The Mississippi Coast Birding Trail (MCBT) is dedicated to the memory of long-time bird watcher and author Judith (Judy) Toups. Through Judy's untiring efforts, she inspired people from all walks of life to make a place for birds in their everyday lives. Among the many ways Judy promoted the love of birds was her creation of the original map of this trail completed in 2003. For over 35 years on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Judy fostered bird conservation through a host of ways, including the establishment of the Mississippi Coast Audubon Society in 1975, which, to this day, focuses on the protection of Least Tern and Black Skimmer breeding colonies. She also established two Christmas Bird Count circles in south Mississippi. Her knowledge of birds, combined with her expertise in writing, led to the publication of two books on birding the Gulf Coast and a weekly bird watching column in THE SUN-HERALD. In 2008 a section of Highway 90 in Gulfport was renamed the Judith Toups Least Tern Highway. A nature trail at the Ward Bayou Wildlife Management Area near Vancleave also bears her name.
The Mississippi Coast Birding Trail is sponsored by the National Audubon Society, Inc., one of the oldest nature conservation organizations in the United States. Formed in 1905, this organization operates from a national office in New York City, 30 state offices including Audubon Mississippi, and 40 plus interpretive centers and sanctuaries across the country.
The mission of the National Audubon Society is “to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity”. On the Mississippi Gulf Coast, this mission is fostered through the Pascagoula River Audubon Center, located on what is widely recognized as one of the last, large, free-flowing rivers in the lower 48 states.
Many of the sites included on the Mississippi Coast Birding Trail are located in the Pascagoula River basin and at other high-quality natural areas across the lower six-county region of southern Mississippi. Many of these sites are also designated as Important Bird Areas by Audubon and its partners. All of the sites included in this trail are focal points for long-term stewardship by Audubon and other organizations committed to conservation of birds and wildlife and the promotion of nature tourism as a means of supporting conservation of these areas for generations to come.
We would like to thank all of the photographers who allowed us to use their fantastic photos, and members of the Mississippi Coast Audubon Society for their technical support and evaluation of the sites on this trail.
Judy passed away in 2007, leaving behind a rich legacy of bird conservation and a large family of friends that continue her work. We all honor her memory by doing what she loved best - watching and caring for birds wherever and however we can. We all "listen" for her in the woods, on the beaches and in the fields - where her beloved birds live.