Avian Persuasion: More than Birding – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Avian Persuasion: More than Birding

“If you’ve ever wished you could fly, join the club. If you’ve ever wondered why you wished you could fly, take this course,” says Assistant Professor of English Caroline Manring, describing her first-year seminar called Avian Persuasion.

The course teaches students about the hobby, obsession and interests of birding, and takes an in-depth, interdisciplinary look at human fascination with birds. Outdoor birding, scientific readings, film viewings, field trips, a falconry presentation with live birds, guest speakers, creative writing and discussions are all included in the seminar.

Manring says Avian Persuasion places an emphasis on a first exposure to the field as do other first-year seminars. “First-year seminars are not less intense, but you gain exposure, breadth and tools to work with by using new techniques such as powerful descriptions, the capacity to take things in, and to have more process than product.”

A visit to Braddock Bay Observatory on the shore of Lake Ontario near Rochester, N.Y., was among several field trips that students in the first year seminar participated. At Braddock Bay, workers track the migrations of birds in the fall and spring. HWS students were able to view birds up close as observatory staff recorded information about them, such as wing length or the amount of body fat. Once the information was recorded, some students held the birds and released them back into the wild.

First-year students, Michaela Criniti and Kirstie Meltzer, believe that birding has taught them to “slow down and be patient.”

Manring notes being able to identify birds in surrounding areas gives people a sense of place; especially if people know what birds surround their own house or hometown area.

“Birding is a natural eternal way to be connected to the earth. It also gives you a sense of place in the world,” she says. 

In the photo above, Assistant Professor of English Caroline Manring examines the human fascination with birds and the desire to fly with students in her first-year seminar, “The Avian Persuasion.”