Sophia McDonald: Ornithology Alumnus

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Sophia McDonald, a wildlife tour guide in Scotland, took an Ornithology course with us over the last few months and recently completed the course with flying colours! She tells us a little bit about her course experience and what she has gained from the qualificaiton.

kingfisher on a branch with a small fish in its beak

To me birds are endlessly fascinating and I wanted to learn more about them. I wanted to achieve a certificate of study to prove that I do know something about my subject. The course has given me more in depth bird knowledge and this gives me some credence when I am telling people about birds during my job as a wildlife guide. I often get asked what my qualifications are, so now I can tell them.

Being an environmentalist I was already very aware of the current and historical plight of birds, especially water birds and parrots. Of course their decline is due to humans in many different ways. In some ways this course actually made it worse for me emotionally because I got into the detail of why certain bird species are in such decline and just how bleak the prospects are for them. It has cemented my view that most people do not give any thought to birds and would not notice if they all disappeared!

Because I had never done a course of this nature before, initially I found the method of researching and referencing quite challenging. But I enjoyed learning how to do this and became quite confident in this aspect. I enjoyed the challenge of writing essays and trying to make them readable and well referenced. I completed 9 assignments: evolution, biology and 7 different groups of birds. I thought this was a good way to present the subject. They all involved a lot of research and finding out which sources to trust. The course has enabled me to learn more about birds and has made me better at observing birds overall. 

chaffinch on ground

My favourite part of the course was biology and classification. I love all the Latin names and the way birds are grouped together for identification.

This course made me look hard at things that are difficult to look at in terms of what we have done to these amazing creatures. But also it made me look at what great conservation efforts are being made globally and how we have so much more knowledge than ever before. Some very good work has been done in certain places to protect birds and reintroduce species that were previously made extinct.

We hope all the best for you Sophie and congratulations on doing so well!

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