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Introduction to Birding with Montgomery Elementary School

Insights from Kerry Brosnan, ECO AmeriCorps Member with FCNRCD

This image shows the birding instructor and a group of students standing in a field with trees and a blue sky in the background. The group is looking up at the sky, with and without binoculars on.
Montgomery Elementary School students and ECO AmeriCorps Member, Kerry, use binoculars to observe birds.

Last month, Franklin County NRCD hosted an all-day field trip with Montgomery Elementary School at the Town of Montgomery’s restoration site by the Trout River. Students grades 3 through 8 explored the landscape on this warm, sunny March day learning about wildlife tracking, water quality, hunting, and so much more. 


I eagerly awaited the arrival of the students at my Introduction to Birding station, stocked up with kid friendly binoculars and Birds of Vermont field-guides. Birding is an invaluable skill for students because it’s accessible anywhere - be it their backyard, school grounds, or the vast woods of Vermont. Birds serve as a reminder that nature is all around us, highlighting our interconnectedness with the ecosystems and habitats we often alter and separate ourselves from. Engaging in birding fosters mindfulness, grounding us in the present moment and deepening our connection to the natural world, thereby enhancing our overall well-being.


As the students gathered at my station, we discussed the important details to notice about a bird to help us learn about it and hopefully identify it. Here are some of the important details the students came up with: color, size, size and shape of the beak, and song. These are great details to notice about birds and give us many important clues about who our bird may be. One of my favorite details to notice about birds is bird behavior. I asked the students to notice: What is the bird doing and what does this tell me? For example, if the bird is climbing along the trunk of a tree and knocking on the wood with it's bill, that would give me a clue this bird might be a type of woodpecker! We also talked about the importance of focus and attention to detail in order to make quick observations before a bird flies away.


The students were excited to use the binoculars. We learned how to focus binoculars with the focus wheel when looking at animals or plants near and far. The kids also had a great time getting a zoomed-in view of their friends' faces. We also reviewed essential birding etiquette: moving quietly and slowly to avoid startling birds, sharing observations with the group, and assisting each other in locating birds. I encouraged the students to focus on learning about the bird, not solely focus on identifying it.


Young students stand in a group in a field with trees and clear blue sky in the background. The students are looking through their binoculars, some looking off into the distance, others looking at each other.
Students learning how to use binoculars.

Finally, we set out to find some flying friends! Morning groups spotted visitors like a hairy woodpecker, blue jays, and crows. The third graders were very excited and proud to successfully identify an American Robin after much deliberation and inspection of their field guides. As the birds became less active in the afternoon, students observed the sounds of the black-capped chickadees, blue jays, and the neighboring farm’s chickens! Just as the sights and sounds of birds became very infrequent, our last group got a visit from a turkey vulture which we identified by its size and its behavior of soaring high in the sky not flapping its wings. The students were deeply engaged, asking questions, and utilizing field guides to identify unfamiliar birds.

The birding instructor points towards the distance as students look in the same direction with and without binoculars on. They are located in a field with trees and mountains in the background.
ECO AmeriCorps Member, Kerry, points out a bird in the distance for the students to look at.

Our birding adventure with the Montgomery Elementary School was certainly im-peck-able!


Species List:

American Crow

Blue Jay

Hairy Woodpecker

Black Capped-Chickadee

White-Breasted Nuthatch

American Robin

Mourning Dove

Tufted Titmouse

Turkey Vulture

Signs of Pileated Woodpecker





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