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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Celebrate Urban Birds!" program offers mini-grants

I love the way one good thing leads to another. For last week's blog post about hummingbirds I contacted Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology for permission to use a photo. My gracious contact there, Patricia Leonard, just emailed me about an exciting opportunity.

"Celebrate Urban Birds!" is a nationwide program designed to bring people together through planned events to learn more about birds in their urban environments, to appreciate and celebrate their presence, and ultimately to help them. It focuses on education, the "greening" of cities, bird-friendly gardening, and even the arts.

Visual art, music, literature and drama all bring a deeper awareness. This program involves citizens with the world of birds through celebrating their beauty and significance in our lives, and it incorporates, supports, and encourages art on many levels. That even includes an art challenge, and prizes. Information can be found on the website, along with an abundance of resources for planning, promoting and making the most of your own group event.

It sounds like a lot of fun but there's also a more serious side. That's why Cornell offers "mini-grants" ranging from $100 to $500, to help those planning events. (Applications can be filled out online but the deadline is February 15, 2009.) Researchers need our help on a local level to learn more about how well America's urban birds are doing. Birds trying to survive in cities live in close contact with humans. Every day our lifestyles and choices seriously impact whatever habitat they can find, whether it's a rooftop, park, or your own backyard. As "citizen scientists," participants in the Celebration are asked to spend a mere ten minutes observing birds in their communities and gathering information, then easily submitting their data online. By doing so we can make valuable contributions to this important effort.

You can help. Here's a chance to plan a fun and worthwhile event for your club, organization, business, school, church, community center, senior center, day care, or even a group of neighbors. What could be more perfect for kids? This is also a great idea for parents who are homeschooling. It's easy and can be as simple or involved as you choose. You'll find every bit of information you could ever need, plus inspiring ideas, examples, and so much more on the "Celebrate Urban Birds!" website. Just by registering you can receive a FREE celebration kit (while supplies last). Each kit contains a welcome letter, two gorgeous and informative posters, a sticker, a simple data form, and a packet of sunflower seeds to plant in your garden or container. (Note: Although the kits are offered at no cost, any donations made are very much appreciated and help to perpetuate this important program, and can be made online.)

Let's get started. First, order your kit and read the website, then have fun planning your own unique way of celebrating. The ten minutes spent gathering data to report can make a difference for urban birds. Next time you see a pigeon on the street, or that little songbird chirping and looking for crumbs near your outdoor table at a coffee shop, try to imagine city life without them. Remember how we all share this world and how much happier life is when we practice being good neighbors. Help make your city greener as a way of encouraging birds. They keep us connected with nature, even in the midst of concrete and congestion and their presence in our lives is truly something to celebrate.

Note: Please spread the word by sharing this Good Life Northwest blog post with your friends or anyone who might be interested. Thank you.

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