The changing season means migration for many birds in Missouri. But as the weather warms up, birds aren't the only ones that will be outside. With birds come birders.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, nearly 46 million Americans watch birds.
John Besser is the vice president of the Columbia Audubon Society. He has been bird bird-watching nearly his whole life. Birdwatching fits with human nature and the desire to collect and learn about what's around you, Besser said.
"Some people get interested in all sorts of different (things) butterflies, you know whatever, fish, plants," he said. "But birds are, you know, they’re beautiful. They’re visible and audible. They kind of attract attention to themselves so it’s kind of natural. And they’re so diverse. Once you start there’s always something new to see."
More than 300 birds regularly call Missouri home throughout the year. Birds here reflect many regions of the country. Missouri lies in the middle of the country and has a variety of habitats, according to the Missouri Audubon Society website.
Besser started birding when he was in middle school when his friend's dad took them both bird-watching. He's been hooked ever since. Today he bird-watches several times a week—weather it's a brief break during the workday or a field trip for the Columbia Audubon Society.
Besser has been involved with the Columbia Audubon Society since the '90s. In addition to birding field trips, the group also hosts educational events and participates in conservation efforts.
"It's a good bunch of people," Besser said. "It's a lot of fun to hang around with them."
The group owns properties in the area to improve bird habitats and offer recreation opportunities. One of the most visible properties is the Columbia Audubon Nature Sanctuary, where the group is working to clear invasive species and restore prairie and forest habitats.
But you don't have to be a naturalist to enjoy bird-watching, Besser said.
"A lot of people just look at birds in their backyard and put feeders out and nest boxes and such," Besser said. "And then there’s the other extreme, where people you know, go around the world and see thousands of species...There’s kind of a niche in there for just about everybody to feel comfortable with.”