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Coastal Wild Food Course West Sussex dawn
  • 5 day course

    23-27 July 2024

    New-Foundational Ethnobotany

    Based on the utility of plants and trees

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    Europe & The UK

    Dates now available for 2024

    Tracker Evaluations

    Trailing and Track & Sign evaluations

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Wildlife Identification And Tracking – Level 4

“I could do this course a thousand times over and still discover something new!” Lucy O’Hagan

Course Content

Bird, mammal, reptile and amphibian field identification, feathers including form, function and identification, track identification, kill sites, scatology, feeding signs, gaits and track patterns, dens and resting places, ecology and behavior. Identification of mammals and birds through vocalisations including territorial, social, alarm calls and live trapping. View our Mammal Tracking video.

We also cover identification of the wildlife whose sign we encounter and their vocalisations, this will include bird song, social calls and alarm calls but will also look at the sounds made by the other groups including mammals. We use camera traps to back up our findings, live traps to get up close to some of the smaller creatures and all sorts of techniques to capture evidence. Emphasis is placed on becoming competent in the field of vertebrate and track and sign identification and being able to identify a range of sign across differing taxonomic groups. It is our hope that you will leave the programme with a sound knowledge of identification of British land vertebrates and their vocalisations and track and sign . We will cover as many species as possible but will be working from our site in the south of England and will therefore be limited to this regions wildlife. Part of the course will be as field trips to other areas of interest.

You may also be interested in the following related programmes.

Dates 2024

  • 26-28 April
  • 17-19 May
  • 21-23 June
  • 12-14 July
  • 3-4 August

If this course is full please contact us to be placed on a waiting list for cancellations.

Should enough people express an interest we may run extra dates.

Course Dates

Wildlife Tracking and Identification

Please read the following information before booking:

Please note this is a self catered course and although it is non residential you are welcome to camp at our site if you prefer. It is also possible to arrive the evening before but please call us to discuss this option. There will be some travel to other venues although we will endeavour to car share as much as possible.

NB: Camping is not integral to this programme, it is something we offer for the convenience of our students it is not part of the course fee. With this in mind please be aware that should you choose to stay on site you will be expected to help with the small tasks, that facilitate the smooth running of the camp.

You need to be over 18 years of age to attend this programme.

Starts May 102024 Places

Course: Wildlife Identification & Tracking Level 4

Dates: April-August 2024

Start Time: 09.00

Completion Time: 17.00

Location: Nr Midhurst West Sussex

Course Leader: John Rhyder

Course Size: 10 (maximum)

Cost per person: £1275

Course Reviews

Kevin Howlett

A fantastic 5 months spent in the heart of Sussex learning all there is to know about the wildlife we have. Never a dull a moment as we wandered about looking for and finding various track and sign, led by John and David who never seem to fail at finding “stuff”, “stuff” being different scat and its owner, why it’s there, its significance, and what it means  to other creatures. The study of footprints and the different ‘registers ‘ of these in order to determine gait, the different types of feet and how and why animals have evolved these. We looked at and dissected a variety of owl pellets to ascertain their diets and I.D the bones.  It’s worth pointing out John is currently the only person qualified as an evaluator at both track and sign and trailing in northern Europe and so is very well qualified to deliver this course. for anyone with an interest in the natural world this course is a great doorway to achieve this.  A great group of people enhanced the experience.  John has also become a published author and written on the subject of UK track and sign as well as bushcraft in general. Both are very informative, well written and contain a wealth of information.

Christopher Collins

A completely fascinating immersion into the world of wildlife identification and tracking. I initially felt quite intimidated by the immensity of the subject matter, even more so after our initial foray into bird song, but John’s expertise and patient teaching methods made even the most technical and complex areas of the course syllabus significantly less daunting. The same can be said for David Wege whose passion for birds helped to make the learning experience accessible and fun.
I enjoyed the assessment phase at the end of the course, as not only did it provide an incentive to do my homework and ensure that I was digesting the information, but I also felt a huge sense of pride when I was able to identify track and sign that previously I would have been largely ignorant of. I recommend this course to anyone who wants to enrich their experience of being outdoors or wishes to establish a solid foundation before entering into the Cyber Tracker scheme.

