05.17.17

Bird Call

Daniel Mendel
English Teacher for the Upper Grades Program, Upper Division, Avenues: The World School

It was nearly two years ago now that a small group of soon-to-be birders set out on a mission: to learn as much as they could about birding (otherwise known as “bird-watching”) in the short window of time after the sun rises and the school day begins. So on a cold spring morning in 2015, a team of five sophomores, led by seasoned birder Mrs. Marcia Tingley and birding dilettante Mr. Mendel, met at the 81st Street entrance of Central Park West. What they found there was the start of something special, and what would come to be known as Avenues’ enigmatic Birding Club.

Birding is a peaceful way to start the day, say practitioners.

Birding is a peaceful way to start the day, say practitioners.

It wasn’t as though additional students and faculty weren’t invited and encouraged – they were. But the dawn start-time was a deterrent to many. Others simply wondered what could be so fascinating about birds (not surprising given New Yorkers’ often cramped relationship with pigeons).

When asked why this particular group of students found it within themselves to “bird” so early, birder Sydney Judge, class of 2017, said, “it’s a really peaceful way to start the day.” Her classmate Emmy Cohen followed up, “I enjoy the birding part, but it’s more about getting into the park. It’s also nice to start the day elsewhere. It makes it feel like school is just another part of your day [rather than all of it].”

Though the Birding Club hasn’t grown much in size over the years (this year’s earlier school start time didn’t help), the birders themselves have. They’re seniors now, soon to graduate, and more knowledgeable about bird-watching than ever before.

"The birds are very fleeting. They're there one second and it feels like it's just you and them. And then the next second they're gone."

“The birds are very fleeting. They’re there one second and it feels like it’s just you and them. And then the next second they’re gone.”

During a recent visit from Mrs. Tingley (who moved to Arizona at the beginning of the school year), the group got together one last time before the seniors head off to college. It was another cold spring day – Wednesday, April 19, to be exact – and having been with the group since the beginning, I was feeling overly nostalgic; I wondered what would become of our club. I turned to Clara Leverenz, class of 2017, and asked what it is about the birds that makes watching them special. She took a minute, and then she said, “The birds are very fleeting. They’re there one second and it feels like it’s just you and them. And then the next second they’re gone.”