Past Science & Nature Events


The Poetry of Birds, BTONI Annual Birdwatchers Conference, 5 Nov 2022, at the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, Oxford Island, Co Armagh. 

As part of the British Trust for Ornithology‘s annual Northern Ireland Birdwatching Conference, I delivered an interdisciplinary workshop on birds and poetry, with an emphasis on how poetry may help foster an appreciation of birds and their song. 

The event focussed on poets such as Hopkins, Longley, Carson, RS Thomas, Tennyson, and my own work. We discussed poems about birds that reflected the aural qualities of the species’ song. The workshop included birdsong listening exercises (birdsong recordings and spectrograms) to tune participants into the species’ song. These listening exercises were interspersedly with discussions of the poetry. The process both reinforced participants’ birdsong identification skills, and facilitated their enjoyment and appreciation of the poems. 

Blurb for this event:

“Mary Montague is a biologist by background with a PhD in birdsong. She is an active volunteer with BTO. Having worked for many years as a teacher in schools, Mary now works as a freelance writer and tutor. Mary is a widely published poet and a regular contributor to The Guardian’s Country Diary. She facilitates creative writing and poetry courses/workshops in local arts and community centres (e.g. The Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast), and also teaches biology-based courses as part of the Open Learning Programme at Queen’s University, Belfast. Mary is interested in the attributes of birds that have made them a perennial subject of poetry. Looking at and listening to birdsong in particular (using song recordings and spectrograms), she will discuss how poetry and other forms of art and literature can contribute to our knowledge and appreciation of birds.”


  • Dawn & Dusk Chorus field outings (leading groups) & events, 2010-2016, with: Derry City Council; Learmount Community Development Group, Park, Co Derry; Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.
  • Dawn Chorus field outings (leading groups) with Queen’s Open Learning, Belfast 2016-2019
  • Learning the Songs of Birds, one-day workshop, Queen’s Open Learning, Belfast 2016-2019
  • Evolution of Birds, 5-week Queen’s Open Learning course, Belfast 2016-2019
  • Birdsong Appreciation, 10 week interdiscipinary science, literature and arts course, Queen’s Open Learning course (including field outings), Belfast 2015-2016
  • Evening lectures on birdsong and on bird evolution to the Northern Ireland Ornithologists Club at the Ulster Museum, 5 Oct 2016 & 21 Nov 2017
  • Evening lecture on on birdsong to the Newcastle Field Club, 12 April 2018
  • Bird courses (migration, evolution, and song) and field outings as part of Queen’s Open Learning, 2017-2020, Bangor, Co Down
  • Theory of Evolution, introductory course, as part of Queen’s Open Learning, Jan- March 2020, Randalstown, Co Antrim