Sophie Godefroy

This course was absolutely brilliant and exceeded my expectations. I can’t believe how much I have learned in the course of four weekends. I’d already caught the tracking virus from my previous 5 days combined track and sign training and evaluation with John. This course goes beyond that and taught us various in-depth aspects of track and sign, bird language, anatomy, behaviour, ID… It greatly improved my mindset as a tracker. It is an under statement of course to say that John is very knowledgeable and passionate about his subject. He is one of a kind and also the only CyberTracker evaluator in the country. It was an honour to have him as a teacher. The group I was in was very good, full of passionate naturalists. Whereas you are a total beginner or have already caught the tracker virus, you’ll never see the outdoors in the same manner after taking this course.

Milena Czekala

I cannot praise and recommend this course enough. It exceeded my expectations. If you are seriously interested in tracking, this is an excellent course. John has great knowledge and is happy to share it in a very supportive way, sharing his own passion and long experience. I have learnt a lot, including the way of thinking like a tracker, as there is so much more to the art of tracking than track and sign. Equally important is John’s deep and obvious personal connection to his work, learning, and his passion for sharing it. It is infectious and inspiring. I am genuinely grateful and consider myself truly fortunate to have found this course and teacher. And have to say that observing a senior tracker in action close up is a great learning in itself! If you just want an excuse to go for a walk in the woods, just go for a walk in the woods. If you want to know who lives there and be able to read stories left by its inhabitants, … then seriously consider this course.

Dale Mortiboys

I can’t recommend this course enough. If you have ever been out in the woods and asked yourself ‘hmm who shares this habitat with me?’ book yourself on to a course with John. I came to this course looking to improve my tracking skills for the ecological survey work I do. This course delivered so much more than that. It opens up enquiries in to a broad range of natural history subjects and is really addictive. Plus you may get to see some really cool species

Daniel Yabsley

I would highly recommend this course to anyone with an interest in what might be living just outside their door or deeper into the woods, fields, marshes and beaches of Great Britain.  By taking this course I have built significantly on my base knowledge and understanding of the tracks and signs of the species present in our British landscape. It has introduced me to a number of species I was not aware of before, and now feel confident in being able to recognise them both directly and through the signs they leave behind.

I work with groups of children and adults in nature and feel that this is a perfect course for anyone also working in this way. For me, a big motivation for attending was to be more able to inspire those in the group’s I work with to be curious about their ecosystem.  I feel greatly rewarded in this way as a lot of the knowledge presented here would be hard, if not impossible, to find elsewhere.

Lucy O'Hagan

I could do this course a thousand times over and still discover something new! Welcome to the world of wildlife track & sign and there’s no better person to guide you through it. John’s passion for the subject not only shines through but is really infectious. I never understood how he could pick out a fox track amongst a cluster of dog tracks, or how that seemingly little scuff on the ground was actually a rabbit print. In reality, it’s hours upon hours of time spent on the track. Tracking is something you certainly can’t bluff. The course is thoughtfully laid out, allowing room for spontaneity and exploration when the environment offers up something new or different. It’s a fantastic preparation for the Cybertracker evaluation and is a real credit to the revival of this skill. I also particularly appreciated the attitude taken towards the relevance of this skill to the conservation of animals & habitats. Thank you very much to John and David for your guidance and patience in this newly discovered passion of mine.

Julian Drummond

When I signed up for this class I wasn’t really interested in the qualification, I simply thought it would be nice to spend 4 extended weekends wandering in the woodlands, coastlines, meadows and healthland of our beautiful & bountiful landscape, with an experienced woodsman & naturalist. As well as being with a group of people who understood my love for the animals and plants of our wild and open places.
I got all that and so much more. The testing at the end, far from being a trial or stress became such a motivation for learning and a way to focus my mind, that in a way, I wish we had been tested at the end of everyday in the field.
There was no pressure to do well, instead we got all the encouragement and help we could ever need to learn and excel.
We got to see some of the more elusive animals close-up and personal. Animals some people will never even get a glimpse of in their entire lives & we got to get nose to nose with them.
This is one of those classes you could take every year for the rest of your life and learn something new every time from John. Deepening your connection to the natural world more each year.
I love John’s style, his obvious love of nature & especially tracking is infectious. His professional manner giving way to his own unique personality as the days wore on. With a good mix of theory bolstered by lots & lots of practical field experience & intelligent questions asked that stretched my awareness beyond what I expected of myself.
The main site was beautiful, with many trips out to explore a wide range of environments and eco systems. I feel exceptionally motivated and capable to continue my own studies of the natural world & my growth as a naturalist.

