Standards and Best Practices

In January 2014, the Denver Field Ornithologists (DFO) Board of Directors adopted a new set of Standards and Best Practices for field trip leaders. Because field trips are a hallmark of DFO, the standards were adopted to bring greater consistency and leadership quality to those trips. The standards are part of a new trip leader certification process. Only certified trip leaders or guest leaders accompanied by a certified trip leader are scheduled to lead DFO field trips.

The standards are intended to help DFO provide safe, enjoyable, and instructive field trips. Field trip leaders or DFO members interested in becoming trip leaders are encouraged to read the standards. The standards are supported by a Field Trip Leader Manual, which provides ideas to help leaders implement the standards.

  • DFO trip leaders must be certified before they are eligible to lead published DFO trips.
  • When a guest leader is invited to lead a DFO trip, a certified DFO leader will co-lead the trip to ensure adherence to DFO standards.
  • The leader will submit on the DFO website trip details to the scheduler for publication on the website and in The Lark Bunting. The details will be submitted by the date requested by the scheduler.
  • Meeting places for carpooling must be either public parking places or locations at which the leader or DFO have permission to use and are listed in Trip Locations on the DFO website.
  • The leader will review the trip description online and in The Lark Bunting for accuracy before the trip date.
  • The leader will make an appropriate effort to notify potential participants of any errors, changes, or cancellations.
  • At the trailhead the leader will make sure that all participants, including the leader, have signed the DFO trip waiver.
  • The leader will not allow participation in the trip without a participant signature.
  • At the carpool meeting place and/or trailhead, the leader will provide participants with a clear briefing on how the trip will proceed including route of travel, break times, restroom stops, and trip-end time.
  • The leader will count the number of participants, or cars if carpooling, and confirm at the end of the trip that all participants are accounted for. Ask participants to notify the leader or another member of the group if they are going to leave the trip early.
  • On the field trip, whether on foot or by car, the safety of the participants will be primary. All trip leaders must have automobile insurance with limits of liability not less than the minimum required by state law and a valid driver's license.
  • Leaders will observe the ABA Code of Birding Ethics and remind participants of the code when necessary.
  • Trips must not enter private property without permission of the landowner.
  • Leaders will record all species observed, including the number of individuals of each species, or have a participant do this for the group.
  • If an accident, illness, or incident occurs, the leader will manage the group for individual and group safety.
  • If an accident or incident occurs during a field trip, the leader will prepare an Accident Report Form to submit to the DFO Field Trip Director and President after the trip. They should be notified as soon as possible consistent with the safety and welfare of the group.
  • The leader will check the waiver box on the website for anyone who signed a paper waiver and submit the DFO Liability Waiver to the DFO Historian within 7 days of the trip.
  • After the field trip is concluded, the leader will submit a trip report to eBird and enter the S Number on the DFO website within 7 days.
Best Practices
  • If travel by car is planned, carpooling is the DFO preferred practice. Leaders must organize a communication system between cars and designate a rear car with instructions to communicate if cars lag behind or other difficulties occur.
  • Leaders cannot be responsible for actions of the drivers of cars in the carpool; however, leaders should take corrective action to assure that irresponsible driving, once observed, does not continue.
  • Field trips should be interesting to and inclusive of all levels of birders; they should be informative and FUN!
  • DFO leaders should share their knowledge of birds with participants and within the scope of their own experience offer information on related subjects including bird behavior, habitat identification, and local conservation issues.
  • At the end of the trip the leader should have a debriefing that includes a check that everyone is accounted for and explain how the leader will share the trip list. The leader may also ask questions like “What was most fun?” or “Is there anything that would improve this trip?”

Leader Manual