Bird watchers could soon be flocking to South Mississippi thanks to a new map. On Monday, the Audubon Society unveiled its coastal birding trail map. It's the first publication in the state to highlight the best spots in the six southernmost counties for spotting birds.
Bird watchers call what Don McKee is doing a "big year". McKee is spending 12 months cris-crossing the state bird watching and hoping to see as many different species he can. So far McKee is up 301 species and he's glad to have a resource directing him where to go to spot more.
"I'm an ecotourist," said McKee. "When I got to Texas or Maine or where ever I go, I get the maps. I want to see what's available and where it is. And we'll have that at our fingertips now in Mississippi."
Megan Hughes was also excited to get her hands on the new birding trail map. The Biology student says South Mississippi's diverse landscape and wildlife are perfect for outdoor learning.
"Having a map like this will definitely put a place like this on the map," said Hughes. "I think bird watchers will come from all over the country. This is the type of thing that if you only have a couple of days to spend in Mississippi and you want to see some good birds, to have a map like this to point out where exactly to go along the Gulf coast is ideal."
The Audubon society hopes the new map will direct people to where the birds are and then open their eyes to the importance of preserving our natural resources.
Bruce Reid is director of the Mississippi Audubon Society. "The environment is something that is changing all the time. It's under a lot of pressure, but we have a lot left here on the coast to really be proud of. Bird watching is simply a way of opening a door to learning about all of nature and maybe understanding what it needs to be protected and cherished."
Rangers at Gulf Islands National Seashore say there is growing demand for bird watching in South Mississippi. The park has created several new programs over the last few years and starting this Fall, bird lovers can enjoy the West Ship Island Birding Hike.