Document Actions

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)




What if I have to miss a lecture? Can I still get the handouts? Are there still class DVDs and videos?

  Starting in 2016, we recorded each video and made it available the next morning to registered class participants through the online portal. The handouts will also be available on line the next day.

Field trips

Can I switch field trip days from week to week once I've chosen which weekend day I'd like to attend?

A: Because we try hard to keep groups small, we ask that you do NOT switch field trip days from week to week once you have been assigned to a group. Check with the Course Coordinator if you have a special situation.

If I do not have a vehicle can I still sign up for the field trips section?

A: Because we have many volunteer drivers with vehicles, it is not necessary to have a vehicle to sign up for field trips. We do try to do as much carpooling as possible for our field trip excursions.

Regarding the Woodcock/Owl Watch (special Tuesday evening) trip? Can I attend if I am a lectures participant only?

A: Yes! The Tuesday evening Woodcock/Owl trip is open to ALL current SFO participants (including lecture section participants).

If I just want to take the Field Trips section and not the Lectures section, will I miss out on a lot?

A: Although we feel your learning experience would be greatly improved by taking BOTH the Lectures and Field Trips sections together, you do not have to take both sections of the course in order to learn about the birds of this area, as either section of the course can stand on its own. 

Can I sign up (and pay) for each field trip individually, instead of signing up (and paying) for the ENTIRE 8-week section?

A: Unfortuantely the answer is no because groups are assigned at the beginning of the course (by birding ability) and one of the joys of the course is getting to know the people in your group over the 8 weeks. In addition to providing consistent instruction, we also depend on the group sizes to be relatively predictable for scheduling of a diversity of leaders for each group.

I live north of Ithaca - can I meet the group at Montezuma / Derby Hill / Braddock Bay for these trips?

A: Yes, although on the Montezuma trip, much of the day is taken up by birding along the lake on the way north.  For this trip it is advisable to meet your group at 7am at the Lab of Ornithology.  For the Derby Hill and Braddock Bay trips, a week before the trips the Course Coordinator will organize a sign-up sheet for people planning to meet their groups at the sites. 

All day trips

Regarding the day trips (Montezuma, Derby Hill, Braddock Bay, and Arnot Forest), is it possible to attend both days?

A: As with any other local field trip, we ask that you attend on your regular field trip day. 

For the longer day trips to Montezuma, Derby Hill, Braddock Bay, and Arnot Forest, what do I need to bring? Do I HAVE to attend those trips?

A: Be sure to bring a bag lunch and a drink to the longer day trips. For those that cannot be away that long, we will have a local (7am-11am) trip on those days as well. No field trips are mandatory!

Now that Arnot is a day trip rather than an overnight trip as in previous years, can I sign up for the trip even if I am not enrolled in the field trip section of the course?

A: The Arnot Forest trip is incorporated into the regular field trip section and not offered as an independent trip. 

Montezuma Trip

Do I have to stay at the motel? What if I want a private room?

A: Though we prefer that people stay at the same motel (because it is easier to keep track of everyone that way), we realize that there are special situations. If you need to stay somewhere else, or prefer to drive home and then drive back up in the morning on the second day, you would need to let us know, so that we could assist you regarding our trip itinerary. Private rooms are available for an additional fee (see the Montezuma trip page for prices)

Can I sign up for the Montezuma trip even if I am not enrolled in field trips or enrolled in the course?

A: Yes!  Anyone may sign up for the overnight trip.

I live on the west side of Cayuga Lake.  Can I meet the group up at Montezuma and then go home at night?  

A: If you do not wish to have hotel accommodations on Saturday night, you can leave with the groups at 7am from the Lab of Ornithology and then go home at night and meet your group again the next morning by special arrangement for a reduced fee. For those driving back to their home on Saturday night we recommend meeting your group at 7am because much of the birding is done on the way to MNWR so you will miss most of the trip if you were to meet us at the refuge.  Each group leader takes their students to different locations on the way to Montezuma so it is also challenging to set a time to meet students along the way.

Cape May

Do I have to take the bus or can I drive separately?

A: We highly encourage making use of the transportation option taht is offered as a part of this trip. This trip is organized for all students to be on the bus together -- this is part of the fun!   Please contact the course coordinator if you want to take the trip but need to make separate travel arrangements--we will consider such requests as they arise.

Do I have to stay at the motel? What if I want a private room?

