Tips for Leading a Birding Field Trip

Barbara Hussey, a former president of Central New Mexico Audubon, shared information about how to lead a field trip with the participants gathered recently for the Thursday Birder trip at the Albuquerque Open Space Visitor Center.

“You probably have a favorite place you like to bird,” Barbara challenged the group. “Consider sharing your passion about this location with others.”
CNMAS need lots of people taking turns leading trips. Don’t let the same few volunteers bear the responsibility of doing it all the time! Anyone who likes to bird can be a field trip leader. It’s easy! You don’t have to be an advanced birder to lead, just a willing one. If you feel unsure of your ability to identify all of the birds, invite someone to co-lead with you. There will be lots of experienced birders on the trip who will know the birds and help with ID.

Here are a few tips from Barbara’s hand-out:
Before the trip:
1) The field trip coordinator will need the following information: date, name of site to be visited, meeting time for possible carpooling, expected ending time, walking distance and type of terrain to be covered (plus possibly a brief description of what to expect – species, interesting facts, recommended attire, what to bring – sack lunch, binocs, covered dish, money for restaurant, etc.). You may not even have to do this if the coordinator already knows some of this info. Include your phone number and/or email.
2) The weekend (or the day) before the field trip, scout the location with a friend if possible to check for unexpected changes or problems. You can also get a preview of what birds will be expected on the trip.
3) Be available to take calls or email the night before.

At the start of the trip:
1) Show up at the meeting place early (rain or shine). If only one person shows up, do the trip anyway.
2) Greet newcomers. Introduce yourself as the field trip leader (say something about yourself). Ask people to introduce themselves. Speak loud enough for all. Stand so that your audience will not be looking into the sun when you talk.
3) Conduct any paperwork or fee exchanges. Mention sharing any carpooling gasoline expenses.
4) Explain where and how long the trip will be (plus type of terrain and conditions). Mention potential hazards or special considerations (private land, gates, etc.).
5) Wait for known stragglers, but don’t delay the start time too long, penalizing those showing up on time.

During the trip:
1) Speak so that all can hear. Wait for everybody to catch up if the group is large. If you must, say it again when the rest are within earshot.
2) When a bird is spotted, make sure everyone who wants to see it, gets to. If the bird is still visible, don’t move on until all who need it get a look.

You can do it! Consider leading an upcoming trip. Contact Rebecca Gracey, to lead a Thursday trip or Cole Wolf, to lead a weekend trip (it can be local or to another part of the state).


2 thoughts on “Tips for Leading a Birding Field Trip

  1. Great advice from Barbara! Celebrating IMBD this past spring in Illinois, I led a Kane County Audubon walk at Peck Farm and scouted out the route the day before. It was a beautiful day, and Mary Lou and I saw 44 species. The next day a front came through with near-freezing temperatures and continuous light rain. One dad showed up with his very enthusiastic pre-teen daughter. We walked out and braved the weather, amassing a dozen species. It was a great day after all.

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