The Urban Birder One Day Course

The Urban Birder One Day Course


Nearly 400 species have been found within the London area and some sites can boast in excess of 120 species annually. Birds are everywhere, even in the heart of the concrete jungle. The knack is learning how to notice and eventually recognise the birds that share our urban lives.

The Urban Birder Course will be an introduction to appreciating the abundant birdlife in our urban areas. It will cover the definition of an urban bird, recognition techniques and tips on attracting birds into your garden.

Led by experienced urban birder Gary Elton, the venue for the courses will be the newly opened and internationally renowned, Walthamstow Wetlands in East London. Easily accessible by public transport, this superb location is one of the largest urban wetlands in Europe and is home to a large number of species, some of which are scarce elsewhere in London. Birds like Cetti’s Warbler, Common Kingfisher and Great Crested Grebe are all likely on your visit plus many more.

The courses will be held on Saturdays (and occasionally Sundays) starting at 10am finishing at 4pm and there is a sumptuous café on site for lunch too.

Above all it will be fun, irreverent, factual and educational.

Most components of this course will be held outdoors in the field so please dress accordingly to the season. Always dress warmer than what the day appears to be because hours in the field can be surprisingly chilly. Also, try to wear adequate footwear as it could get muddy or slippery.


Topics that will be covered include:

  • Bird identification - recognising the usual suspects in urban areas
  • Becoming a garden birder - what food to provide and how, what flora to establish and where to place nest boxes
  • Optical equipment - how to use binoculars, when to use telescopes and basic wildlife photography tips
  • Fieldcraft - how to actually watch birds in the field and what to wear whilst doing it
  • Finding a local patch - how to identify good urban habitats and recording the birds you discover
  • Urban bird migration - learning about the reasons why birds migrate 
  • We will also cover twitching, note taking and urban birding abroad. By the end of this course, you will instinctively find yourself connecting with nature in an urban area


long tailed tit at walthamstow wetlands

About your guide - Gary Elton

A keen birder from the tender age of nine, Gary spent the majority of his early years birding near his childhood home, in and around North West London. Local patches in later years included Wormwood Scrubs with David Lindo and Hilfield Park Reservoir where at this latter site he also served as site warden for 12 years on behalf of the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust. Gary also served as a Herts Bird Club committee member and has contributed to several birding publications and made several television appearances.

Gary now lives in Norfolk and plays an active part in birding there working part time at Holme Bird Observatory. He is a qualified ringer involved in running a local constant effort ringing site for the British Trust for Ornithology. Tour leading has become a major part of his working life and recent destinations include Israel, Northern Greece, Iceland, Spain, Bulgaria and The Gambia with other visits to Morocco, Switzerland, Mexico and North and South America. His other work also revolves around birds, primarily working off shore gathering data on seabirds and cetaceans.


Price: £60 per person

Group size: Up to 15 participants

Time: 10am - 4pm

Date: Saturday 3rd November

Lunch plus coffee and tea available

egyptian goose at walthamstow wetlands