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This beginner online bird course will introduce you to the field skills required to start identifying and recording birds including how to use a guide and make a valuable record.

Birdwatching has become a hobby for many people of all ages. It allows us to connect with nature and begin to contribute to citizen science, but it is important to know how and what to record.

During this beginner online course, you will learn valuable observational field skills, how to use a field ID guide, an overview of British bird groups, a brief history of ornithology, what to record and how to record it. This is the perfect course for beginners looking to learn more about the birds around them, identify bird groups, and contribute to citizen science projects. After completing this course you should feel confident to progress your learning with a more specific bird identification course as you will have gained the baseline skills required to take your birdwatching to the next level.

This is a 2-week course covering 2 topics, for which you will complete a variety of online resources and activities. Topics are concluded with either an interactive Zoom workshop or tutor-marked assignment. Understand how our online courses are delivered 

Who Should Attend?

Nature enthusiasts, Students, Rangers, Early career ecologists, Birdwatchers.

Knowledge Level

Beginner. Level descriptors can be found on the following webpage: Framework and Course Level Descriptors

Prior Knowledge

Existing knowledge and understanding of birdwatching and bird groups would be beneficial for this course.

Recommended Devices

It is recommended that you access your course through a PC or laptop. Please be aware that there will be reduced functionality if you decide to access the course through a tablet or smartphone. The Field Studies Council is unable to email content directly to you.

This course will cover:

    • Using Bird Field ID Guides*
    • Recording Birds
      Please note this is not an identification course

*For this topic, you may wish to purchase the FSC Guide to the top 50 garden birds to aid your learning.
You are not required to purchase this guide and the course can be completed without it. The guide is merely a tool to enhance your learning and a good place to start when identifying garden birds.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

    • Identify the main differences between bird families
    • Begin to use bird field guides
    • Identify key equipment when beginning bird watching
    • Understand why and how we create effective field notes relating to birds and identify their importance
    • Share this knowledge with friends, family and fellow volunteers.

This is a training course from the Field Studies Council, including online course materials, expert tuition and a flexible learning style. After attending this course, you may like to progress your learning about birds with further relevant courses, or branch out into other areas of the animal kingdom. The Field Studies Council offers both online and in person courses, so you can choose the learning style that suits you best.

Please note that bookings will close at 9 am on Thursday 4th August to allow for all participants to be enrolled to the online platform – bookings will not be taken after this time.*

* Bookings will close sooner if course capacity is reached

The course gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new subject and acquire novel skills. Our online portal gives you time to study at your own pace and fit the lessons around your own schedule.

  • See the ‘Example Timetable’ and ‘What’s Included’ sections below for more information about this course.
  • Each individual needs to place their own order to ensure we can sign you up to the learning platform and give you access to resources.
  • Please email [email protected] if you have any questions.

Group Bookings Made Easy

If you have a group of 10 or more individuals wanting to complete one of our courses, our team are available to discuss your options – from discounts to private team courses.

  • Discounted rates
  • Privately run courses for your group
  • Bespoke courses developed specifically for your needs

Click here to find out more!

Tutor: Anne Brenchley

Anne was born and brought up in Kent and has been a keen birdwatcher from a very early age. She was awarded a Zoology degree and a PhD from Aberdeen University (studying Rooks) and went on to spend most of her working career, until 2011, with Natural England and its predecessors. She has been a Regional Rep for the British Trust for Ornithology since 2000 in Flintshire and Wrexham, organising and taking part in surveys and also helping other volunteers. She is also a fully qualified bird ringer and the main author of the Breeding Birds of North Wales published in 2013. Anne is now an independent ecological/horticultural consultant and lead birdwatching/wildlife walks on a weekly basis.

Live Webinar Information

The webinars will take place on the following dates at 4:00 pm (BST):

    • Tuesday 16th August at 4:00 – 4:45 pm

For Week 2 there will be a marked assignment in which the course tutor will provide feedback on your submission. There will be no Zoom session for this week.

Please note - webinars will be recorded and uploaded to the virtual learning platform for learners unable to attend.

Example Timetable


Week 1: Using Bird Field ID Guides 
Self-study material available: 09/08/2022
Week 1 live webinar: 16/08/2022 at 4:00 pm

Week 2: Recording Birds 
Self-study material available: 16/08/2022
Week 2 marked assignment due: 23/08/2022 at 4:00 pm

The final deadline to complete any outstanding activities and self-study components is 06/09/2022

Time commitment: This course will require approximately 2-3 hours of your time each week. This includes covering course materials on our Moodle learning platform and the Zoom session.

What's Included

  • Expert Tuition

The course has been carefully created to help you continue to build on your knowledge as the course progresses. With content crafted to the online Moodle Platform and bespoke to the Field Studies Council.

The course includes:

    • 45-minute interactive Zoom workshops to connect with the tutor and other participants
    • Personalised feedback on a marked assignment
    • Expert tuition for which the Field Studies Council is renowned
    • Activities to work on independently in advance of each Zoom workshop
    • Course completion certificate

Once registered, you will follow well-illustrated, user-friendly ’books’ to pick up knowledge. Quizzes and skill-checks will give you instant feedback on your learning. Forums give students the chance to interact with each other as well as a place to share work.

You can rest assured that the absolute best content from an expert in environmental education will be at your fingertips. In choosing a Field Studies Council course, you will be joining thousands of people who learn with us each year.


  • ★★★★

    I really enjoyed how varied the information was. There were so many useful resources and it did not become too technical - very beginner friendly!

  • ★★★★

    I liked the variety of information. The specific terminology was useful.

  • ★★★★★

    Really enjoyed having the basics presented in a very complete way, a great way to make sure everyone has all the fundamentals they wouldn't get from just reading books.

  • ★★★★★

    It was taught by professionals and they taught the basics well. I learnt enough to feel confident going out and trying to identify birds better and know how to group them.

Before You Attend

Recommended equipment

  • Binoculars
  • Bird ID Guides
  • Field notebook

Accessing Your Course

  • Once you sign up you’ll receive an email at least 24 hours in advance of the course opening with details of how to access our easy-to-use platform, Moodle.
  • Moodle can be accessed through a browser or an app.
  • Webinars are via Zoom so you won’t need any new software to attend

Recommended Devices

It is recommended that you access your course through a PC or laptop. Please be aware that there will be reduced functionality if you decide to access the course through a tablet or smartphone. The Field Studies Council is unable to email content directly to you.

Sorry this course has ended