Connecting with our Neighbirds and Beyond: Thoughts from the Urban Nestwork Bird Experience

Urban Nestwork affiliate Anna Kraulis is passionate about birds, rewilding, ocean swimming, and outdoor adventures. Below, we get a second update from the Urban Nestwork, a project team funded through the SFU Student Social Innovation Fund.
How do we cultivate meaningful kinship with other species? How do we fit into this notion of “rewilding”…can we rewild ourselves? These are some of the questions that prompted us to design and host “The Urban Nestwork Bird Experience,” as part of the Wild About Vancouver outdoor education festival. We knew it would not be a traditional bird watching tour, nor do we consider ourselves bird experts. Rather, our goal was to create an experience to help participants engage more deeply with the natural world. Lanie Fung and I, in co-ordination with Urban Nestwork founders Azlan Nur Saidy and Nathan Ross, set about creating an afternoon that would combine experiential activities with group dialogue.
To be honest, we had no idea how the activity part would go! Getting adult participants from across the city, as well as the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, The Honourable Judith Guichon, to explore their playful side by responding to bird “cues” (i.e. dropping up and down in tandem with the diving ducks in the pond), climbing over and under rocks to create a “perch” in which to observe birds in the canopy, and so on are not really everyday things for most of us. In the end, we were relieved to hear that people actually dug getting to explore their playful side and respond to the birds’ movements. Some mentioned it made them feel more like active participants in the rhythm of their surroundings.

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The participants diving with the ducks by the pond.

This brings us back to developing relationships with our “neighbirds” and other wildlife, even when we are living in an urban environment. A challenge we face as humans is expanding our notion of community to include all of the non-human species we share this city with. How do we do this? Getting outdoors for events like this one is one small start, but an important step nonetheless! We can observe ourselves in relationship to these species – how do we affect them, and how do they affect us? Coming back to the rewilding idea, we hope this event inspired people to think about the ways physicality and embodiment can enrich their experiences in nature. Learning goes beyond the intellectual.
James MacKinnon, the writer behind the introduction to the Vancouver Parks Board’s Rewilding Action Plan, says that “When we value nature more, we work harder to reverse its declines. Reverse the decline in variety and abundance, and nature becomes steadily more fascinating, more spectacular, more meaningful.” This is a positive feedback cycle I can get behind! I’m thinking about how rewilding needs to come from within us as much as creating spaces and environments, for other species to co-exist alongside us. Getting back to our physicality as humans, being aware, alert and mindful, noticing our bird co-habitants and taking steps to be more bird-friendly…these are important steps if we are to flourish as part the natural world.

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Together we found a “perch” to look at birds in a new way.

Interested in being more bird-friendly in your life? Check out:

  • Fatal Light Awareness Program: They have some great tips on how to reduce bird-window collisions.
  • Urban Nestwork: By ordering and building a nestbox for your home, you can help increase habitat for native bird species and connect with other bird lovers!

Thanks to the avian inhabitants of Jericho beach for sharing your home with us for a little while. And thank you to the Urban Nestwork for providing a vehicle for this event to happen. Here’s to the next time!