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The Pennswood Birders: Beautifying Campus One Bird at a Time

Posted on August 30, 2016 in General

Photos courtesy of Yoma Ullman, Pennswood resident.

email1cr1fDSC00152Many people call Pennswood Village their home. But, did you know that the campus is home to more than just human residents?

Within the community’s natural surroundings, you can also find a variety of avian residents, including blue jays, cardinals, sparrows, wrens, finches, woodpeckers, robins, mockingbirds, chickadees, bluebirds, and more. And the Pennswood Birders can tell you all about them.

“Many people enjoy watching birds,” says Nan Cooper, chair of the Pennswood Birders, “so we wanted to make the campus more attractive to birds.”

The Pennswood Birders started in 2008, and since then the group has developed the Bluebird Trail and the Bird Sanctuary for residents to enjoy the beautiful sights of birds, without having to leave campus.

The Bluebird Trail


Ann Baker, Pennswood Birder

The Bluebird Trail is a paved path that winds through the meadow on the Pennswood campus. Along the path are 23 nesting boxes designed to encourage the nesting of bluebirds. They look like bird houses, but have tops that flip open so members of the Pennswood Birders can observe the birds’ activities within the boxes.

The goal of the bluebird trail is to nurture the campus bluebird population, attract bluebirds from other areas, and protect nests from possible threats.

“We monitor the boxes by opening the tops once every three days,” says Ann Baker, a member of Pennswood Birders. “We keep records on each box and record what is in it. The bluebird population has really been increasing.”

“One thing I’m really proud of, is that we don’t have the nuisance birds,” adds Anne, referring to birds that are known for their destructive behaviors, such as overtaking nests and claiming unused nesting boxes.

The Bird Sanctuary

fall 3 2015 Yoma Ullman“My main project is to maintain the bird sanctuary,” says Nan. “We wanted to make the campus more attractive to birds, and provide an area on campus that everyone could visit.”

The Bird Sanctuary is an open, outdoor space that features a birdbath, feeders, and benches to sit and enjoy watching the birds. Members of the Pennswood Birders maintain the sanctuary by keeping the feeders and birdbath filled and ready for their brightly colored guests.

The Pennswood Birders also plan to introduce butterflies to the sanctuary in the near future, to add to the colorful scene. They will add plants to the sanctuary that attract butterflies, such as milkweed plants, and ask residents to add these plants to their outdoor patios and balconies.

Birding Field Trips

email1cr1fDSC00150The Pennswood Birders also take many trips off campus to local nature preserves, sanctuaries, and museums. The group recently organized a day trip to the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove in Audubon, Pennsylvania, a bird conservatory. They have also made trips to Duke Farms, and plan to include some birding on their upcoming trip to Cape May, NJ.

The group also recently visited a book signing by David Sibley, ornithologist and author of The Sibley Guide to Birds, at a nearby nature preserve. His book is considered to be one of the most comprehensive bird guides available today.

Start Birding

email4x4cropvivfix1361“I became interested in birding when I was raising my family and working part time,” says Ann Baker. “After I came to Pennswood, I had a lot of leisure time so I got involved with starting the sanctuary.”

If you want to start birding, Ann and Nan recommend investing in a good pair of binoculars so you can see the tiny details of a bird without being too close. Nan also recommends setting up a bird feeder in an area visible from your window, preferably a squirrel-proof one. While squirrels are certainly entertaining, they can eat much of the seed that’s intended for the birds.

“I enjoy birding because I can do it from my window,” says Nan. “I get a lot of enjoyment out of seeing the beautiful colors and watching their coming and going. It’s quite entertaining.”

For more information on groups like this at Pennswood Village, give us a call at 866-740-4977.