field trip tips

Saw Mill River Audubon follows the American Birding Association’s Code of Ethics [link].

Maybe you are thinking about your first ever birding field trip? (Welcome!)

Or maybe you are an experienced birder and are curious what Saw Mill River Audubon field trips are like?

Here is a collection of trip tips suggested by our field trip leaders and participants.

All are welcome!
Don’t worry if you’ve never been on an Audubon field trip before. We welcome beginners! All ages are welcome for most of our field trips. We welcome young birders. However, children under 6 are not a good match for some of our trips so check the trip description and/or email us to see if a trip is good for very young children.

Check our Google calendar on the front page of our website before traveling. We always update that with any changes to our events.

We have binoculars to lend!
It’s helpful have a couple days notice if you want to borrow binoculars for field trips on weekend days. For most birding field trips, we always bring extra binoculars.<

Do I need to register?
Because of high demand, most of our trips require advance registration to limit group sizes for a better birding experience. Here is our current list of trips.
We try to start on time.
The listed field trip time is usually when we start birding so do plan to arrive at least five minutes before that.

Ending times are flexible.
Don’t hesitate to leave early from a trip as needed. Just give the trip leader a heads up. Most field trips last about two hours.
What about restrooms during a field trip? 
    Ask the field trip leader about this at the start of the walk or email us before a longer trip. We plan ahead.
    What about dogs?
    Sorry. You dog is, most likely, a wonderful walk companion and fun to be around. But our field trips are not a good match for dogs. (Wild birds see dogs as predators, even a dog on a leash.)
Is there a charge for SMRA field trips?
    Almost all of our field trips are free! We offer these as a community service. Do check the trip description on our website to see if there are parking or entrance fees at the visited site. If you are carpooling with someone, offer to share costs for gas or tolls. Ask the driver about this beforehand.
    We do welcome your donations to support our work.

birding links

group birding tips

We welcome questions!
Always ask the trip leader or trip participants if you are not seeing a bird everyone else is seeing. Never hesitate to ask how a bird was identified or if you question an identification. We welcome learning from each other on our field trips.

We do birding by ear.
We find more birds if we can listen while walking. So please do enjoy the friendly conversations that are always part of our field trips, just do this at a low volume AND be ready to hit the pause button if the leader or others have stopped walking. That may mean they are listening or looking for a bird that you’ll want to see. The field trip leader, especially, will be focused on seeing and hearing as many birds as possible to share with the group. And, yes, if you get a cell call, please do step well away from the group to take that call, quietly.

We use eBird.
We record all the birds seen and heard on our field trips and share our eBird checklist after the field trip by email. We can also share our eBird list directly to your eBird account if you have one. Just let us know your eBird username. [More about eBird is here.]

We usually only add birds to the group’s eBird list if they were seen or heard by a field trip leader plus, at least, one other person. You are welcome, of course, to add other birds to your own list.

Help us find birds on our field trips!
If you see something, say something. Don’t worry that it might be a common bird. Every bird counts. And if it turns out to be one of those “leaf birds” or “branch birds,” i.e. not a bird at all, no worries. We all do that sometimes.

It’s best not to point suddenly at a bird. We also all do this from time to time! But a sudden arm motion like this may actually, sadly, cause the bird to fly away. Try not to do this.

Start with the obvious directions to help people find a bird — left or right side of the path?, flying overhead? (flying left to right or right to left?), perched in a tree or on the ground? — and then pick the most obvious feature near the bird — largest tree? rock? certain color of leaves nearby? unusual branch shape? a park sign? — and then describe from there.

Consider using clock directions for a bird in a tree, i.e. top center is 12 o’clock, right center is 3, bottom center is 6, left center is 9. This helps. Really.

Let the leader lead
Birding etiquette lets the leader go first and also take the lead on whether or not to using pishing or playback or a laser pointer, all birding helps that might be used carefully to attract or find birds.  So do check with the trip leader before using these during the group birding time.

upcoming events

Saw Mill River Audubon birders in Nebraska. Photo: Anne Swaim.
Saw Mill River Audubon birders in Nebraska. Photo: Anne Swaim.