Bird Club offers birding experiences for enthusiasts

Ever since Bird Club was created, it has been a safe place where people can bond over our feathered friends — birds. The Founder and President of Bird Club, Joshua Heiser ’23, provided more information on its creation story.

“I was working with (former Professor of Environmental Science and Sustainability Benjamin Haywood) who also liked birds,” Heiser said. “I was taking a class with him and I just kind of went to his office hours talking about birds. He mentioned potentially starting a bird club and then it was like, ‘oh I’ll start one,’ so we (started) working together.”

Contrary to what was the case for many other clubs, the Bird Club actually prospered in the pandemic due to the natural safety built into the club.

“Fall semester (of 2020) is when we really started building our numbers because birding is a COVID-safe activity since it’s all outside, we can limit the numbers, everyone can be really spread out, and you don’t have to travel far to see birds,” Heiser said. “We were doing a lot of walks in the fall when there is a lot of birds to be found so we were going out seeing birds and it became really popular.”

Heiser explained that the club holds campus walks and other experiences to birdwatch.

“We send them to walk to the Greendale Cemetery, then we do larger trips,” Heiser said. “We’ve been to Geneva Marsh, Erie National Wildlife Refuge, (and) then I know the Director of the Erie Bird Observatory, so they do bird banding at the Presque Isle.”

Ella Lunney, ’23, said she enjoys participating in Bird Club.

“I already held interest in most animals so I thought getting into bird watching must be a good idea,” Lunney said. “Like you can basically go on a walk, go on a hike even. There’s not any too major hiking locations, but it is a nice walk. Definitely getting the scenery, even just around campus, or even learning what’s close by.”

Members also get the chance to non-invasively observe the birds for science and then release them. Scientists band the birds, look at them up close and then release them. They are also trying to do more conservation work.

“We’ve generally just been focused on the more outreach so sort of getting people interested in birds, but we would like to do more conservation work in the future,” Heiser said. “We are an Audubon Campus Chapter so we’re officially affiliated with the National Audubon Society which is a non-profit organization that works to preserve birds and the places they need across the United States. We have a lot of potential (and) we feel like we haven’t fully reached our potential yet, but we would really like to do that this semester.”

Alex Clifford, ’25, is new to Bird Club, but is a part of the growing membership the club is receiving.

“I’ve been into birding (for) a while,” Clifford said. “(I’ve been into it) since elementary school. I think it’s very cool that Allegheny College has this. ”

Heiser is hoping to hold a variety of different events over the course of the semester, including bird identification workshops.

“(We will be) talking about how people can identify birds, maybe focusing on a particular family of birds, so like how to identify ducks or hawks,” Heiser said. “Last semester, we did some ‘Building By Impression’ workshops … We do an e-bird workshop where we talk about a public database that is free-use where you can store your bird-sightings that also contributes to science data. We bring in some speakers to talk about their own bird research.”

Those speakers have very diverse backgrounds with the common interest of birds.

“Last semester, a professor connected with us with a Ph.D. student that she knew who was doing research on Saltmarsh sparrows so we got to hear talk from her,” Heiser said. “One of our members last year, he graduated, but his comp focused on birds so we had him talk about his comp. I’ll probably be talking about my summer research at a meeting at some point because I did some bird research over the summer.”

Bird Club also has game nights in order to combine education and fun.

“We’ll have bird trivia night, where we play kahoot and people can identify birds, we did jeopardy one time, and some other games so it varies, but those are the three main stuff we do at meetings,” Heiser said.

Bird Club has the entertainment, variety and unique factor that makes it worthwhile. Even attending one meeting or trip, would expand many student’s views, provide fresh air, and a fun educational aspect.

Bird Club meets Mondays at 7 p.m. in Carr Hall 239.