Birding 101

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Lizzie W, Youth Representative


Youth Representative (Aberystwyth)

Lizzie is studying for a masters as part of the Mycology Research Group at Aberystwyth University. They hope that, by being a BTO Youth Representative, they can repay the service of those who inspired them to pursue a life in science and nature.


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BTO Youth's Birding 101 events are part of a free training programme for young people, by young people - a series of live online sessions hosted by BTO's Youth Representatives designed to connect, inspire and educate anyone aged 25 or younger who is interested in nature. Arising out of the increased awareness of online events in the wake of the pandemic, Birding 101 series have been a success, not just for participants, but for the leaders too. Lizzie, BTO Youth Representative and Birding 101 host, writes about their experience.  

A while ago you had to be part of a specific career field to attend video calls or to present online training sessions. If you did, it probably would’ve had something to do with Skype, and it probably would’ve been vaguely infuriating. 

A zoom link means something completely different now.

Hosting Birding 101 was my first time seeing how the type of events I’ve attended throughout my birding youth are thought up, planned out, practised, promoted, delivered, and reviewed. My main takeaway is this - that the BTO work really, really hard. That gliding duck analogy about hidden feet paddling under the surface seems appropriate here. 

Bird Camp Participants. Rob Read

I didn’t know people could do things like that so well. I hadn’t experienced how a group of people could just think things up, turn it into something physical, and then roll it out to the public. Professionally. I didn’t know how some people handled promotion, and others registration and admin. How logos and art are commissioned. How safeguarding works. How not to swear in front of 90 young people. 

That’s been cool. I’ve enjoyed learning how that’s done. 

But we can do all that hard work, and still have the thing not be successful. This thing has been very successful, I like to think. Humbly. With a big grin on my face. Our attendees brought these sessions to life - it turns out those pesky youths are really good fun.

We are Eli and Izzy from Cornwall. We love being outdoors and in nature, even if it's raining!

Eli & Izzy

Our mum saw the Birding 101 course being run by BTO Youth in November last year and asked if we wanted to do it, as we love birds. We couldn't wait and she signed us up.

The sessions were run in the evening on Zoom by different BTO Youth representatives. We both enjoyed the sessions on how to identify birds by sight and sound.  We got to look at different pictures and hear different bird calls. To help us remember, we did little quizzes, which got us a bit competitive! We also loved learning about the different gulls - they are more interesting than you think! After each session we were given challenges so we could test out our new skills.  

The migration session was fascinating. Did you know Swifts can fly almost nonstop when they migrate to Africa each winter, and migrating birds can rest half of their brain whilst flying?

We were keen to hear about the BTO Equipment Donation Scheme. Our mum asked for a pair of binoculars and we were fortunate to get a couple of pairs and a birding book. We were so excited, as we can now see the birds up close. We have also used them to spot deer! We even got goodie bags sent in the post after the course, as we went to all the sessions.

We really recommend this course. Birding 101 has given us new skills and even more appreciation for our beautiful world. Our birds are so precious and vulnerable, it is all our responsibility to keep them safe.

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It’s stressful to present to so many people, and it’s difficult to balance content for both primary school and university students. It was a really big undertaking. Lots of things were brand new.

The energy that knitted everything together came from finding out who’d spotted what birds since the last session, who’d used new skills, who’d seen a new first species. It was fielding questions to the group to receive a wave of detailed responses, or to see someone ask for help and be answered by another participant.

The shape of the birding community is changing. There are new niches to be filled. The force of the BTO Youth Engagement Team can do an enormous amount, but they’re met halfway by other young people so willing to share in the work. Both are facilitated by the power of the internet.

In-person events are gladly returning, but online events like Birding 101 are something wonderful that have developed in the interim. I hope they stick around. 

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