Birding 101

Dates: June 16-21, 2024
Instructor: J. R. Blair
Fee: $500.00 + meals and accommodations fees
Term: Summer 2024

Workshop Description

This workshop is designed for the beginning birder. We will begin with an introduction of the potential tools available for the beginner, including optics, field guides, online resources, and other aspects of getting the most out of the gratifying hobby of observing birds. The major part of the workshop will be an overview of the various categories of birds (at the order and family levels). By the end of the workshop you will be able to recognize the difference between a duck and a coot, a crane and a heron, a warbler and a sparrow, and much more!

three bird chicks in a nest

Instructor Bio

J.R. Blair has been an avid birder since the early 1980’s when he took a 16-unit course in Ornithology at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. He has participated in many Christmas Bird Counts, worked on a wildlife survey of Candlestick State Park, taught Ornithology at San Francisco State University, and led many field trips, especially in the Gold Lakes Basin and Sierra Valley regions of the Sierra Nevada. He recently retired from a 21-year stint as a lecturer of Biology at San Francisco State and twelve years as director of the Sierra Nevada Field Campus. Contact him at

Workshop Details

Workshop Schedule

Arrive Sunday evening for a 7:30 PM introduction. After breakfast each day, we will carpool to our “destination du jour” and return to the field station mid-afternoon. After dinner, there will be evening lectures and discussions starting at 7:30 PM. The workshop will conclude by noon on Friday.

Workshop Supplies List

A pair of binoculars is required. It is highly recommended that they be a minimum of 8x magnification and no older than 20 years (optics have improved a lot in the past few decades). Contact the instructor for recommendations for new binoculars or advice otherwise. If you have a field guide to Western North American birds, then bring that along.

Lodging and Camping Supplies

Camping gear if you are staying on campus:

  • tent and sleeping pad (unless you are staying in our tent with a cot provided)
  • warm sleeping bag
  • pillow, toiletries, and towel
  • flashlight and lantern
  • alarm clock

Field gear for everyone:

  • day pack
  • sunscreen
  • insect repellant
  • water bottles
  • plastic containers for packed lunches
  • sense of humor

You might also want to bring:

  • camera
  • binoculars
  • hand lens
  • camp chair


The weather in the Sierra Nevada can vary greatly, even in a single day. Be prepared for chilly temperatures at night, even below freezing early in the summer. Rain is a possibility any time, whether forecast or not. Variable weather clothing that can be layered is best: long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, warm sweater and jacket, t-shirt and shorts or skirt, sturdy shoes or hiking boots, sun hat, rain gear, and a warm hat or gloves for cold weather and/or night activities. And, if you come later in the season, bring your swimsuit for afternoon dips in the lakes!