By Gabriela Salvador
A budding ornithologist has installed bird feeders on William Paterson University’s campus to make the feathered creatures more prominent and easily visible to students, faculty, and staff.
Dave Mannherz, a senior majoring in communication and studying media production, has placed two bird feeders in the area between Hobart Hall and Gaeds Pond, and plans to add two more to the area this week.
He hopes that adding the feeders to the campus landscape will “give [people] an opportunity to see some of the nicer things on campus that tend to be overlooked.”
“You don’t really see [the birds] when you’re trying to park your car or when you’re running to class, but when you have time there are plenty of benches around campus which can give you a chance to see something you might not otherwise,” said Mannherz.
Mannherz said that he set up the feeders in the middle of winter. He anticipates that the feeders, stocked with a mix of sunflower and millet seeds, will attract both migratory and local birds.
“There is a lot of biodiversity here,” said Mannherz. “Eventually, I’m going to add suet cakes to attract woodpeckers.”
He believes that the feeders are a good way to expose commuter students who live in urban environments to the variety of wildlife that makes the WPU campus their home.
“I’m lucky that I live out in the woods so I always had a lot of birds and animals around me, but I didn’t realize until I put the feeders up and a lot of people from urban areas—Paterson, Jersey City, Newark, Kearny—were asking me about them because they hadn’t seen more than a pigeon or sparrow before,” said Mannherz. “They hadn’t seen a cardinal or chickadee or tufted titmouse. I thought it would be a good way to expose them to birds they wouldn’t have a chance to see where they’re from.”
Mannherz has developed an interest in birds in the past three years, and his experience as a bird watcher led him to choose the edge of Gaeds Pond as an ideal location to place the feeders.
“I was always walking around [Hobart Hall and Gaeds Pond] in between and before classes and always saw birds around and knew it would be a good spot because there’s a wall of windows at Hobart Hall—which I call the Grand Hobart Concourse—which overlook the area,” said Mannherz. “The professors’ offices also overlook this area.”
Mannherz has incorporated maintenance of the feeders into his daily routine.
“I [care for the feeders] usually first thing I get there in the morning, usually at 8 a.m.,” said Mannherz.
Mannherz’s interest in birds developed after an ornithologist friend of his illustrated a bird watching book. Mannherz used the book as a springboard to learn about birds and their natural habitats.
“Between [the book] and the hiking and a few vacations in a few really well-preserved areas, I was able to spot birds and identify birds from their calls,” said Mannherz. “I like to go to wildlife sanctuaries and places like the Raptor Trust in Basking Ridge, which rehabs birds of prey and releases them back into the wild.”
“I started to finally see pretty much all the common birds, then some of the birds that are native to N.J. but are hard to find, and a few that migrate through. That’s pretty cool.”