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

    • Hannah
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Activity 1: Birds matter to me because they are a part of Creation. They make me happy. They teach me about the world. This course has taught me that birds are also great indicators of environmental health. An abundance of birds points toward a thriving environment. Activity 2: I always keep my two cats indoors. It has been for their own safety, but I now realize it is also important for the safety of the birds that frequent my yard. I try to recycle and cut down on waste. I have started engaging in citizen science recently as I log my sightings via eBird. I keep my distance from nests that are in use. I limit the frequency and volume at which I play bird sounds on my phone so as not to stress the birds out or trick them. I could certainly stand to be more eco-friendly in how I live. I have never tried shade-grown coffee, but I might. I would like to hang some zen blinds on my bay windows to keep birds from colliding with them. I would like to plant some native plants in my yard, as well. Activity 3: I am only 19 years old, so I haven’t really noticed changes in bird population over my lifetime (although I am certain there have been changes). As well, I only recently started birding. I also moved across the country when I was younger, so the bird species that are common where I live now are different than the ones present where I grew up. Activity 4: I would like to become an active member of a birding club at some point when the COVID-19 pandemic no longer prevents people from getting together. I would also like to witness bird migration in the fall, as I did not become interested in birding until just after the spring migrations took place this year, so I missed them. This course has really taught me a lot of the foundations of birding. I used this course to teach me how to log bird sightings, which pair of binoculars to purchase, and the major bird identification clues. I have practiced many of the skills I learned in this course.
    • Gabrielle
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Activity 2. We are going to plant some more native bird-friendly plants in our yard/garden. We are also going to keep working on reducing plastic.
    • Margaret
      Participant
      Chirps: 13
      Activity 4. I will be taking small steps to continue and maybe intensify bird-watching, both through some personal effort and through the local Audubon chapter. I have been taking almost daily morning nature/bird-watching walks very locally, focusing on what I can see easily; heron-watching has continued to be attractive. After receiving information from the local Audubon chapter, a friend and I did locate a nesting osprey sitting on the backstop of a high school baseball diamond (near the cell tower where it is nesting) and were able to watch it in flight. I need help making progress on bird sound—very difficult for me to move beyond the really common and easy-to-identify songs and calls. I am also interested in bird behavior and bird science generally and will explore the Cornell university-level beginning ornithology course and will continue reading. I was interested in Eva Meijer’s book, Animal Languages, and what she says about birds, and I am thinking about reading some of Jennifer Ackerman. Any recommendations? I am a social scientist with a focus on  human well-being and public policies, but as I have just retired from full-time teaching and research I am making a small pivot towards ecology and the natural environment, and it seems birds may be my entry point.
    • Margaret
      Participant
      Chirps: 13
      Activity 2. We try hard to limit or eliminate plastics. While some retailers have moved in a better direction, many still automatically dispense lots of plastic bags, and it requires alertness and intention to avoid these. We avoid all pesticides in our yard and vegetable garden. We have tried to plant bird-friendly plants within the limits of our small yard and poor soil. We have maintained an overgrown cherry tree that at least one arborist has suggested we remove. We have planted Bee Balm, Butterfly Weed, and other native flowering plants, and our landscaper says that the grasses he planted in the front yard are bird-friendly in that birds use these grasses to build nests. We could do better here, with Milkweed (we are a monarch-friendly street), Yarrow (abundant in several naturalized areas nearby), Coneflower and Black-eyed Susan, all of which grow in yards on our street. We buy annuals, Calibrachoa, that are hummingbird-friendly. I hope to become more informed and active in bird protection through the local Audubon chapter and Natural Areas Preservation unit of the city. Public policy-- at national, regional, state and local levels-- matters.
