Ole Miss is now home to a club that’s for the birds — literally. The Ole Miss Birders started introducing students to the birding hobby for the first time in the fall semester, thanks to the efforts of some interested students.
“It is admittedly a wild idea for a club, and generating interest among students who either had never heard of birding before or simply didn’t care has been a challenge,” said club president Nick Dugan.
Birds captivated Dugan back when he was only 17. “Working with the Lake County Forest Preserve back home as a wood duck nest monitor,” said Dugan, who came to Ole Miss from Third Lake, Illinois.
Co-founder of the club Cullen Patrick has also been involved in the effort to help make the club known. “The Ole Miss Birders Facebook page has well over 100 fans and around 20 who actively participate,” said Patrick.
One of the club’s main concerns this semester is helping with the preservation of Mississippi’s migratory shore bird.
“Our efforts with shoreline birds are centralized in our partnership with Delta Wind Birds,” says Dugan. Delta Wind Birds was co-founded by biology professor Dr. Jason Hoeksema, who is the adviser for the Ole Miss birding club.
“One of our favorite groups of birds is the shore bird. We really love those birds, and we have become, over the years, aware that some of those species are declining for some reason, especially the ones that migrate,” Hoeksema said.
One reason may be a lack of ponds where the birds can feed. Delta Wind Birds tries to get those who have catfish ponds or farms to let them “draw down a pond” during the fall months when rain can be scarce.
“Shore birds will flock to those like crazy,” said Hoeksema.
Patrick says working with Delta Wind Birds has been an eye opener.
“Without the insight that these fine people have provided, I would have been ignorant to both the sheer beauty of Mississippi birds as well as the necessity to preserve some of the diminishing species,” said Patrick.
The birders club is still in the process of planning field trips for this semester. Anybody interested in wanting to get involved in Ole Miss Birders can check out the Facebook page or email Dugan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To students and community members who are, “at all interested in nature, wildlife, conservation, birding or quirky clubs,” said Patrick, “Ole Miss Birders is the avenue for you.”
This story was contributed by Connor Heitzmann, an Ole Miss journalism student. Heitzmann can be reached at email@example.com.