Birds by Song Course Schedule

This course is designed to catch our Eastern Forest’s peak bird song, after the vast majority of the boreal breeding birds have swept north, but before the birds have settled into the housekeeping tasks of egg incubation. There is a magical 1-2 weeks a year when the birds are newly staking out their territories and are singing more loudly and more reliably than at any other time of the year. For southern Ohio, now is that time! We will be spending every morning and evening out of doors to catch their symphony. Rest periods will be taken during the middle of the day when birds are not as active.

Wednesday, June 3: Introduction

12:00-2:00 Check in at your respective lodge.

Please arrive no later than 3:45 pm at the Appalachian Forest Museum for the beginning of our course. If you can arrive earlier, you take advantages of the Museum’s hiking trails and engaging Forest murals. Other meeting places will be announced.

4:00 Introduction at the Appalachian Forest Museum to the Bird Course and a welcome to the Arc of Appalachia by Nancy Stranahan, Director. Meet your course leader, Artemis Eyster, Course Hosts, Teri Gilligan and Beth Clodfelter; and your colleagues.

6:00 Dinner at the Appalachian Forest Museum

7:00 pm Evening Program: Bird Habitats by Artemis Eyster. Birds do not exist in a vacuum, but in the cradle of living ecosystems. People most quickly learn their birds when they can associate them with the habitat in which they are found. Once you learn your bird calls, the calls will be forever embedded in your memory with the scents and sights of their associated native plant community. Tonight will be a sensitization to the main habitats for birds, and the most familiar and easily identifiable birds associated with each of those main habitats.

Thursday, June 4: Birds of the Deep Forest and Riverine Habitats

6:00 Optional Dawn Chorus on your own. During this course we tend not to “bird” early in the morning because the density of bird sounds is so entangled and loud, that it is probably the worst time for students to single out a bird call and learn or recognize it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek out the experience. When the sun starts to lighten the sky at Beechcliff, the bird chorus is as close to heaven as you can get in Ohio with the vireos, flycatchers, wood thrush and all of the others sounding off at the same time. Whether you are laying in bed with our eyes open, or sitting on the porch glider in your pajamas, we urge you not to miss it!

6:30 Breakfast Appalachian Forest Museum

7:30 Fort Hill – Bird Songs of the Deep Forest. We will depart for the largest, oldest grandest contiguous forest in all of southern Ohio—the 1400-acre Fort Hill, managed by the Arc on behalf of the Ohio Historical Society. Here you will learn the sounds of quintessential summer – the grosbeaks, vireos, flycatchers and warblers of what was once Ohio’s dominant ecosystem  – the mature deciduous forest with its high closed canopy and dimly lit forest floor. Fort Hill also has another claim to fame – its 2000 year old Native American Earthworks.

12:30 Lunch Appalachian Forest Museum

3:30 More Deep Forest Birds — Maude’s Cedar Narrows and optionally, Black Gum Woods. As the summer heat of mid-day begins to decline, the birds become active again and often resume their singing. Black Gum Woods and Gods Country are deep closed-canopy forests lining the lush corridor of the Rocky Fork Gorge.

6:30 Dinner Appalachian Forest Museum

Evening Program: Bird Songs of the Grasslands. Prior to Native American and European agriculture in Ohio, Ohio boasted open native grasslands – often referred to today as prairies –  which were inhabited by a host of interesting bird species. Most of these birds have managed to adapt with various degrees of success and failure to our abandoned farm fields, pastures, and small prairie remnants; many are now rare due to reduced habitat. The songs of grassland birds are much different in ambience than the songs of the forest. Once you learn them you will find a “fourth” dimension added to your grassland outings. Once familiar, these songs that are sometimes so beautiful they will make your heart ache as you pay witness the earth’s songs of sunlight and wind.

Friday, June 5: Grasslands & Meadows in AM, Birds on the “Edge” in PM

6:30 Breakfast

After Breakfast: Seip Earthworks – Our First Introduction to Grassland Birds. We will depart for Seip Earthworks, a 2000 year old Native American earthwork complex just east of Bainbridge, roughly 8 miles away. Seip Mound contains large expanses of post agricultural fields between Highway 50 and Paint Creek. For unknown reason, these fields are some of the richest in our region for a high diversity of grassland birds, some of them quite rare.

Noon Lunch

4:00 pm Orientation to Birds on the Edge.

5:00 Dinner at the Appalachian Forest Museum

After Dinner: Field Trip to Ridgeview Farm: As the sun inches back toward the horizon, we will head out to the open grasslands and forest edges of Ridgeview Farm, a region of the Highlands Nature Sanctuary that has been out of agriculture for over 25 years. This preserve is now a model for old farm biodiversity restoration, permaculture and forest gardening. It is an excellent place to learn birds common to these kinds of habitat.

Saturday, June 6: Review of All Habitats

 6:30 Breakfast

After Breakfast Kamelands – Review of all Habitats. We will depart for Kamelands, a loop trail at the Highlands Nature Sanctuary threading its way along cedar-clad old fields, and narrow corridors of deep forest that line the Rocky Fork Gorge. The old field, edges and deep forest habitats of the Kamelands Trails will allow us to review everything we have learned this week.

Followed by a short review of the morning.

12:00 Lunch at the Appalachian Forest Museum

 4:00 Kamama Prairie. We will depart for Kamama Prairie Preserve, owned and managed by the Arc of Appalachia Preserve System. Kamama is one of Ohio’s best prairie remnants, and protects one of the rarest prairie communities. The preserve has over 40 plant species on Ohio’s endangered species list, a phenomenal number for one location. The preserve is a great place to review birds of the edge and grassland habitats, and it is rare to go to Kamama and not go home with something special on your checklist.

7:30 Picnic Dinner at Kamama Prairie

Evening Program: Nocturnal Birds in the field. After having a picnic dinner in the field, we will let dusk settle around us, listening to the cricket frogs sound off around the pond, watch the bats rise up to feed the open meadows, and, if we are lucky, hear the rare courting song of the chuck will’s widow.

Sunday, June 7: Conclusion

8:00 Breakfast at Appalachian Forest Museum

9:00 Informal Review. Along with your designated partners, you will take a walk along the lovely Valley of the Ancients and Etawah Woods trials and practice recognizing the songs of the birds that you hear, encouraged by the mentorship of one of your newly established friends.

10:30 Bird Song Quiz. This is it!! Now you will establish for yourself just how much you’ve learned. We guarantee you that you will be amazed at your progress and the breadth of new levels of skill.

Graduation & Certificates


12:00 Lunch and Farewell


Eastern Towhee by John Howard
2012 Birds by Songs participants by Sonia Marcus
Goldfinch by John Howard