    • Marlene
      Participant
      Chirps: 17
      After reading the Seven Simple Acti0ns to Protect Birds list, I am happy to say that I do practice many of these already. For example, I hang as many sun-catchers, window art or other colorful things that I can find in my windows. Having experienced a few bird -window collisions in past years, I find that the more things you can creatively place in your windows, the safer you make it for birds. Although I sometimes get questioned about all of my "window art", it has actually become a topic of many conversations. It might not be for everyone, but if you don't use window coverings or shades, colorful window art can make a big difference. I also never use spray pesticides on our yard plants and flowers, for fear they will harm the birds and other wildlife in our area. We often have to deal with the mosquitoes and other bothersome insects a bit more, but it is worth it! We still lightly apply insect repellent on ourselves, but we just don't spray it all over the yard. Although we don't have a cat, we watch for any strays that might be stalking around the birds. We limit our plastic container purchases and never use bottled water. We have an Artesian well so our tap water is very good, and we always use reusable shopping bags whenever we can. Lastly, we are going to make a concerted effort to count and track birds more using the EBird app to help do our part in collecting data.  Watching birds everyday from NW Wisconsin.   Enjoy everyone!
    • Sophia
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      I have always admired birds and am extremely intrigued by how amazing they are. They are very important for the Earth, but many people don't think about that. Without them, things would be totally different. I recently planted lots of chemical free flowers in my backyard, and I even have a little garden that attracts many diverse species of birds. Even though it's something small, I am positive that it has helped the birds in my neighborhood. This course was truly educational and I enjoyed learning more about these beautiful creatures!
    • Catherine
      Participant
      Chirps: 17
      Act 1: Birds have always mattered to me--even as a child I loved to watch them. As an adult I've tried to be more 'scientific' and precise,  identify them and find out more about them. Sooo birds are important--just as every other animal, actually! They pollinate, and otherwise help spread seeds, clean up what other animals leave behind, provide food and so much pleasure! Act 2: In my area (Prov of Quebec), plastic bags have been outlawed (though in our current conditions the stores do seem to be using them again--sigh...), and am careful with elastic bands, too. I'm also an avid, organic, gardener and, as much as possible, use native plants--and will now be more.... obsessive about it! Act 3: In my observations I have noticed changes in the bird population, but I credit that in part to the fact that I now know more. There are some species I now see that I didn't before, and some in larger flocks. I compare what I see to my (vintage) Roger Tory Peterson guide, and do find that his "northernmost range" has been extended: some birds that were limited to the New England states are now fairly common here. Act 4: I have very much enjoyed this course, especially the input of others, located near and far from me. Their participation made the course come alive for me. I have also enjoyed (am enjoying every day!) the live birdcams, especially the Sapsucker Woods one, which is close to my ecological area. I found the ability to watch a bunch of different birds at the same time to be very good for learning to distinguish males from females, from juveniles, the different blackbirds and woodpeckers, their feeding behaviour..... I may try to have a bird feeder again--had to give it up because I couldn't make it squirrel proof (in spite of buying one that was supposed to be.....). Thank you, Cornell, and thank you all participants! Catherine
    • Sophia
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Activity 2: I already work hard to decrease my plastic use.  I use reusable grocery bags, have a set of reusable utensils, and use metal straws.  Something I didn't know about before this lesson was "bird friendly" or "shade grown" coffee.  I will look into that for the future! Activity 4: This course has made me think about and notice birds a lot more.  I got the Merlin app and will now try to figure out what birds I'm seeing.  I want to start taking more bird pictures too.  Taking this course has made me be curious about and appreciate birds.
    • IRENE
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      I took this course as a way to provide quality time for an elderly family member who suffers from dementia. It proved a huge success due to the good visual content, succinct lessons and ease of accessibility for her--course sections were able to be understood without reference to previous material. Although this family member cannot remember specifics from the course, there is no doubt that it stimulated her thinking, augmented her delight in the birds at our feeders and brought deep satisfaction at "attending college," which she had long wished to do. That the course improved my knowledge and interest in birds was a happy side effect of trying to care for a loved one with dementia. Simply stated, she put the JOY in the Joy of Birdwatching. Thanks to all of you, instructors and class members, for adding to her life!