A: Though we prefer that people stay at the same motel (again, because it is easier to keep track of everyone that way), we realize that there are special situations. Contact the Course Coordinator if you have a unique situation.   Private rooms are available for an additional fee (see the Cape May trip page for prices)

Can I sign up for the trip even if I am not enrolled in field trips or enrolled in the course?

A: Yes!  Anyone may sign up for the overnight trip.


Gift Registration
Can I give SFO as a gift?

A: Yes!  Just indicate on your registration form that you are gifting the course.  There is also be a field to indicate the name of the gift recipient in the online enrollment form.  Contact the Course Coordinator if you have questions. 

Partial payments

Can I pay for the course via partial payments or through an installment plan?

A: Unfortunately, we are unable to offer a partial payment plan at this time. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Refund requests

I need to get a refund or withdraw from the course. How do I go about this?

A: Please contact the SFO staff. It is will not always be possible for us to issue a refund, especially if the course is underway or arrangements for a special field trip have already been confirmed (and the deadline for withdrawing has passed). We will make such decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Scholarship fund

Is there a scholarship fund available? If so, am I eligible, and how would I apply (or donate funds)?

A: Yes, some scholarships are available. In addition, each year there are a limited number of volunteer opportunities in exchange for free tuition to the lecture or field trips.  Contact the course coordinator at or (607) 254-2165 if you are interested and for an application.

Online availability

Will the course ever be available online?

A: Yes, as of the 2016 course, the lecture portion will be available as an online option. See Enroll section for details.  

Age limits

My child would like to take your course. Do you have a minimum student age?

A: If your child is at least age 12, he or she may enroll. However, our course is generally not suited to younger children and children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult for field trips.


I'd like to take the course for credit. Is that possible?

A:  SFO is not an accredited course and Cornell University does not provide an official transcript for the course at this time. However, students in the past have been able to arrange to take the course for credit by setting up an independent study project with their adviser or another professor. Usually one college-level credit is awarded per section (lectures or field trips) following the completion of the course. This type of course is usually taken at an undergraduate level in college, though a few people have taken it (and have arranged to receive credit for it) at higher-levels of education.

Upon completion of the course we can provide you a letter documenting your participation in the course.  Many colleges, universities, and workplaces have agreed to accept this letter in the past and allow credit to be awarded for completion of the course, however we always suggest checking with a local adviser before signing up for the course if it is a course that you need for credit, as credit granting policies vary depending on the institution. With prior arrangement Dr. Steve Kress can also administer a final exam.   


Credit vs. non-credit price

If I take the class for no credit, do I get I get a price break?

A: Since SFO is a non-credit course, offered to the general public for educational purposes, there is no price difference for credit or non-credit students. 


Do you still record field trip sightings for SFO outings in eBird

A: Birding checklists are shared each week with by the field trip leaders and are posted on the class website.  Some students and field trip leaders also enter their SFO trip sightings into eBird.  Since leaders often visit multiple locations, a single list for the day's trip is not as suitable for eBird entry.

Lab of Ornithology membership

What are the benefits of Lab Membership?

A: In addition to a discount on SFO registration, Lab members receive:

  • Living Bird, our award-winning quarterly magazine, packed with stunning color photographs of birds, articles by top experts in birding and ornithology, reviews of the latest books, binoculars, and equipment, and advice on how to improve your birding skills.

PLUS discounts on:

And by becoming a Lab member, you join thousands  of other birders who support Lab of Ornithology efforts in research, education, and conservation. And, since the Lab is a non-profit, self-supporting unit of Cornell University, your membership gift is tax deductible.

For more information about the Lab's membership department, or for information on advanced levels of membership, please visit the membership website.

Non-course related questions

I have questions for the Lab that are non-course-related. Who should I contact?

A: To contact the Lab with general questions regarding the Lab of Ornithology and its staff, you may use one of the following methods:

Telephone: 607-254-2473
(within the US, you may call toll-free at: 800-843-2473)
Mail: Cornell Lab of Ornithology
159 Sapsucker Woods Road
Ithaca, NY 14850

You may also want to try to research the answer to your questions on All About Birds or the Birds of North America   websites

 Contacting the SFO staff

How do I get in touch with the Spring Field Ornithology course staff?

A: Contact the Course Coordinator with your request. 
Telephone: 607-254-2165