ITHACA, N.Y.—It’s no secret that Ithacans love their birds.

With the world-renowned Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology and all of its resources and clubs, it makes sense that birds are a common draw for locals and visitors alike.

Naturally, birders have formed official and unofficial clubs, likely the oldest of which is the Cayuga Bird Club (CBC), with its 110th anniversary this year.

Founded in 1913, the club was founded with three goals in mind: to support bird conservation, education and appreciation for birds in the area.

Stephanie Herrick, president of the CBC, said that the club is open and welcomes anyone who has interest in birdwatching and wishes to attend any of the events. Herrick has been an active member of the club for the past three years, and she says that birding has been a big part of her life for a long time.

“Since 1913, it’s all been about birds — people’s interest in them, their compassion for them and for making sure they’re not only there to be enjoyed today, but in the future,” Herrick said. “That’s what’s kept this club going, is this very consistent and strong foundation of learning and conservation and appreciation.”

While the details change, the number of members, the activities, trips and meetings, Herrick said that the club has remained accessible, which is important to all its members, right down to the equipment that can be borrowed during weekend bird walks.

Club membership fees are just $15, and members have varying amounts of participation or at each meeting or event.

“You can’t get a better deal, and it’s open to everyone, it’s so open and welcoming,” Herrick said. “I like to ask ‘Do you like birds? Do you enjoy watching birds? Do you want to learn more about birds? Then you’re a birder.’”

The club also tries to do a field trip each year, which garners a lot of excitement among members.

This July, club members will be heading on a trip to Ecuador, which Herrick said sold out very quickly after participants from last year’s Ecuador trip gave a presentation on what they saw and did.

Today, the club has more than 300 members who work to provide educational opportunities to novice and experienced birders about local species, work toward conservation efforts and enjoy birdwatching.

“We have a really active group of committees that monitor things like the purple martin box down at Stewart Park, we connect with local youth and underserved communities to include them in conservation and we even help people improve bird habitats of their own,” Herrick said.

“Our mission has essentially stayed the same until 110 years later,” Herrick said.

To that end, the club offers beginner bird walks every Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 to 10 a.m., during which the group, led by a CBC member, wanders through Sapsucker Woods, learning about birds they spot and working with binoculars and other equipment.

Herrick said that the club is interested in working with local schools to get students involved in bird conservation around the area.

The club also meets the second Monday of every month at the Lab of Ornithology for presentations and other club activities.

Zoë Freer-Hessler

Zoë Freer-Hessler is the digital editor/reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Joining in November 2021, she has covered a wide range of topics related to local news. She can be reached at,...