Bringing birding to Mac

Senior founds bird club, shares passion with students

To+Lucente%2C+bird-watching+can+be+as+simple+as+gazing+out+the+window+and+walking+around+or+seeking+out+different+bird+noises+or+sightings+and+trying+to+identify+them.+

Photo courtesy of Lucente

To Lucente, bird-watching can be as simple as gazing out the window and walking around or seeking out different bird noises or sightings and trying to identify them.

Elena Ulack, staff reporter

Senior Gillian Lucente’s obsession with birds started right before her freshman year. This obsession only increased on July 10, 2021, when she experienced an up-close sighting of a red-shouldered hawk.

“For the longest time I thought I was living next to a red-tailed hawk, but after a while, I was starting to notice a difference between the two,” Lucente said. “I was like ‘that’s definitely not a red-tailed hawk’ so I started looking into it more.”

I had never been so amazed to see such a bird up close to the point where I just had to know more.”

— senior Gillian Lucente

Eventually, the red-shouldered hawk flew right up to Lucente’s window, giving her a glimpse of it just by looking directly up.

“I had never been so amazed to see such a bird up close to the point where I just had to know more,” Lucente said. “It kind of got me even more and more into birding.”

Lucente’s newfound passion for birding inspired her to found a birding club called McCallum Feathered Friends. She started the club to put it on her college resumé, to learn leadership skills and to find like-minded people who shared her passion for birds. Kicking off the club, however, proved to be a challenge.

“I was scared to start it because I was afraid people were just going to laugh at it,” Lucente said. “After a while, my friend started saying, ‘You should totally do it.’ So eventually, I was like, ‘I guess we’ll see how this works.’”

After Lucente filled out the club application form, science teacher Jace Klein caught wind of the proposition and volunteered to be the club’s advisor.

“I took a class on birds when I was in college and had a lot of fun,” Klein said. “I really tried to help start it and get it off the ground. The students are the leaders. I’m just there for support.”

I took a class on birds when I was in college and had a lot of fun. I really tried to help start it and get it off the ground.”

— science teacher Jace Klein

When bird club started last year, the leaders began by providing FIT sessions where the group would go outside, enjoy nature and try to look for birds. This year, the group is more organized. At the club’s first official meeting, the leaders devised a game where the club members would go outside and look for birds. Based on the kinds of birds they saw, they got a certain number of points. In the future, the bird club will go on early-morning walks when birds are most active and help the school become more bird-friendly by making birdhouses and feeders.

“I think anyone can do it as long as they have enough patience,” Lucente said. “I’ve noticed some people don’t have enough patience to just sit outside and look at a bird long enough to be like, ‘Okay, that’s a blue jay’ or see two different crows next to each other and be like, ‘That’s a different one than that one.’”

Sophomore Kyan Adams was looking for a club that was relevant to his interests in paleontology and zoology and began attending bird club. Adams is the representative for the underclassmen and is hoping to be a spokesperson for the club, going up front and conducting speeches about ranging topics regarding birds.

“It’s my first year in the club, so for me, it’s all new faces,” Adams said. “But so far everyone in the club is very cooperative, helpful and fun to discuss with.”

I think anyone can do it as long as they have enough patience.”

— senior Gillian Lucente

To Lucente, bird-watching can be as simple as gazing out the window and walking around or seeking out different bird noises or sightings and trying to identify them. In Lucente’s opinion, the best conditions for bird watching are when it’s not super windy. It’s a big bonus when there are enough clouds to help see the birds better. However, Lucente’s passion for birds doesn’t stop at birdwatching.

“[I’d like to be an] ornithologist, someone who studies birds in their natural habitats or in a laboratory,” Lucente said. “My second choice would be a conservationist so I can help the birds regrow their populations and make sure they have somewhere to go.”

Lucente describes the bird club environment as welcoming and its members as willing to learn and help out. She encourages anyone who’s even remotely interested to check it out on Tuesdays during FIT.

“Ironically, I actually took a very accurate bird quiz by bird experts online,” Lucente said. “Apparently, I’m a mallard duck. It means I can be vocal but also silent and stealthy.”

McCallum Feathered Friends adviser Jace Klein spots a white-winged dove during his bird-watching FIT on March 29 of last school year. (Dave Winter)