Fall Migration Season is the Perfect Time to Join BirderBein
Posted Oct 05, 2023
By Maggie Nicol ’25
Fall migration season is the perfect time for birdwatching, and while some may think that bird watching is for older adults, Otterbein has an active birdwatching club on campus. Junior Katelyn Shelton, a Zoo and Conservation Science major, started BirderBein to make friends, step away from the things that stress students most, and appreciate the beauty of the natural world.
Growing up, Shelton was involved in Ohio Young Birders Club and served on the advisory board. This cultivating experience allowed children to go on monthly outings and learn more about their wildlife neighborhood. Now she is the president of BirderBein.
She started the club in the fall of 2021 as an outlet for students looking to discover more about birds and become more aware of the birds around you. “Otterbein gives you tools to do what you love and love what you do,” Shelton said.
In addition to Shelton’s guiding hand, Professor Casey Tucker encouraged students to get more involved and was a driving force in the club. Dean of Student Engagement Melissa Gilbert, the advisor of the club, has allowed numbers to expand even more. Birding events regularly draw 10-15 students, with the club having 98 members spring semester.
In March 2023, seven students traveled to Nebraska to watch the Greater Prairie Chickens as these chickens performed their singing and mating dance. They also saw Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese. This opportunity is on many birdwatchers’ bucket lists especially since Nebraska is one of the main spots in the big migration.
The students were in Nebraska for one week — the prime time for the Sandhill Cranes migration. While visiting, the club went to the Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center. Here, people could admire and see the birds at their full potential.
“Most birdwatchers try to count as many birds as possible, but this experience made it challenging,” Shelton said.
While at the Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center the club quickly learned, “There were so many birds, I easily would have lost count of the birds that went as far back beyond what the eye could see,” said Shelton.
Shelton wanted to provide the club with a unique experience that members could treasure. Her hope is the club can take more out-of-state trips and continue to impact Otterbein’s campus to make it as bird-friendly as possible. “I want the club members to enjoy all aspects that come with nature and for them to feel like their voice matters. The club would not be where it is today without them.”
Birderbein has allowed Shelton to gain leadership skills and hold herself accountable. “I am so humbled to know what people can learn from others. Opportunities like these allow me to experience talking to people who I would not get to talk to and has opened doors for me to gain field experience,” she said.