About our courses
Learning about birds and improving your birding skills
Birdwatching is a hugely rewarding and enjoyable pastime; from bringing further enjoyment to a walk in the countryside, through to a life-long career. Being able to identify the birds that you see and hear about you greatly increases your connection with nature and enables you to give something back and make a real, direct difference for conservation by making a note of your sightings through one of the many BTO surveys on offer.
We take you through all stages: from learning to identify common birds by sight, to increasing your repertoire of species, then on to identification by sound. We provide a series of free online videos to help separate confusion species (see here), and then help you to take your birdwatching to the next level by discovering what is involved in surveys and offering survey-specific workshops to hone your skills to perfection. We also offer professional and bespoke bird ID and bird surveying training.
There is a survey for everyone, regardless of your level of experience, bird identification skill and confidence and so all of our courses and workshops, including bird ID ones, include sections on surveying and guiding you towards the survey that suits you best.
All of our courses comprise indoor taught sessions and outdoor practicals, putting what we have learned into practice. There will be some outdoor elements regardless of the time of year/weather.
You do not have to be a BTO member to attend a course, workshop or to take part in a BTO survey.
Virtual Training Courses
Virtual training courses cover a variety of topics, including Wader, Gull and Songbird ID. These courses involve weekly online sessions of 90–100 minutes, with a trainer:participant ratio of about 1:30. Participants' microphones are muted during the sessions but there is a large interactive component, using chat messaging, polls and non-verbal signals to your webcam. The live sessions are complemented by supported self-study exercises which participants are encouraged to complete between the sessions. We place a strong emphasis on providing tools and techniques that will help you to continue your learning after the course.
In-person Training Courses
As an extention of our virtual training courses, there will now be some opportunities to meet our trainers in small group events. These sessions will cover species' and techniques covered in the virtual sessions and will be a great opportunity to put theory into practice.
Our 1-day workshops usually run from 10am until mid-afternoon (c. 4.30pm), although timings may vary for coastal-based courses as tide times can dictate different start/finish times. Indoor theory and brief outdoor practical sessions help everyone to understand the topics covered and to get some helpful practical experience. The price does include tea and coffee, but participants are asked to bring a packed lunch. Each venue does vary and some offer a café facility; we will let you know what the situation is with each venue when you book.
All courses are led by experienced BTO staff and members, all of whom have extensive experience of BTO surveys and the different methodologies that are used, as well as all being keen and experienced birders and trainers. This combination of skills allows the leaders to gently encourage and direct participants in bird identification and surveying as well as creating a great environment for participants to learn from each other's experiences. Practical sessions are carried out in small groups, so that there is a high level of tutor to participant help.
We do not plan to offer any residential courses for the foreseeable future but will instead continue to offer online training opportunities, along with an increasing number of half-day field sessions.
Migration blog (3rd – 9th September)
With the first days of Autumn upon us and the breeding season over for many species, the focus is now on preparing for the coming winter months.
Counting birds and the Wetland Bird Survey (Wednesday 22 September, 10am)
This course involves one online session of about 1 hour 45 minutes, with a trainer:participant ratio of about 1:30. Participants' microphones are muted during the presentations but there is a large interactive component...