David Wege

For every single thing you learn on this course, another 10 questions pose themselves, so be warned – becoming a nature detective (for that is what you’ll become after this course) will be all absorbing and stimulating, and stay with you wherever you are out in nature. This is an amazing course – with such depth that adds richness whatever your existing knowledge of our British wildlife. John is “the” expert – such a privilege to spend time in the field with him and learn from his vast expertise. The course covers a lot of our wildlife – I saw some of our reptiles for the first time, and getting up-close and personal with some of our small mammals was a treat. Learning about the evidence they leave behind was a revelation. Can’t recommend this course enough, regardless of your current knowledge about our wildlife – budding expert or beginner – you’ll learn so much.

Nigel Sharma

This was a very interesting and stimulating course. I hate to think how much I have missed on all the many many occasions I have walked through the woods in the past in terms of animal signs that have been right there under my nose and how many times I have enjoyed listening to the birds singing and wished I knew which birds I was listening to. Walking in the countryside will be a greatly enriched experience from now on. There are three basic aspects to the course, recognising and identifying wild animals (including birds but not invertebrates or bats), recognising vocalisations (of mammals, birds and amphibians), and recognising the (surprisingly many) signs and tracks left by various animals (mainly mammals and birds). There are three groups of people who would benefit greatly from this course. Firstly those who love and enjoy wildlife and nature, secondly those who are considering any career that involves leading or teaching others in a wilderness or bushcraft environment, and thirdly anyone who is considering a career related to working with wild animals in any way including, for example, wildlife veterinary work, wildlife photography or wildlife related field studies, whether in the UK or abroad. If you are in the first of these three categories and just learning this stuff for personal enjoyment, you might not care about the fact that this is an assessed course, however I would warn you that the assessment at the end, whilst fair, is not easy. Depending on the base level of knowledge that you come with, I would say that you will need to allocate a reasonable amount of time outside of the course to study the course material, and even for walking in woodland, if you want to pass. I would also highly recommend getting the course recommended reading books (they are all on Amazon) and reading them either before the start or early on during the course itself in order to get the most out of them and the course.

Gafyn Owen

I completely agree with the previous reviews. A fantastic course. I found it really bridged the gap from interest and enthusiasm to a basis for real understanding and knowledge. The instructors are passionate and knowledgeable of the subject and deliver information in a patient and encouraging way. Anyone with an interest in wildlife and the ability to commit some self-study would take a lot from this course. Highly recommended.

Dawn Doughty

I loved this course!! I started off knowing a badger from a fox and what a deer track might look like, and ended up with so much knowledge as to track and sign! John has a lovely teaching style, so much knowledge and passion and a willingness to share this with us all. We also had the opportunity to learn from other experts in the field of birds and reptiles and to visit other sites in the area so as to have as wide an opportunity to learn as much as possible. There were times when I thought I would never be able to work out what I was looking at, but John is a very patient teacher (I will learn gait one day!!!) and supports you to explore what you see and find and work out what it may mean. I really recommend this course if you have a love of the natural world and want to learn more about the creatures around you, but be warned, a country walk will never be the same again for all the amazing things you’ll see and will take you twice as long!!!!

Duncan Barnes

I came on this course with what I thought was a reasonable level of knowledge and experience in Natural history! The combined experience of all the instructors on the course is absolutely incredible, and the amount of practical information that they managed to impart to us was mind blowing!! I feel that my knowledge and practical skills have gone up another level after the course, and as a result I can bore my family and friends with even more information….which is always a good thing! Thanks again, Duncan

David Evans

An Outstanding Course. Enjoyable and very informative. Provided a remarkable insight into the lives of all those other creatures inhabiting the countryside. Strongly recommended.

Mark Williams

If you have any interest in wildlife and tracking then this is for you. A very in-depth course covering most British wildlife from reptiles to birds. Its worth spending time out and about in between sessions to improve and widen your knowledge, but I found the course went at a good pace and learnt a lot, as well as reinforcing what I already knew.

Hefin Hamer

Thoroughly enjoyed the course a truly fantastic way to broaden your observations of animal signs and behaviour thank you for sharing your knowledge.