Birding Club Takes Flight – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Birding Club Takes Flight

HWS welcomes the HWS Birding Club to campus, a college chapter of the National Audubon Society.

With expert ornithologist and Professor of Biology Mark Deutschlander as an advisor and with course offerings such as “Ornithology” and “Migration and Animal Navigation,” the new HWS Birding Club has quickly taken off, bringing together a community of researchers and enthusiasts.   

“We have such a wide range of experience levels in the club, ranging from people like Davey Walters (Vice President of HWS Birding Club) who has been birding since they could walk, to people who’ve never even picked up binoculars before. Giving these new birders the basic skills they need to ID in the field makes me a better birder too, and watching them light up when they successfully recognize a strange bird for the first time is absolutely amazing,” says HWS Birding Club Founder and President Kate Marthens ’22.

Marthens established the club after taking a “Birds in our Landscape,” an environmental studies course offered during Maymester and J-term, with Deutschlander. Like many people, Marthens found birding to be a safe and freeing activity during the pandemic.  

“I took the Maymester course on birding…and kind of fell in love with it,” Marthens shares. “I founded the club in the hope of sharing that love with other students on campus and creating opportunities for conservation and bird-friendly living on campus and in the Geneva community.”

Besides birding, the club is establishing birdhouses on the Colleges’ arts campus.  Once erected, the untreated pine birdhouses will be a suitable environment for bluebirds returning from migration to the Upstate New York and Canada area. The project is a collaboration between students taking woodshop in the Art and Architecture Department, the Office of Sustainability and HWS Birding Club.

Birders Flock to Montezuma

While amateur birding exploded during the pandemic, Hobart and William Smith have always been a prime destination for the activity, in large part because of the campus’ close proximity to Montezuma National Wildlife Preserve and the Montezuma Audubon Center.

Recently, the HWS Birding Club went on a group excursion to the area and spotted an American Bald Eagle.

Members of the HWS Birding Club also participated in and won the annual Montezuma Muck Race, a 24-hour challenge to identify as many birds as possible within the bounds of the Montezuma refuge. The Muck Race is a fundraiser for the preservation and upkeep of the wildlife refuge.

To win, Vice President David Walters ’23 and other club members identified 135 bird species in 24-hours, including a Lark Sparrow, the first sighting of the species ever made in the refuge.  

Inclusive Birding

A founding principle of the HWS Birding Club is to make birding accessible to everyone. In addition to welcoming novices, the HWS Birding Club has secured funding from the Campus Activities Board to provide funding for birding equipment and travel expenses.

On Saturday, Nov. 13 at 1 p.m. in the Finger Lakes Welcome Center, Deutschlander will give a talk on bird readings this year and birding. His presentation and activity will focus on using eBird, the Merlin app for bird identification, and BirdCast, a online resource for forecasting and observing migration. The HWS Birding Club will join the event to support attendees learning how to use binoculars, scopes and The Cornell Lab’s Project FeederWatch. The event is sponsored by Geneva Reads.

Community focused, members of the HWS Birding Club also volunteered for HWS Day of Service, where they built raised beds and helped prepare community gardens for winter.