      • Cathy
        Participant
        Chirps: 45
        Irene.  What a wonderful idea to share the course with your family member.  You have a heart of gold to look out for your family member in that way.  I hope that it goes as well as it can.  It's great that your family member will use a computer and was able to enjoy the class with you.  Best wishes.  Cathy
    • Sarah
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Activity 2: I already have bird safe windows, keep cats indoors or on the 'catio,' and in some ways have reduced plastics, planted native species in our garden, and started to use eBird to begin contributing to citizen science.  I could check to make sure the coffee I drink is bird friendly, and focus on buying produce that reduces pesticide use.  I also could reduce plastics in my life more and participate more in citizen science. Activity 4: I am looking forward to continuing to learn how to ID different birds by sight and sound and create more lists on eBird to track my lifetime sightings and help with citizen science!  This course inspired me to get familiar with birding technology and resources that help do this and are really pretty user friendly.  I had previously felt kind of intimidated by them and didn't feel I was "good enough" at birding to make lists if I was by myself and not with an experienced birder.  But everyone starts somewhere. I already loved birds but this course reminded me how interesting they are in many ways.  Thanks for the great course!
    • Cynthia
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      This course has opened my eyes to all the different bird species there are and how they affect our ecosystem. I never really knew how important a role they play in it. Birds are very intriguing to me. I now have a bird feeder and able to watch the different birds that come into my yard to feed. I have taken more walks in nature to bird watch and see how they interact in nature and with themselves and other birds. I will be taking pictures also and learning more about birds as this is a new found love of mine - bird watching. I also want to get  a birdbath for my yard too. I get excited whenever I see a new bird at my feeder! Or even if there are more than one bird at a time.
    • Charlotte
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      I provide a diverse habitat along with a variety of food options in the hope of attracting and sustaining as many birds as I can. Since it is late spring in  northern NJ, I am currently the host to the enchanting hummingbirds. I have a dedicated section of flowers loved by them along with feeders that I diligently clean and maintain. It is joyful to watch them flit around. All of the birds that visit my yard enrich my day and I could not imagine a world without them.
    • susan
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      I find watching birds a very relaxing activity, but I never really thought of the environmental importance birds provide.  Birds help population control of other living things in the environment. They are the cleaners of the land as they eat the rotting carcasses.  They are the pollinators of flowers.  I have watched the bird species increased in my yard for the last 20 years.  When we moved into our house in the city 20 years ago, the yard was all turf with a couple peony plants and a lilac shrub with little bird activity.  I have planted evergreens, trees, and different height flowering shrubs.  I still have a little turf  in the yard.  I leave the fall leaves in the flower and shrub beds and shredded some leaves to save for mulch that I put in the beds mid summer.  I have different feeders suppling different foods such as safflower and sunflower seed, orange halves, suet, sugar water.  Now I have humming birds, all different kinds of sparrows and finches, orioles, robins, doves, thrushes, chickadees, sapsuckers and a Cooper’s hawk that comes through to help control the the over abundance of house sparrows(just to name some).  I may not be able to control the destruction of the environment of the area around me but I can provide an area for birds(and monarchs) to thrive in my little oasis.
    • Kenneth R
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Activity 1: This course has definitely raised my awareness not just about birds but why they matter. My focus is not on counting but on photographing the birds I have seen and I'm now using eBird to share my photos. Super excited about my new birding passion and to share what I have seen. Activity 2: We have always been proactive about adding bird friendly plants in our garden and about keep the stream clear and useful for birds to use. We're also making a concerted effort to reduce plastics in our life. Protecting these creatures should be a priority for all of us. Activity 3: While I haven't been birding that long, I have noticed the difference in just the past few years of the kinds of birding visiting our yard. I'm sad that our owl box was only used once in the past 5 years...hoping that we'll have one next year. Activity 4: I am now actively birding and documenting what I see several times a week and hoping that this contributes to the awareness to the importance of birds in our area.
