For release:

February 1, 2011

Welcome Back the Songbirds! 
Birding course builds skills, friendships, and connection to nature


The Common Yellowthroat is a summer resident of the Cayuga Basin and is usually found hiding in low brushy areas. Photo by SFO participant Paul Schmitt.

Ithaca, NY—"This course has taken my birdwatching skills to a completely new level!" That's typical feedback from an enthusiastic participant in the annual Spring Field Ornithology course offered by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

This year's 8-week course takes place March 23 through May 15 and is designed for birders of all skill levels.

"What better way to shake off the winter cobwebs than to immerse yourself in local birdlife as we welcome back migrating songbirds?" says course instructor Dr. Steve Kress. "It's an uplifting experience for so many of our participants, learning to identify birds by sight and song and visiting the best birding spots in the Cayuga Lake basin." Kress is vice president for Bird Conservation for Audubon and has taught the Spring Field Ornithology course since it began 34 years ago.

There are two sections to the course. Wednesday evening lectures, which cover bird song, nesting, courtship, migration, and habitat and include two trips to the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates and a night owlwatch. Lectures are timed to match the spring migration and focus on species students will see during guided Saturday or Sunday field trips to regional birding hotspots, such as Braddock Bay, Derby Hill, Dryden Lake, Arnot Forest and Myers Point. Students are grouped with others of the same skill level on field trips. Participants may sign up for lectures only, just the field trips, or both sections. There are also two optional overnight trips--one to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge and the other to Cape May, New Jersey, to experience peak spring migration. 

               Spotting baby owls during a weekend field trip.
               Photos by Erica Van Etten
"Everything about this class is fantastic!," a 2010 participant wrote. "The leaders are friendly and gifted people who are choosing to share their time, knowledge and  love of birds and I will take this course every year if I can."

The cost of the course is $160 for lectures, $195 for the weekend field trips, or $340 for both sections. Additional fees apply for the optional overnight trips. Registrations for the weekly field trips received by March 1 will receive a $10 discount. There are additional discounts for Cornell Lab of Ornithology members.

You can find out more about the course schedule, watch a video about the course, and sign up here: 




You may also call (607) 254-2466 to sign up (outside Ithaca, call 800-843-2473 toll free). 

The 2011 Spring Field Ornithology course is sponsored in part by Wild Birds Unlimited.


Registration contact: Erica Van Etten, (607) 254-2466,

Media contact: Pat Leonard, (607) 254-2137,


The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution dedicated to interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. Visit the Cornell Lab’s web site at

Cornell Lab of Ornithology
159 Sapsucker Woods Rd, Ithaca NY 14850
Call us toll-free at (800) 843-BIRD (2473)

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