After losing SAC funding six years ago, the Penn Birdwatching Society is slated to resume normal activity this fall. Their removal from campus shortly followed the controversial tarring and feathering of one Bon Appétit worker in the spring of 2007. “Though that was certainly a regrettable incident,” former Society president and alumnus Will Hampton has said, “I’m so excited that all our avian enthusiasts will finally be able to get back out there and do what they love to do.”
Prior to their brief hiatus, the Society enjoyed a prominent presence on Penn’s campus for over seventy years, inspiring many to reconnect with the natural world. “Three or four times a week we’d lead bird-watching excursions,” Hampton says. “We’d usually get around twenty, twenty-five people out there with binoculars. It was a really good time.” Popular observation points included the grassy area just inside Lower Quad Gate, the maple trees outside of the Radian and the courtyard in the hospital compound. “Usually we’d see anywhere in the neighborhood of five or six birds during the two-hour long trips. I remember once I saw a whole flock of geese, that was really special,” Hampton recalls. “It was just such a relaxing break from the hustle of the city, you really got to observe nature the way it was intended.”
Though they initially received some backlash from current Bon Appétit workers, the Society is already settling back into campus life comfortably. “We had around 370 people sign up at the Activities Fair, we’re expecting a few more to show to our first GBM,” says current junior and vice-president Jesse Mann. “I’m just so honored to be a part of this decades old tradition. It’s really been such a fixture on Penn’s campus and I’m so glad the Society’s finally back.” With the fall coming, many birds are expected to begin their migrations south, making West Philadelphia a prime location from which to observe many different species. Mann has described Penn’s campus as “the Audubon Dream,” precisely for this reason. Potential new bird-watchers should definitely expect intense observation and discussion as well as a lively social experience. “Though binoculars aren’t required, they’re definitely encouraged,” Mann says. “Other than that, just bring a good attitude, an open mind and a copy of The Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding.” Membership will be discussed at the first GBM to be held at 8 pm on Thursday September 12th in JMHH 345.