Advanced Field Ornithology: Identification and Surveys by Sound and Recordings

  • Start Date: May 30, 2022
  • End Date: June 02, 2022
  • Time: various - see schedule below
  • City: Revelstoke BC
  • Venue: Various field sites, classroom space located at SD19's admin building: 501 – 11th Street, Revelstoke, BC
  • Instructor: John G. Woods & Marc-André Beaucher
  • Registration now full. To join waitlist email [email protected]

Course Description

For many field ornithology surveys, the ability to identify bird species by their calls and songs is an essential skill. It is also one of the hardest aspects of field work to master. Technological advances in sound capture and visualization are pushing the ornithological frontiers with tools that make it easier than ever to learn field-identification by sound and to survey natural soundscapes (and their birds). In addition, modern sound recordings are providing high-quality acoustical specimens for analysis and independent review.

This course combines field-experience listening to bird calls and songs during three mornings at the height of the breeding season, with hands-on recording practice to generate sound files. Each afternoon, the class learns to edit and review their recordings using sound visualization software on their personal laptop computers.

Topics for discussion and field practice include: ethical considerations in recording bird sounds; digital recorders including smartphones, parabolas and digital video; the use of autonomous recording devices such as SWIFT; standard protocols for point counts (North American Breeding Bird Survey—BBS; BC Breeding Bird Atlas); and, the use of Merlin and Raven Lite 2.0 software to visualize songs and calls and to edit sound files into a format suitable for upload into eBird.

After taking this course students will have several tools and strategies to improve their ability to identify birds by songs and calls. They also will have an appreciation of the complexity and limitations of several forms of acoustical surveys.

Class size limited to 12 to allow for increased individual attention and coaching both in the field and during the laboratory sessions.

Course Schedule:

Mon May 30, 7-9pm, Classroom location TBA. (All students need to attend this evening session in order to be field ready for Tuesday morning.)

Tues May 31, 5am-4:30pm

Wed June 1, 5am-4:30pm

Thurs-June 2, 5am – 1pm

A more detailed course schedule is available upon request. Email


Our Instructors

John G. Woods, Ph.D. (UBC, Zoology)

Dr. John Woods has been engaged in field research in British Columbia for more than 40 years. While his research has covered a wide range of taxa (birds, bats, bears, elk, ectoparasites) he has enjoyed observing birds throughout his career and volunteered for several years as the eBird regional reviewer for the Cariboo-Chilcotin. More recently, he was part of the sound annotation team that led to the bird sound recognition software in eBird’s Merlin app. John also participates in the continent-wide Breeding Bird Survey as a principal observer for a census route in the Chilcotin. As regional coordinator for the BC Breeding Bird Atlas in the Chilcotin and North Columbia Mountains, he organized three packhorse expeditions to study little-known alpine areas in the Itcha and Ilgatchuz mountains.  For many years, John has held an active Master Bird Bander permit and helped to establish two bird-banding stations in BC. Currently he is part of a team studying the ecology and evolution of Canada Jays. John has taught several 10-day credit courses (3rd year Biology) in field ornithology for the University of BC at Kelowna (2012, 2014-19) and several courses in field ornithology for the Columbia Mountains. John particularly enjoys sharing his fascination for field biology and has led numerous field trips focused on bird research.

Marc-André Beaucher, M.Sc., RPBio

Marc-Andre is the Head of Conservation Programs at Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area(CVWMA). He has volunteered and worked at CVWMA for nearly 20 years and has extensive experience with the identification of wetland birds in the Creston Valley. He started birdwatching at the age of 13 and continues to maintain a passion for the conservation of birds and their habitat. Marc-Andre is a trained wildlife biologist and enjoys spending time in the field monitoring and/or surveying amphibians, birds (of course!), reptiles, and invertebrates, (e.g. dragonflies and butterflies) …as well as plants. He regularly takes people and groups on field trips out in the wetland and especially loves getting people impassioned about wildlife through hands-on experiences.


Who should attend?

  • Field technicians and biologists with some experience in field identification of birds who would like to increase their skills in surveying by sound
  • Biologists and managers responsible for managing field ornithology projects
  • Biologists in other fields wishing to diversify their areas of expertise

Preparation and what to bring

  • Students will receive a short reading assignment and eBird exercise a month before the course begins, this will take less than 30 minutes to complete

Required equipment:

  • Laptop computer with Raven Lite 2.0 (available free online) installed and tested with over-the-ears (muff-style) headphones
  • Smartphone (either iPhone or Android) with the Merlin App (available free) installed along with over-the-ears (muff-styled) headphones
  • Binoculars of good quality (magnification 7-8.5, objective lens 32-42 mm, waterproof; several loaner binoculars may be available, contact the instructor if you need more information or would like to borrow binoculars)
  • Appropriate field clothing for any weather conditions (full rain-suit, hat, hiking boots, appropriate layers, expect rain and cold and hope for better weather!)
  • Day-pack
  • Water bottle and any food you would like to have (email will be sent to all registrants with catering details to help with your planning.)

Optional equipment:

  • Digital cameras (you can use these to record sound with or without HD video)


What is Included in the Course?

  • A Rite in the Rain all-weather field NOTEBOOK No. 146 will be supplied to each student.
  • Spotting scopes and tripods will be supplied for group use, but please bring your own if you have one.
  • A variety of digital recorders and microphones will be available to try using in the field.
  • Students will provide their own transportation but will likely be able to car-pool with others during the field sessions (see related COVID protocol here.)
  • Food: A break with coffee and a light breakfast will be provided each morning at 10:00am at the field location. There will be an opportunity to order bagged lunches. Refreshments will be provided for the classroom portions of this course.


Members:  $610*

Non-members:  $655

Bagged lunches $14/day, optional. A light brunch, coffee/tea and snacks are included in your registration fee. All food provided by La Baguette.

Limited class size of 12 people, register immediately to secure your spot.

*Memberships may be purchased and renewed while you register. More about membership here.

Course Complete

NOTE: You are welcome to join our wait list for the course. Anyone on the waitlist will have the chance of filling registration cancellations as well as being the first to be notified when we open up registration for next season’s course. Please email to be placed on the wait list.


COVID19 Protocol

CMI will be following the guidelines provided by the Province of BC’s Public Health Authority to keep us all safe during the COVID19 Pandemic. See here for current protocols – all students must review this document before the field component of this course.


Thank you

A big thank you to our event partner, the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area for supporting this educational opportunity. Thank you also to School District 19 for providing us with a beautiful classroom venue.


  • Phone 250-837-9311
  • Fax 250-837-9311
  • Email

Mailing Address

  • P.O. Box 2568
  • Revelstoke, British Columbia V0E 2S0
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