12 Month Wildlife Identification Qualification

At the end of 12 months, participants should be able to identify the majority of birds and mammals seen and heard in the Cairngorms National Park; and have a good system in place for continuing to improve ID skills.


Speyside Wildlife, Aviemore

Enquire via the Speyside Wildlife website.


Summary • The course is based near Aviemore in the Cairngorms National Park and runs over a full year. There is an introductory weekend, followed by four study weekends, one in each season. • Each weekend includes a day in the ‘classroom’ and a day in the 'field' putting into practice what has been covered during the ‘classroom’ day. • Self-study takes place between these weekends through weekly input via a private Facebook page, with guidance on what to focus on and how to keep notes in Field Notebooks. • Continual mentoring is available via this Facebook page, to work on tricky species and provide other ID hints and tips - also to ensure the students’ Field Notebooks are on track. • The assessment is split between an assessment of the students’ field notebooks, an assessment in the ‘field’ in spring, to include recognition of birds by sight, but also by calls and songs and a written test on identification knowledge. • The overall marking is divided between the three elements, with 50% for the field notebook and 25% each for field ID and the written test. There are two pass categories: Pass; 60-80%, Distinction; 80%+. • LANTRA (a nationally recognised awarding organisation, specialising in training and qualifications) has accredited the course, so that successful participants will be awarded a LANTRA Certificate of Training. Schedule • The 2024 course will take place over an introductory weekend in March, plus one study weekend in each of the four periods: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. • Your trainer will be available throughout the 12-month course to discuss any problems or discuss the identification of species etc. • A list of species students are expected to identify will be provided. You should be able to identify males and females, including any variation in plumage through the year, plus typical bird calls and songs and know what habitat and at what time of year each species is found in the Cairngorms National Park.

About Speyside Wildlife

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If you’ve always wanted to know what the bird calls are that you hear whilst out walking, or to feel confident that you can tell the difference between a buzzard and an eagle as you scan the hills, then our year-long wildlife identification course in the Cairngorms National Park is for you. ​We teach you the ‘how to do it’ of wildlife identification, to work things out for yourself, either by sight or sound, whilst you’re out and about. You may wish to join for personal career development, at the start of your career as a wildlife tour guide, or just for your own enjoyment and complete beginners are very welcome. ​If however you can’t commit to that length of study, but want to enhance your skills on any aspect of birdwatching, then one of our weekend Masterclasses may fit the bill. We concentrate on a particular group of birds, or a particular skillset, again giving you tips and hints on the ‘how to do it’ of identification. ​All courses are led by Speyside Wildlife guides and trainers.

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You will need to travel to the course location.




  • Lots of Hands On
  • Some Reading & Writing
  • Some Watching
  • Some Listening
  • Some Socialising

Find out more, enquire or book via the Speyside Wildlife website.