By s.fenn 3rd May 2022

Each summer we offer students looking for the opportunity to take up work experience, the chance to be involved with life at Field Studies Council.

Placements can involve a whole host of different tasks and responsibilities which are dependent on location and the field centre where they’re based.

Placements give students the opportunity to gain valuable experience of living and working within a residential field centre setting.

We hear from higher education students Mimi Lee, Caitlin and Seniz, who are our guest writers for this blog post. Here’s how they got on participating in one of our spring bird identification courses at Preston Montford during their placement with us.

Mimi, is studying Education and Sociology at the University of York. Caitlin is studying Biology at the University of Sheffield and Seniz is studying Ecology and Conservation at the University of Brighton.

Identification of Spring Birds by Sight and Sound – Preston Montford

As placement students eager to learn more, we really enjoyed the Songbird ID course. Our tutor Anne was very knowledgeable, inclusive, and approachable.
The course was a beginner’s course, over two days to let us dip our toes into the world of bird identification. This was predominantly through observation and listening to bird calls.

Throughout the course, we had a lot of opportunity to ask questions and get involved. It was a small group, so it was easy to build rapport with everyone. It was nice to see the other participants sharing their knowledge and helping each other spot the birds, as it could be very difficult at times.
Most of the course was spent outside in the field, which we absolutely loved. Bird watching requires you to go out, listen and see it for yourself.
The weather happened to be perfect that weekend. It was perfect for spending time outside in nature with the sun shining on us and no hint of rain. This allowed us to spend more time at each spot to take in the bird songs and calls to try and identify those we could hear.
We really appreciated visiting different sites and habitats as it allowed us all to see a more diverse range of birds and it was really useful to learn the information alongside the facts at each spot.

Overall, we identified over 50 species of birds. This included buzzards, goldfinches, and blackcaps.

The two sites we visited, allowed us to not only observe woodland birds, but also water birds, such as cormorants and great crested grebes. It was interesting to observe their behaviors. We watched a cormorant drying off its wings whilst perched in a tree so that it could then fly.
On an ecological level, the course was very informative. We learnt about how climate change can affect birds, in particular, the negative impact it has on the success rate of blue tit broods.

As we were placement students and not local, learning about the birds in the surrounding areas was interesting. Anne spoke about other locations across the country where you could see a diverse range of birds, which made the information relevant to everyone.
To build on top of what we learned would have been beneficial. Maybe if Anne challenged us further by giving us more opportunity to figure out the calls and birds ourselves. However, as this was a beginner’s course, understandably, that could be quite hard, especially with the large number of different bird songs we had the privilege to hear.

At the end of the course, Anne shared with us different surveys that we could partake in, such as the garden birdwatch survey. Anne also provided excellent advice on how to facilitate our learning and build upon it in the future.

Overall, we came away feeling very inspired. It motivated us to continue learning about different birds and build upon the knowledge we gained!

Mimi, Seniz and Caitlin

Thank you to Mimi, Seniz and Caitlin for their detailed review of their time at Preston Montford and it’s fantastic to hear how getting out into the field to observe birds in their natural habitat has been so beneficial to their studies and overall experience.

If you’d like to know more about our bird courses across the UK visit our courses page