotted on outings in the forests and shores of our region on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. My husband and I will often stop whatever we are doing to call the other to come watch "our" quirky covey of California Quail in the yard, or that "Elvis" the shiny, blue black Steller's Jay with the slick-backed pompadour hair cut, has returned to our feeder. We love the whole gang out there. Even though I have watched and identified birds since I was a kid, now that I am retired, and especially during these months of COVID-19 restrictions, bird watching and the information in this course, has deepened my appreciation for the astonishing existence of birds; it has given me new awareness of the wonder of migration and bird behaviors. I've slowed down to really focus on this connection to nature. I am proud to say that I had already started to take action to protect birds, and now to check the boxes on the Seven Simple Actions is really gratifying. We tore up our lawns to create perennial gardens with plants that birds and bees can thrive on. We keep the fall/winter garden "messy" by allowing leaves to sit on the ground to harbor insects and seeds for the birds to eat. We have numerous feeders, and have plastered the windows with decals and post-it notes trying to prevent strikes. We recycle plastic and have reduced our use as much as possible. If we had a cat, we would keep it indoors -- but we can't do much about the stray that visits our yard -- at least the cat is a good mouser. And I am pleased to contribute to citizen science with bird counts and uncommon sightings. Have I noticed differences in bird populations over my lifetime? Yes, definitely. I see significantly fewer house sparrows, which I understand is a reported phenomenon, and fewer robins, which makes me sad, as their bright presence and song always takes me back to childhood. Future activities in my bird watching journey? I have enjoyed this course, so likely I will sign on for more. The instructions on using Merlin Bird ID and the migratory maps has been wonderful for richer bird watching experiences -- as has the tips on focusing binoculars properly! It took 68 years before someone showed me that trick! Thanks! Other than that, I plan to carry on with my life list and my enjoyment and awe at watching the bird world. Thank you for this tremendously enjoyable course. Photos: our bird-friendly front yard "meadow"  IMG_4454IMG_4453
    • Activity 4:  The next step for me along my bird watching journey is to visit Cornell Labs; take live courses and workshops; and begin to plan travel to other areas of North America to observe more birds.  Some of this will have to wait until we have COVID-19 under control.  Meanwhile I will continue to study online with Cornell Labs, bird often with experienced birders; and continue to learn. This course has been wonderful ! I have learned so much.  Many questions about birds and bird habitat have been running through my mind, and now after completing this course, much of these questions have been answered and my direction with birding is becoming more clear ! Thank You !