Slow Birding: Reconnecting with Nature and Self
ounds a bit strange, “slow birding.” Watching birds isn’t really fast in the first place and the pace of a birder in the field is already slow and methodical. But, it is possible to change how we approach traditional birding and what we get out of it. Slow Birding is a practice that builds a deeper observation of birds while at the same time creating a deeper connection to yourself and the place you live.
Birding or bird watching is one of the top three hobbies in North America. People spend thousands of dollars a year on equipment, guides, birdseed, feeders and travel in order to enjoy birds. Birds are everywhere, from cities to farmlands, from the mountains to the shorelines. Birding can be competitive and methodical or it can be mindful and meditative. Recent studies have shown that noticing birds can improve your mental health, reduce depression and improve memory and attentiveness. Other research points out that just being in nature has the power to make us happier.
Bird Diva Bridget Butler will share the practice of Slow Birding and how you can awaken your innate birding skills and reconnect with nature. She’ll share a variety of techniques that will help you look at birds, listen to them and interpret their behavior that will not only build your skills as a naturalist but will provide you with a practice that will allow you to slow down and reconnect with the natural world.
Course Goals and Objectives
- Participants will learn how to create a practice of observing birds using the sit spot method
- Participants will learn the birding by impression approach to knowing birds
- Participants will develop skills to practice deep listening based in acoustic ecology as it relates to the landscape and bird vocalizations
- Participants will learn how to notice and interpret a variety of bird behaviors
- Participants will reflect on biophilia & kinship with nature
- Participants will learn how to weave mindfulness practices into their slow birding practice
About the Instructor(s)
Bridget Butler, AKA The Bird Diva, has been working in conservation and environmental education for more than 20 years throughout New England. She owns her own small business, Bird Diva Consulting, which provides presentations, outings, and online courses for folks interested in exploring their connection with birds. Bridget is a certified Kripalu Mindfulness Outdoor Guide, and has worked for the Audubon Society in Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Her Slow Birding work has been featured on numerous podcasts including the American Birding Podcast, Ray Brown's Talkin' Birds Podcast, and the South Africa podcast The Birding Life. As the Bird Diva, she feels that birding is for anyone who enjoys and is curious about birds - if you take delight in noticing birds, you are a birder. Bridget lives in St. Albans, Vermont with her husband and three young children.
We will provide coffee, tea, and light breakfast fare (pastries, etc.) each morning. Participants should bring their own lunches and snacks.
Required Materials and Recommended Reading
- Birding by Impression: A Simpler Method for Field Identification by Kevin T. Karlson
- Birdwatching is an Easy Way to Practice Mindfulness - Tonic Magazine
- Why & How You Should Start A Sit Spot Routine - Mother Nature Network
- Kinship Is a Verb - Orion Magazine
- What the Robin Knows by John Young
- Zen Birding by David M. Whittle and Susan M. Guyette
- Birding by Impression by Kevin T. Karlson & Dale Rosselet
- Stokes Nature Guides: Bird Behavior Volumes 1-3 by Donald & Lillian Stokes
- Field Guide to Bird Sounds of Eastern North America by Nathan Pieplow
- Deep Listening by Pauline Oliveros
Field & Classroom Gear
- Seat: You’ll be spending a few hours a day sitting in one spot – bring along a cushion, seat, chair that you can carry easily. (e.g. crazy creek, folding chair, hunting stool)
- Boots: Insulated, water-repelling for early morning dew, streamside walks & sits
- Binoculars: If you don’t have a pair, please let us know. We have a limited number to loan out for the weekend.
- Field Journal & Pencil: You’ll be asked to take notes during our sit spot sessions. These notes will help you contribute to the group debrief that follows each session. Pick a sturdy journal for both indoor & outdoor notetaking as well as a pen or pencil that will work in wet or cold conditions. (e.g. Rite in the Rain field books are great for this!)
- Water Bottle & Travel Mug: These two items are crucial during our sit spot sessions! Great to have a hot beverage during a cold morning sit.
Participants must be able to travel at least a mile each day on flat grassy paths and dirt trails. Participants should be comfortable outside in potentially cold or wet conditions for long periods of time. Please reach out to us if you have any questions about mobility and/or other accessibility needs.
Course begins 9 AM on Saturday at NBNC. Course begins on Sunday at a time of the instructor's choosing. Course concludes by 5 PM on Sunday.
Academic Credit / Professional Development
This course may qualify for 1 graduate-level credit for an additional $200 course fee. All BioU courses are accredited by Castleton University. Participants interested in receiving credit must contact us at least 2 months in advance so we have time to arrange course accreditation.
It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that home institutions will accept the credit. Participants pursuing academic credit will be required to complete an additional assignment above and beyond the course hours, including literature review, reflective writing, or a field-based project.
This course qualifies for 20 hours of professional development hours and continuing education units. Certificates of completion are provided at the conclusion of the course.
While we realize that unexpected circumstances arise that are out of our control, North Branch Nature Center cannot guarantee refunds for registrations cancelled within 30 days of the course. If a cancellation occurs within this window, NBNC will attempt to fill the space from our wait list and provide a full refund. If the course needs to be cancelled by NBNC, we will provide a full refund.