Discover the
Beauty of Birds

Birding and natural history classes, field reports, essays and tours around the Bay Area, California and the West with Ted Pierce.


Ask any teacher: it’s always fascinating to ask students for their reactions to your classes. Before you start a class you never stop wondering how to organize your lesson: you read, plan, research and gather information endlessly. Enough is never enough. And when the time comes and you walk into the room, you have to give of yourself nonstop – knowledge, enthusiasm, humor, whatever wisdom you may (or think you may) possess – anything to arouse students’ interest and reward their search for knowledge. You never know what their reaction will be, and you never know what will sink in. But regardless of the outcome, all eyes are on you when you enter the room. And they hardly ever leave you if you’re doing your job right.

So at the end of the class getting the evaluations back is really fascinating. Over the years, I’ve gotten hundreds of them. Those who turn the evaluation in are often very personal and complementary. Some write one-liners, some a long paragraph. Some are comical, some very serious. When I read them over, it’s pretty amazing, all those different points of view. It’s an intense experience looking at them, even after several years. You take the good ones in with pride, and ponder the questionable ones. From a teacher’s point of view, it’s a wonderful thing to think you may have opened up a new world for someone! Whatever else evaluations do, they make you realize how much you have grown as an instructor. In the beginning, nothing was apparent to me except a great desire to share my knowledge and enthusiasm. Then came years of searching for a “method.”

The comments below are mostly evaluations from students and clients who have been part of my classes and birding tours over the years. Classes ‘reviewed’ include Beginning Birding, Raptors, Songbirds and Nature Journal. One is the citation from the ‘Best Birding Instructor’ award from the Best of the Bay issue that the East Bay Express did a few years ago. I thought it summarized what I was trying to do pretty well. Birding trips and tour locations vary from local parks to Texas or Arizona. For individuals I was able to reach, names are included. For others that I could not, I have given only their initials. Comments were edited for clarity, grammar or brevity in some cases.


“Ted, I was looking at the photos from our birding trips to Arizona and to the Rio Grande Valley. Happy memories of two wonderful trips. The itineraries were well planned and took advantage of the best local spots, but what I appreciated most was the pacing. We aren’t rushed, and we had time to savor the special moments, like the rare trogon in Arizona, or the crested Caracara in Texas, or even the ordinary birds, like the bathing finches or nesting doves. The birds have been awesome, in the best sense of that word-- I've seen over 30 birds on each trip that were new to me, ones that I would not have seen otherwise. I enjoy staying at the small B&B's; their hosts add a lot to the trip. TheSouthwestern Research Station in Portal, Arizona, was a magical place, like a mini-Yosemite with red rock walls. At the end of one of your trips I always feel that I’ve had a 'complete' experience of the area. I look forward to traveling with you again.”

Kathy Compagno, Kensington, CA, on the Texas and Arizona Birding Tours

“My favorite parts of the classes were going to various parks in the Bay Area - parks with different habitats, so that the birds I learned were very varied. Ted was patient with my stumbling beginnings. He repeated the sightings over and over until I could see what he was pointing out. I learned to identify field markings and to discover  identification hints from habitat. I joined the classes for something to do in a new region of the country and I became a birder. What a delight that was and is. Thank you, Ted.”

-Nan Langen Steketee, Philadelphia, PA (formerly of Oakland, CA), Beginning Birding Class, Oakland, CA

“I’d be happy to write something for your website, Ted. I’ve been in your classes and with you on class field trips for four years now. The most recent trip was to SE Arizona last year, where we saw so many great birds, like the roadrunners, trogons, many kinds of hummingbirds, tanagers, hawks, woodpeckers and over 100 others! The itinerary, including the B&Bs and the Research Station, was well planned, and I thought you researched the birdlife and other fauna and flora very well. I also enjoy the anthropological and natural history information you are constantly bubbling over with, not to mention your sense of humor. I really enjoyed the trip and would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone. “

Aimee Hayes Bakken, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of Biology, U. of Washington

“Ted, we speak often of the fun we had with you and Cathy and Jane on our tour of the Rio Grand towns, their wildlife preserves and birds.  I never knew how much fun birding could be! We watch Sunrise Earth on the Discovery Channel most mornings and the programs with birds are now our favorites.”