    • Laura
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 1 - My mother loved birds and always had a feeder and she instilled a love of birds in all her children. I have always felt birds are important but this course has taught me so many fascinating things about them that I think they are even more awesome than I did before. Activity 2 - The one new item for me on this list was the shade-grown coffee. I am not a coffee drinker but my other family members are, and I am going to share with them the importance of buying this type of coffee. I think another way to help birds is to share with others what I've learned in this course. I think the more that people know about birds, the more they will see how special they are and will be motivated to protect them also. Activity 3- When my husband and I have traveled around the country I have often expressed surprise and disappointment that I haven't seen more birds. It seems like there used to be more birds in general. I recall seeing flocks on telephone poles and similar places but don't see that as often. On the California coast I don't see as many seagulls as there used to be, though there seem to be more crows. Activity 4 - As a result of this course I would like to buy a good pair of binoculars and be involved as a Citizen Scientist in reporting the birds I see. I also would like to be able to identify more birds by their songs/calls, and make bird watching part of my travel experiences. I definitely want to learn more about birds and be more involved in protecting birds.
    • Karen
      Participant
      Chirps: 11
      Activity 1: This course has made me more aware of the lives of birds. I understand a bit more about what's going on when I see and hear birds. I appreciate more about birds globally and their lives away from my local area. As the course states, birds are an important part of the overall functioning of the ecosystem and are much more that beautiful to look at and hear. Activity 2: We live on 5 acres of mostly undeveloped land and plan to leave it that way. The trees and shrubs on our property are home to many birds. One thing I could do is look for shade grown coffee. Activity 4: I would like to get out with my local naturalist group when lifting of restrictions allows for it. As a result of this course and the influence of a birding friend, I now take pictures of birds, identify them, and submit to e-bird on a more regular basis.
    • PABLO
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      Activity 2: In our garden we use organic pesticides.Also, I wrote a paragraph for my school about recycling plastic. And lastly, I have submitted 2 nests to NESTWATCH.
    • Joan
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      Activity 1: This is the first course I have taken on birding and I found it absolutely fascinating. Whenever I am outdoors in my yard or on walks in the neighbourhood  I now  look and listen for birds and observe their behaviour. We have a robin's nest on an outdoor deck speaker  and it has been so interesting to watch the different stages of development from nest building, incubation, brooding and feeding. I have also watched birds in our trees performing a variety of self care practices. Activity 2: Some of the actions I have taken to protect birds is purchasing decals to put on my windows, planting native plants and using eco-friendly pesticides. Within the last year I have minimized the use of plastics especially for grocery shopping. On account of COVID 19  local grocery stores in Winnipeg, Manitoba discourage the use of reusable cloth bags but this is temporary. Activity 4: As current pandemic restrictions are based in my province I would like to join a local birding group on occasion and visit a local marshland area.  
    • Aaron
      Participant
      Chirps: 16
      This year has been pretty slow in terms of bird activity. Compared to last year. Not many migrants, barely any hummingbirds.
