The Kingcombe Centre

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Identify Birds by Sight and Sound

Fri 6 - Sun 8 May 2016

cettis warbler c S Davis

Image: S Davis 

Whether you're new to birding or have some previous experience, come and spend a weekend learning how to identify resident and migrant birds found around the Centre and at nature reserves on the Dorset coast.

Early May is a really good time in the birding calendar, as most of our summer visitors will have arrived by now.  This weekend workshop has been specially designed for anyone who is keen to improve their skills in bird identification.  It will help you identify common and scarcer species by sight and by their songs and calls.  It is equally suitable for anyone with either a general interest in birds and birding, or for someone who needs to be familiar with bird identification and bird sounds for professional reasons too.

With the exact balance depending on the weather, there'll be a mix of field excursions around the Centre and near the Dorset coast at RSPB Lodmoor and RSPB Radipole, plus some indoor sessions too.  As we find and identify birds by sight and sound, we’ll discuss exactly why you are seeing and hearing each species we encounter, as we consider:

  • What’s characteristic about its size and shape?
  • Where exactly on the bird are any distinctive colours and markings?
  • How does it behave and fly?
  • How can we remember sounds it makes so we’ll know them next time?

You’ll often be asked what can you see or hear, so we hope there will be lots of lively interaction and discussions!

We will take some time each day to review the birds we've seen and heard, and learn how to distinguish them from their 'lookalikes' and ‘soundalikes’.  We’ll also take a few minutes at the end of each day to record our sightings online on the BirdTrack website, so that there’s a permanent record of the species we find.

We’ll also use a variety of techniques and technology to help consolidate your learning. In the field we’ll use smartphone apps to show details of a bird and to play recordings of birds we are hearing, so that you can really grasp the sound patterns (though not loud enough to make the real birds too anxious!). We’ll also use identification DVDs to summarise our learning during the indoor sessions.

All of this (together with a few quizzes!) will mean that you’ll leave with your memory banks nicely full and with lots of experience of how to identify and remember all those birds for the next time!

Note: There will be some walking on both days on footpaths and up and down slopes.  This won’t amount to more than three or so miles spread through each day, but a reasonable level of fitness is required.

About the Leader:

Edward Jackson retired three years ago from a rewarding career in Environmental Education.  He now runs his own wildlife consultancy specialising in bird survey work and short training courses.  He currently works for Suffolk Wildlife Trust, British Trust for Ornithology and a range of private clients.  He holds a BTO ‘A’ Ringing Permit with a Trainer endorsement and is a Council member and Secretary of Suffolk Ornithologists’ Group.


£279 pp Residential  -  includes 2 nights sole occupancy accommodation, full board including a home-cooked breakfast, tea/cake, lunch and 3 course dinner, all tuition/activities.

£199 pp Non-Residential  -  includes all of the above except accommodation and breakfast.


The course will start at 6pm on Friday with dinner and an introductory talk.  Residents are welcome to arrive from 3pm.

The course will finish at 4pm on Sunday with afternoon tea.

What to bring: 

You will be outside so will need: walking boots, outdoor clothing, binoculars, notepad and pen, rucksack to carry lunch and drinks.

Please make sure the binoculars you have (or borrow) are between 8x and 10x magnification and have a large lens diameter of between 40mm and 50mm: e.g. ‘8 x 40’ or ‘10 x 50’.  Anything outside these limits is much less suitable for birdwatching.  Above all, check to make sure that they give you a clear view and that there is no distortion or cloudiness on the internal prisms. Help can be given as we set off on the first excursion to ensure that you can focus them for your own eyes.

If you have a telescope with tripod feel free to bring them, but there will be a scope available for all to use.

Bring a bird identification field guide too if you wish. However, we will be using a guide and smartphone app in the field and a range of ID books will also be available for you to look at.

info2   book
Book online by clicking the BOOK button or call the Booking Office on 01300 320684.  
Please read our Terms and Conditions before booking

Download or view an Information Sheet by clicking on the Info button

Comments from previous events:

I thought Edward Jackson was superb! He was so generous with his time and available to questions all day and evening! Our time out in the fields was full of new knowledge and I would recommend his course to anyone as we were a mixed group of bird experiences, i was a complete beginner and some had been doing it for years and we all got so much from it - Carol.

Really enjoyed the day, the course was very informative and well run. Lunch was excellent and I like what you are doing to the centre - Kneen.

Edward Jackson Profile Pic

Edward Jackson

goldfinch at the office S Davis-001

Blackbird (m) Turdus merula Ken Dolbear MBE-001