Knowledge of the diversity of songbirds and the processes involved in identifying them is required for understanding the importance of bird species for conservation, ecology and recording.

The course will be delivered through a combination of seminars, laboratory identification sessions and practical field work. Key features for discrimination will be identified, using a range of methods. Birds are often seen as a good measure of the ‘health’ of the environment and the data produced from accurate identification in surveys are essential to measure population trends. Spring in the Welsh Borderlands is a good time to hear, see and observe behaviour of songbirds, and there will be the opportunity to practice identification in a good range of habitats in the countryside around Preston Montford.

Your course takes place on a 12-hectare estate, surrounded by a rich range of habitats, including the River Severn and semi-ancient woodland, set in the heart of Shropshire with views disappearing into Wales.
There is no accommodation provided with this course. If you would like to book accommodation, lunch and an evening meal at FSC Preston Montford, please email [email protected]

Who Should Attend?

Natural history enthusiasts, students, rangers, ecologists, environmental professionals. This intermediate level course is open to anyone with some knowledge of the subject.

Knowledge Level – Intermediate. Level descriptors can be found on the following webpage: Framework and Course Level Descriptor

What will be covered during this course?

  • The taxonomy and evolution of the order, naming of body parts important to their identification and the use of songs and calls in identification
  • Surveying and biological recording techniques
  • Techniques for species identification using close observation of morphology, song, behaviour and habitat, as well as presenting voucher specimens for refereeing
  • Recordings and recording schemes

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

  • Distinguish songbirds from other orders using key features and identify songbird species using observational techniques and standard texts or keys.
  • Design and carry out a species survey and evaluate recording schemes and the uses to which they are put.


This is one of a series of courses (Units) run jointly with Manchester Metropolitan University contributing to the MSc Biological Recording and Ecological Monitoring and the Postgraduate Certificate in Biological Recording. MMU students complete assessed work after the course. For further details about Manchester Metropolitan University degree programmes please contact:

Department of Natural Sciences, Manchester Metropolitan University, (Shrewsbury Office). Email:  [email protected]

  • See the ‘Example Timetable’ and ‘What’s Included’ sections below for more information about this course.
  • Upon booking you will need to provide individual details of all attendees
  • Please email [email protected] if you have any questions.


For Manchester Metropolitan University students, the Unit will be assessed through, for example, identification tests, survey reports, field journals, production of keys, essays or other forms of assessment. In course tests are optional and less formal for participants who are not MMU students.

MMU students will be required to complete a portfolio comprising of two parts:

Part 1: At the end of the course, complete a test which will include identifying species and their ecology, and comparing diagnostic features of different species. (Equivalent to 500 words)

Part 2: Produce fully annotated sketches for five species identified in the field over the course of the weekend. For each sketch you should indicate key diagnostic features which discriminate between species, and write a set of field notes suitable for submission to a national records committee (to be detailed by the tutor over the teaching weekend). (1500 words)

Tutor: Kevin Clements

Kevin Clements is a County Bird Recorder and Deputy Chairman of the West Midlands Bird Club. An experienced field ornithologist and naturalist, he has worked for many organisations in conservation and biological recording. Birding has taken him throughout the country and inspired him to pass on his knowledge and love of birds to others.

Covid Measures

In order to keep our customers and staff safe, we ask that anyone attending our centres:

  • Wears a face covering when in shared indoor space (unless exempt).
  • Maintains social distancing.
  • Cleans their hands regularly.
  • Takes a Covid-19 test before they arrive.

Book with Confidence

We understand the difficulties of making plans in the current situation when guidelines continue to change, and insurance conditions are being tightened. In response, we will continue to offer additional flexibility. Find out more here

Example Timetable

Example Timetable

This timetable is subject to change but should give an outline of what to expect.

If you have booked accommodation and meals with the centre your bedroom will be ready from 3.00 pm onwards on the day of arrival and we ask that you vacate by 9.30 am on the morning of departure.

If numbers are sufficient a station pick up will be arranged at 5.30 pm from Shrewsbury Station.

The evening meal is at 6.30 pm (not included in the course fee - please book separately).

The course starts after dinner with a classroom session 7.30 pm - 9.00 pm

The course ends at 4.00 pm on the final day.

Time will be made available for eating packed lunches during the day (not included in the course fee - please book separately).

18:30 – 19:30 Dinner
19:30 – 21:00 Introduction to the group and course

06:00 – 08:00 Bird ringing at FSC Preston Montford
08:00 – 09:00 Breakfast
10:00 – 12:30 Birding at Earl’s Hill nature reserve
13:00 – 16:00 Visit to Venus Pool nature reserve
18:30 – 19:30 Dinner
19:30 – 21:00 Introduction to bird song

05:30 – 07:30 Dawn chorus at FSC Preston Montford
08:00 – 09:00 Breakfast
10:00 – 16:00 Recording techniques, field recording and bird song
18:30 – 19:30 Dinner
19:30 – 21:00 Records and recording schemes

08:00 – 09:00 Breakfast
10:00 – 12:00 Benthall Edge Wood – a simple bird survey
13.00 – 13.30 Analysis of data
14.15 – 15.45 Assignment 1 – Class test
15.45 – 16.00 Review and finish

Accrediting Agency

Manchester Metropolitan University

What's Included

  • Expert Tuition
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Hot and Cold Drinks

What’s included?

  • Classroom learning covering the theory of the subject
  • Field excursions to apply new knowledge
  • Expert tuition for which the FSC is renowned
  • Clear objectives and progression

You can rest assured that the absolute best content from an expert in environmental education will be provided. In choosing an FSC course, you will be joining thousands of people who learn with us each year.

PLEASE NOTE the course fee is for tuition and refreshments only. If you would like to book accommodation and meals, including packed lunches, at FSC Preston Montford please email [email protected]  Please book early to ensure availability of accommodation.

Before You Attend

There will be a member of staff with first aid training and access to a first aid kit on site. If you have special medical or access requirements, please let us know as soon as possible so we can make any necessary adjustments.

What to Bring

  • Binoculars are essential, preferably between 8x30 and 10x50 – 8x40 are ideal, but miniature binoculars are not suitable.
  • You may wish to bring a telescope if you have one, but this is not essential.
  • Field Guide – you will need one for the Class Test.
  • Notebook and pen/pencil.
  • Warm waterproof clothing and footwear, but not too brightly coloured or rustly.
  • Warm hat and gloves for inclement weather and sunhat and sun cream for sunny days
  • A sandwich box, flask and/or water bottle and a rucksack or similar to carry your kit.

Recommended Reading

Any background reading is useful and most birding magazines have good identification articles. The following books are recommended:

  • Beaman, M. and Madge, S. (1998) The handbook of Bird Identification for Europe and the Western Paleartic. Helm
  • Sample, G. (2006) Wildlife Sounds: Britain and Ireland. Collins
  • Sample, G. (2006) Bird Songs and Calls of Britain and Northern Europe. Collins
  • Snow, D.W. and Perrins, C.M. eds. (1998) The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Oxford University Press