Andrew Stokes is a proud Bird Nerd! This recent OSU Fisheries and Wildlife graduate was a casual birder until only two years ago, when he took a class called the ‘Systematics of Birds’, learning field identification of birds by sight and sound. “It hooked me. Once I took that class, I never looked back, Andrew recalls. Soon this native Alabaman went from dabbling in birding to becoming a dedicated avian observer. Fast forward two years and Andrew is a board member and Treasurer of OSU’s Bird Nerds – a student run ornithological club that includes a broad array of undergrads, grad students, faculty, and community members – from amateur to the most die-hard birders.
Every year the Bird Nerds hold a ‘Birdathon’ – their annual fundraiser that has become a highly-competitive race among teams of 3-5 to spot as many bird species as possibly over the course of 24 hours. “This year the winning team identified 144 unique bird species, with some special sightings of Western Snowy Plover and a Marbled Murrelet at the coast. My team was called ‘Quick, Three Beers’, after the sound that the Olive-sided Flycatcher makes (check out this call here),” says Andrew.
The Birdathon helps to raise the funds to support the annual expenses of the Club, but the group also decided early on to donate 25% of the annual income to support nonprofits working on bird conservation … and this year the Bird Nerds chose Greenbelt Land Trust! “When we were deciding on where to donate the funds to this year, we wanted a local group that was working on protecting habitats that are important for bird species. As we explored our options, Greenbelt seemed like a perfect fit. It just made sense,” Andrew says.
Now graduated, Andrew had taken an internship with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Salem and has now become one of those ‘die-hard birders’, binoculars always close-by. As we talk I notice a bit of a tattoo peaking out above his elbow. And wouldn’t you know … it’s a bird. “It’s an homage to my favorite bird – the peregrine falcon. They’re the fastest bird in the world, and I’m going to say that they’re just plain cool!”
Special thanks to Andrew Stokes and the entire Bird Nerds Club – we think you are all pretty cool, too.