    • Lucy
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      I have really enjoyed this course, it's been well worth it! Even though it did concentrate more heavily towards North American species, which is what I was expecting, it was also very adaptable/relevant to where I live (Australia). As far as actions I have taken to help birds, I can honestly say I do all of them! I am a responsible pet owner and my two moggies are 'indoor only' cats. They enjoy their time out in their 'catio' and they are also harness trained. I work with the local shorebird recovery coordinator in our area to keep watch over our shorebirds during peak nesting/breeding times. I'm a big advocate for eating seasonally and buying locally grown produce that is farmed without the use of pesticides and I keep my plastic use to an absolute minimum; no single use plastic in this household! My garden is made up of natives, fruit trees and vegetables and I am very selective about the products I purchase and how/where they were made and the packaging it comes in. I think we all have a duty to take these simple steps and keep our impacts to a minimum. I'm definitely going to do another course with the Cornell Bird Academy. I would love to see a course specific to shorebirds:-) I will endeavour to use ebird more consistently from here on to assist with the data collection which I realise is so important for conservation work. Thank you for all the work you do to protect and conserve our precious birds throughout the world. Well done Cornell team:-)
    • Julie
      Participant
      Chirps: 13
      Activity 1 - this course has absolutely changed my thinking. I am now recording on eBird, and while we previously enjoyed our nightly walks, now we are on the lookout for birds as well, and really enjoying it it. I noticed that while I have lived here for many years, I never heard the birds like I do now. I hear them, and am listening, not just taking it in as background sound. Activity 2 - I was pleased to see that we are already doing a number of things to support the population. Our property is largely natural here in Southern California, lots of oaks and shrubs. There is a ton of bird life in the oaks, in fact the reason I even found this course was because I was trying to identify an owl on our property, and Cornell kept popping up with great info during my online search. The trees and shrubs that we do have planted support a lot of hummingbird life, lots of flowering trees. We just added two feeders to our backyard, and while it took about a week, the birds have found it! It is great fun to watch. Also, our cats are indoors. However, we do have bobcats...can’t  do much about that, and they are part of our ecosystem. I would like to do better with the water bottle consumption, it’s pretty unnecessary. Will work on that next! Activity 3 - I have lived here almost my entire life, most noticeable thing to me has been the increase in parrots....But we love them. Also, there seem to be more hawks. Activity 4 - I joined our local Audubon society and am going to continue with eBird. Maybe take more classes here! Also found out that a friend from college who I have known 30 years is a birder, and quite accomplished. I never knew this. Sure fun to grow a friendship unexpectedly. Thanks for a great course!
    • Ann
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Activity 2. I am already limiting my use of plastic products and recycle everything that I can. In restaurants, I request, " no straw please". I do enjoy grinding my coffee beans, but now I will request shade grown coffee. I will consider becoming a member of the landscaping committee at my homeowners association. Activity 3. I have noticed changes in the bird population in my lifetime: now I frequently see large wild turkeys which I never did before. They usually are in pairs and seem to bicker a lot! They seem to be attracted to moving car tires and occasionally stop traffic! Activity 4. This course inspired my to make every morning dog walk into a 1 hour bird watch. My retired Greyhound is old and slow, so it works out quite well. When I return home, I look up birds I didn't recognize. I'm keeping a handwritten list (for now, will consider eBird, but I don't want birding to become a competitive sport for me). Ann
    • Carol
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      Activity 1- Birds matter to me in that I enjoying watching them and photographing them. This course has taught me a lot. I was amazed at the number of birds lost but happy to hear of the gains in some species. Activity 2- I will look into planting native species. I do have a lot of plants in my garden and avoid pesticides. I try to use safer methods to help with insects in the garden, like soap mixture that is not harmful. I get an organic product from friends that do organic gardening. I put out bird seed regularly Activity 3 - I am seeing more Wood Ducks in our area which was one of the ducks that population grew.  I feel I see less warblers all this year did see more than some years. Activity 4 - I participated in May 9 bird day and tried to submit many checklists. I will look into the Project Feeder watch for the winter. I was amazed how all these lists from all over the world help in bird research.
    • Moya
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      I have really enjoyed this course and I have learned so much about identifying birds and understanding and interpreting their behavior.  I have done a number of things to protect birds including putting clear  decals on my windows that don't detract but allow the birds to see the window. (I ordered them on line). I keep my cat inside . I put out a variety of seeds in feeders that appeal to different species. My major effort recently is to replant  my yard with native species, severely diminish the amount of lawn, and make it  a  welcoming  habitat for birds and  wildlife.  The space is about 1/4  acre (in the city) including the house, lots of trees, bushes  and plantings. However I have seen an amazing number of species and bird pairs this year. I am hoping to gently encourage some neighbors to join me in creating a natural corridor of habitat. I have to be a little careful as one neighbors is apt to  catch the wildlife I attract to relocate it and everyone seems enthralled with tidiness.
    • 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.