The University of Maine’s Birding Club, is the newest hub of community bird watching.
Braden Collard, president of the UMaine Birding Club, has been an avid birder since a young age. Having met both experienced birders as well as beginner birders on campus, both groups were interested in the idea of an official birding club. The initial idea eventually took off after Collard had drawn a poster for the microbiology club, which included a picture of a bird.
“During the Student Involvement Fair, four or five people came up and saw the bird and then we’re like, ‘Man, I wish there was a birding club’. I was like, ‘Alright, I have to do this now. This is something that needs to get started,” says Collard.
UMaine has previously held a similar club at Nutting Hall, known as the Marsh Island Birding Club, around five years ago. Through connections with The Wildlife Society and other avid birders on campus, Collard hopes to make the club an official birding focused community once again.
When it came to initially creating the club, one of the many primary goals of the club was to provide a platform for members to learn about Maine’s native birds. Members are also able to share their love of not only birdwatching, but the observation of other wildlife, as well as meeting people to discuss a wide variety of interests.
For the first meeting, the Birding Club made its trip around the UMaine campus to observe the various native species in the area, with noteworthy sightings of the Maine state bird, the black capped chickadee. Other species that were observed include the cedar waxwing, the eastern phoebe and the Cape May Warbler.
The UMaine campus has a variety of locations where novices and enthusiasts can go birding. Such spots include the berry trees next to the Memorial Gym, the UMaine Bike Path and the various trails near the Steam Plant parking lot, where species of waterfowl and shorebirds can be spotted along the lake.
Collard plans to host various birding sessions on designated dates. One of which occurred on Sept. 17th at Littlefield Garden, right outside the Versant Power Astronomy Center. The Corn Field Loop Trail, located within the garden, is home to over a hundred different species alone, according to Collard.
Although Birding Club will primarily take trips in the greater Bangor area, the club also plans to bring members out on more elaborate field trips, including plans to visit birding spots with Maine Audubon as well as visiting the Maine coast to spot seabirds. Other noteworthy birding spots in Maine include Lake Sebasticook, which is notable for shorebird and waterfowl sightings during October through November. The ability for club members to absorb themselves in nature provides a healthy outlet for many.
“We’ve evolved in nature, and with the internet and technology where we get further and further from it every year. It has such an important effect on us,” says Collard, “Not only is it so complex that you could spend an entire lifetime studying, not even the environment, but just one organism that you’ll still be learning things by the time you’re 80 or 90, but it has been proven to help our mental health a lot, just getting out in nature and looking at birds.”
In the case of bad weather, Collard plans to have guest speakers, some of whom are members of the Birding Club, to talk about and educate members about various topics, such as explaining the differences between similar bird species like the raven and crow. There are also art related events as well as movie and game nights in the works, which will allow for birding enthusiasts to express themselves and their knowledge on Maine’s native birds.
When the day-to-day life of a college student becomes too much to handle, the UMaine Birding Club will provide a healthy way to mediate that stress by observing nature in real time. The Birding Club will strive to create a low pressure, non-competitive environment which allows for connections to be formed between birdwatchers of any skill level.
“School is stressful, life is stressful, so I want this club to be a refuge,” says Collard
The Birding Club meets every Thursday at 5 p.m. located at Nutting Hall Room 218.