By Josmar Marquez
Celebrate Urban Birds (CUBs) is launching the 2021 Minigrants! This year they are focused on promoting events that center Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.
You might ask, how can you continue to celebrate birds with your community despite COVID? Here we share a few ideas.
We know that these can be difficult times for an organization, group or person to create in-person events to celebrate birds around the world! So, we’d like to share some tools and ideas to create virtual CUBs events or in-person events with few people (only when possible).
The important thing is to keep our communities and each other safe while continuing to be active in celebrating birds and our communities.
Here are some examples of activities that you can organize from the safety of your home with your community.
Virtual festivals (online)
You might be thinking, how can we possibly create a bird festival or community event in these times? Think virtual! In 2020 we saw many examples of wonderful virtual festivals all around the world. You can organize a festival during a single day or it could span several days. Platforms like Facebook, Zoom, or Google Meet can work well – especially if you link it with other platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp, etc.
Plan ahead. It is easy to connect people from different regions of your country or continent. Begin, by choosing a theme, naming your festival, and creating a plan to promote it widely!
It doesn’t matter where you are located. If you are in Latin America, WhatsApp groups are a great way to get neighborhood groups talking about environmental issues and encourage reconnection with nature.
But if you want to do something more ambitious then you’ll need to do lots of planning ahead of time. You’ll need to take into account several things to carry out a successful virtual event:
1) You must have stable internet access to be able to support bigger virtual events, such as conferences or talks with guests. This is especially important if you want to do it Live. But, you can also record the presentations and then upload them to a YouTube channel or Facebook page.
2) It’s important to do a lot of promotion ahead of time. A good way to reach more people is to cross-promote across many different platforms. Make your promotions colorful, interesting, and catchy! We also suggest that you look for collaborators so that they too can share your promotions. Remember to let Celebrate Urban Birds know well ahead of time of your event- so they can also promote your event widely!
3) Make your festival a participatory event! Creative artistic contests, bird photography showcases, and promote birdwatching from home! Be creative and find the best strategies so that more people are able to take part and be engaged in the Festival.
4) Remember that the most important thing is to reconnect with each other, learn from each other, learn about birds, justice, and community, and promote connection with nature and conservation.
Here you can see an example of the Online festival: https://celebrateurbanbirds.org/community/events/festival-of-migratory-birds-and-shorebirds-of-venezuela/ç
The arts and culture as a tool to promote Justice Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in birdwatching and ornithology:
Highlight storytelling, culture, and community connection with birds
Your virtual event can center on your community’s historical connection with birds via culture, storytelling, song, dance, poetry and the arts. Create a space where you can share the knowledge that already exists in your community. Interview elders, share stories, create a virtual mural, sing lullabies, explore dance, and more. Make it a space that honors your community’s knowledge and history.
The arts are a great ally at this time! Invite your community to do artistic work, but do not limit it! Art is very broad – keep it that way! You have many options. For example: nature-focused poetry slams or contests, song or music composing opportunities, bird song imitation contests, dance or choreography opportunities, sculpture, painting, and photography galleries, and so much more.
Promote these events by inviting participants to share their creative work via photos or videos. Use hashtags if you use social networks such as Instagram, Facebook or twitter. For example: #CelebrateUrban Birds #createforbirds #ArtandBirds
Create spaces for sharing knowledge and expertise
Use your virtual event to share knowledge about birds, history, culture, biology, policy and more! Bring on speakers to share their knowledge of birds, conservation, and community. Explore equity and justice in birdwatching and conservation. Bring on community elders, farmers, artists and others who have a had strong connections with birds and the land. Invite staff who work in citizen science and science institutions to share their perspectives as well. Create a space for youth to share their worldviews and ideas for the future.
Birdwatching from the safety of your home
You can organize birdwatching events, where all participants observe birds from the safety of their homes. Encourage participants to observe birds from a window, patio, terrace or a nearby park or natural area (if it is possible to do so safely). Global Big Day 2020 is a great example of this kind of event. There was a lot of participation in Global Big Day and many people watched birds and collected data from their homes. This was also true for the Great Backyard Bird Count 2021.
For this kind of event, we suggest you create a virtual invitation, using social networks, text messaging and emails. Create a promotional image, indicate the time and day of your event, and share it with participants, acquaintances and friends.
Invite participants to upload their observations on Celebrate Urban Birds but, make sure that participants follow the instructions: https://celebrateurbanbirds.org/cub/instructions – and take some time to teach (virtually) about the 16 focal species!
Ask participants to explore Merlin to learn to identify birds! If Celebrate Urban Birds does not have a species list/data entry for your region, use Merlin.org and ebird.org or just make a list. In our downloadable materials you can obtain species tally sheets, as well as focal bird guides for some countries and regions. See materials: https://celebrateurbanbirds.org/learn/birds/
Virtual tours of parks and natural areas
Finally, if you have very good internet connection, you can go on a virtual tour of a local park or natural area, and share it on social networks. These tours can last up to 30 minutes or if you prefer you can record it and then edit.
Make it fun, simple, and welcoming to non-birders!
Make your Celebrate Urban Birds virtual event a space to share knowledge, ideas, creativity, and history. But, most important of all, take time to center equity and explore injustice in birdwatching and ornithology.
Apply for a Celebrate Urban Birds Equity, Birds, and Culture mini-grant here: https://celebrateurbanbirds.org/blog/announcing-the-celebrate-urban-birds-equity-birds-and-culture-2021-mini-grants/