5C Birding Club takes eager avian adventurers under its wing

A Great Horned Owl spotted during one of the Birding Club’s walks. (Courtesy Richard Mawhorter)

If you’ve ever been captivated by the hoots of the owls that inhabit Marston Quad, or by the quails running through Pitzer’s campus, you might consider looking into the 5C Birding Club. Anyone interested in learning more about Claremont’s bird population can enjoy weekly bird walks guided by these 5C students.

“Birding usually refers to a higher level of bird watching with more expertise,” club president Simon Westley PZ ’19 said. “Essentially, birding can be keeping lists of what species you see, maybe even how many individuals of each species you see.”

Birding occurs during the club’s bird walks, in which groups of four to five students equip themselves with binoculars and record bird sightings throughout the Claremont Colleges. Occasionally, groups also explore within the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, less than a mile north of the colleges.

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The club also engages with the larger Claremont community by partnering with local nonprofit conservation and rehabilitation organizations, like the Pomona Valley Audubon Society and Wild Wings of California, to hold events in the area.

“[The organizations] are just trying to get the community to know about nature and to care about nature, and to care about conservation and animal individuals,” Westley said.

Westley said the club’s activities also further research efforts at the 5Cs: “The list keeping [of bird species] we do is helpful for citizen science, too.”

Simon Westley PZ ’19, the current president of the 5C Birding Club, admires some woodpeckers on Pomona’s Marsten quad Feb 6. (Chloe Ortiz • The Student Life)

The club’s Facebook group highlights surveys that allow members to offer avian information for existing 

research about bird plumage. The group also includes Pomona biology and neuroscience professor Rachel Levin, who recently posted on behalf of biology students looking for specific bird sightings.

Despite the wide outreach and implications of the 5C Birding Club, its members stress the club’s easygoing aura, and consider that specific attitude beneficial to their experiences.

“Often, birding can get really competitive with people who are older and more serious about it,” said Sunny Rhoades PO ’20, a birding club officer. “5CBC is low-key. It’s not a big time commitment so it allows you to get out there and do whatever you want and ask questions.”

Westley said the club’s small size makes it very accessible.

“If you don’t have a chance to go off-campus and, say, go to Joshua Tree, it’s really nice to focus on nature at home and form an appreciation for what’s around you,” Westley said.

Rhoades and Westley both spoke frequently about the idea of appreciating your surroundings. They consider it a key factor in the overall charm of the club.

Westley on Marsten quad Feb. 6. (Chloe Ortiz • The Student Life)

“You can identify a bird, and be like, ‘Okay, I found this bird,’ and then check it off the list, or you can say, ‘This is such an interesting bird. Why does it behave this way, and why is it here, and when does it leave?’” Rhoades said. “So there are definitely two ways to approach birding: you can look at birds and count them off, or you can actually care about the animal you’re observing and the space they inhabit, and I think learning about the latter has been something really good for me.”

Westley echoed that sentiment: “Birding can give you an appreciation for wildlife that’s even just on campus. If

you go to Marston Quad and see some great horned owls, you might respect the campus a little bit more.”

One final selling point: “It’s like Pokémon, but it’s real,” Westley said. “So if you are at all interested in Pokémon, you might as well just look at the real-world version.”

The group’s event information can be found on their Facebook page, 5C Birding Club, and the next community birding event, Family Bird Festival, will be held at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden Sunday, Feb. 17, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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