Olan and Mary Hankins, Dallas, Texas, Texas-Rio Grande Birding Tour

“If you’re curious about the avian life around you – from the tiny chirps emanating from the backyard bushes to those large ominous black shadows circling overhead—then maybe it’s time to try one of Ted Pierce’s birding classes. Pierce doesn’t just show his students how to differentiate a pipit from a wagtail. For him, the goal isn’t to build up a huge “life list,” enumerating how many species you’ve seen, but rather to use birdwatching as a way to learn about the environment, and to simply relax and enjoy yourself. His classes, offered through several East Bay adult schools, consist of three or four week class sessions and several field trips to local birding hot spots on weekends. He also schedules regular outings to more remote locations. Pierce uses an innovative approach: on his beginning field trips, he tells his students not to call out the names of the birds that they can identify. Instead, they list different characteristics they’re observing. Thus, a robin could become a ‘medium-sized bird with a red breast and dark head, hopping across the lawn, pulling worms from the ground.’  It feels silly at first, but then you begin to notice how much more detail you’re seeing, and how much more aware you’re becoming of the world around you. And that may be what birding is really all about.”

Citation for Best Birding Educator, Best of the East Bay 2003, East Bay Express

“This course enhanced my appreciation of the natural context of birds. I’m simply more aware of their habitats. Ted is a master teacher.”

R. T., Albany, CA, Beginning Birding Class

“Ted is a great teacher with a unique approach to birding. First, all the basic birding skills are there, such as spotting birds in unusual places, identification and good field trips. Beyond this there’s much more. One of the things that makes Ted unique is that he has a broad interest in nature and the environment. He knows the current literature about natural history. Where appropriate, Ted will bring in art, classical myths, or, to leaven the loaf, stories about his children. One of Ted’s goals is to bring everyone closer to nature. Field trips are not done in a rush. He’ll stop to point out an unusual flower or a different rock formation. In the process you’ll learn many things you didn’t know before. Most important of all, Ted relates well to people and has a good sense of humor. He not only knows about nature and birding, but is fun to be around. Try one of his courses and find out for yourself.”

Dave Steffen, Berkeley, CA, Beginning Birding, Owls, Raptors Classes

“The teacher’s ability and personality makes all the difference. What made this class fun for me (and probably for everyone else!) is that you made it enjoyable due to your enthusiasm, dry sense of humor (which I like), and because you never made us feel pressured. I knew I could just enjoy everything and learn at my own pace. The field trips and classes were both great.”

S.N., Oakland, CA, Beginning Birding Class

“I have taken Ted Pierce’s class “Nature Journal” and have enjoyed it very much. It has had a great impact on me since I lived in the wilderness in Alaska for many years. Ted Pierce has shown me a world of nature that I was unaware that greatly improves the quality of my life. He has enormous knowledge of the birds, plants and animals of this area and presents it very well to his students. His choice of literature presented in the class has opened up a new world of reading materials and also brought up many memories of my childhood in the English countryside. The class has brought me great pleasure and it has been a valuable experience for me.”

S.R., Nature Journal Class, Berkeley, CA

Upcoming Tours 2019 NEW!
Bolinas Tour
Sat. Nov. 2,  9am-12pm 
Las Gallinas Wetlands, San Rafael

At Las Gallinas hundreds of acres of grasslands, ponds and marshes extend around a small water treatment facility. In the distance, the marshes are surrounded by the beautiful hills of Marin. ..... Read more

Bolinas Tour
Sat. Dec. 14, 10am-4pm
Birds of Bodega Bay and Sonoma Coast

Scenic Bodega Bay, nestled on the Sonoma coast west of Sebastopol, is one of our most exciting Bay Area birding locations in the winter. In recognition of its migration hot-spot status, it has been designated as an IBA (Important Bird Area) by the American Bird Conservancy. .... Read more

Fri-Sunday, Nov. 8-10
A Birder’s Tour of Santa Cruz: Beaches to Redwoods, Shorebirds to Songbirds

Santa Cruz, located just south of San Jose, is known for its beaches, amusement park, surfers and university. But with its dramatic coastline and many parks, this college town is also known for its great birding, especially in the fall and winter. Among the ocean headlands, beaches and forests you can find many ducks, raptors, shorebirds, grebes, pelicans and songbirds. .... Read more