Welcome to the Urban Bird Collective

About Us

Urban Bird Collective

The Urban Bird Collective was founded in 2018 to support birdwatchers of all different skill levels in leading walks in our own neighborhoods. We are working to create safe and welcoming spaces for all communities to come out and explore birding and the outdoors.

These communities include Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and the LGBTQ Communities and more. We want all communities to feel the benefits of being out in natural green spaces in our various Twin City neighborhoods and beyond. We are passionate about birdwatching and the protection of the environment. We are here to support you in developing your birding skills while we continue to improve our own.

Leaders

About Our Leaders

Monica Bryand

Why are you a part of the Collective?
I have been birding for almost 20 years and have always wanted more BIPOC folks and LGBT folks in the birding world, joining me on walks. I was fortunate to be able to learn from good birders and want to give back.

What is your favorite bird?
The cedar waxwing got me started. Before I started birding I didn’t know it existed.

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?
I love jumping in my kayak and Pig’s Eye Lake. On land, I love so many places, Minnehaha Falls.

What do you like best about being outside?
Slowing down and taking in all the sounds and sights.

What other activities do you enjoy?
I love kayaking, juggle, play racquetball 3 times a week, Gopher women’s sports, biking and my fur-babies (3 dogs)

Melissa Acosta Michener

What is your favorite bird?
Snowy Owl. But all owls really. 
 
What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?
Honestly, I truly enjoy seeing hawks and eagles along the sides of the roads and flying up above. It is a constant reminder to be kind to our urban landscape because other creatures can thrive and live in it too. 
 
What do you like most about being outside?
I love feeling the air against my skin, the dirt on my feet, and the birds signing and telling their stories. Above all else, there is something so beautiful about feeling alone outdoors yet reminded that you’re not by yourself.
 
What other activities do you enjoy?
I enjoy cooking, hosting parties, hiking with my husband and dog, and gardening.

Ebony Beck

Why are you a part of the Collective?
I am part of the collective because I love the outdoors and the opportunity to learn more about nature with a group of people who look like me and can relate to my need for exploration.

What is your favorite Bird?
I have always loved crows, there’s something about those inquisitive birds that I absolutely adore.

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?
I would say Minnehaha falls area has been my favorite so far, but I’m open to explore more places.

What do you like best about being outside?
The sounds, you could take a group of people and place them in the same spot in a park or wooded area and they would all hear something different. Outside there is a lack of static that gives me peace of mind.

What other activities do you enjoy?
I know a little about a lot of things, so I’m always trying something new. But, Kayaking, swimming and crafting would be my top three at the moment.

Quantina Beck Jones

Why are you a part of the Collective?
I’ve waited two decades in the TC for this type of experience! The invitation to head outdoors with people who look like me while also getting a chance to share my passion for all things green and nurturing for physical and mental health was just too good to pass up.

Favorite Bird?
Red Tailed hawks have a special place in my heart. Even if I have to fuss at them for making a go at my chickens from time to time. 😉

Favorite Twin Cities birding spot?
The Minnehaha Dog Park

Favorite thing about being outside?
Fresh Air and an uninhibited view of the sky.

Other interest or hobby other than birding?
When I’m not birding I’m can be found covered in sawdust or paint from whatever my latest DIY project is at that time, engrossed in all things tech based, or managing my little micro-farm here in the city.

Rowan Fakhoury

Why are you a part of the Collective?
The sweetness + settling of my nervous system and humanness that comes with spending time with nature, witnessing birds amongst fellow LGBTQIA BIPOC folx nourishing our collective ecosystems is inspiring + joyus.

What is your favorite bird?
Chickadee.

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?
Down by the Mississippi river shore-sides.

What do you like most about being outside?
Slowing down and appreciating the moment.

What other activities do you enjoy?
Oooftah so many. Being, laughing, plants, processes, moments, puppets, playing.

Wilmer Fernandez

Why are you a part of the Collective?
Growing up in Honduras and living in the Midwest sparked my interest in migratory connectivity of birds. I’m always pursuing collaboration between organizations in North/Neotropic region whose goals include bird habitat protection and promote role of avi-tourism in conservation. I’m also interested in showing a more diverse group of folks the benefits of the outdoors and understand what type of barriers prevent them from doing so.

What is your favorite bird?
Golden-winged Warbler

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?
The metro offers so much for birding; TS Roberts Bird Sanctuary

What do you like best about being outside?
It is relaxing to be in contact with Nature

What other activities do you enjoy?
I’m a soccer fan; Minnesota United FC supporter.

Hope Flanagan

Why are you a part of the Collective?
I am happy to be with others who find peace and joy at seeing our bird relatives. I am grateful that other people show concern and care for them.

What is your favorite bird?
I love many, many birds–it would be like choosing a child! I was so happy to see the evening grosbeak on our trip–it brought me back to my childhood.

What is your favorite birding spot?
I am always at Carlos Avery (I just left there) looking at birds and plants.

What do you like best about being outside?
I feel a sense of safety, calm and gratitude outside. There is a feeling of connection with all life when I can listen with my heart.

What other activities do you enjoy?
I love looking for plants–seeing how we truly live in a complex connected world of Life.

Dan Hawk Welter

Why are you a part of the Collective?
I became part of the UBC because I enjoy spending time outdoors – hiking, birding, camping, or just feeling the sun on my face or listening to the breeze through the trees. I’ve always loved being out in nature. When I’m in the woods or the bog or the prairie, I feel more complete, part of a larger something. Unfortunately, when I hike or bird around the state, I just don’t see many people of color or LGBTQ folks. Being a member of the UBC allows me to introduce other city dwellers to nature so they can see how inspiring and centering being outdoors can be. I also meet really cool people and we learn together while having fun and being outdoors.

What is your favorite bird?
I don’t have a favorite bird. That’s like asking who is your favorite child. My favorite bird is the one I’m hearing and looking for at the moment.

What is your favorite birding spot?

The Twin Cities is blessed with lots of great birding spots. I suppose my favorites would be Wood Lake in Richfield and Westwood Hills in St-Louis Park. They’ve got water and a varied habitat, so I always see mammals, birds, fungi, butterflies, and if I’m lucky, herps too.

What do you like best about being outside?
See #1.

What other activities do you enjoy?
Camping, photography, travel, canoeing, biking, reading, but mostly I work.

Loreen Lee

Why are you a part of the Collective?
I hope to share my joy and curiosity for the natural world with folks in our community.
I care about our environment and building accessibility in outdoor experiences.

Favorite Bird?
My favorite bird is the Barn Swallow because it reminds me of Grandpa.

Favorite Twin Cities birding spot?
There are many great places to going birding in the Cities! I enjoy Battle Creek Regional Park, which is just a hop, skip and jump away from my neighborhood.

Favorite thing about being outside?
Being outside gives me a chance to relax, observe, and explore the world around me.

Other interest or hobby other than birding?
I like cooking, painting, playing soccer and hanging with my bunnies.

Heather Lou

Why are you a part of the Collective?
I love be able to spend time with other nature and bird enthusiasts. I always am learning more and find it empowering to be in community together.

What is your Favorite Bird?
OH. There are so many- can I say water fowl and birds of prey?

What is your Favorite Twin Cities birding spot?
Lake Phalen and Battle Creek.

Favorite thing about being outside?
Being able to take in the world with all of my senses, and sharing what we learn from the animals and plants around us.

What other activities do you enjoy?
I’m also an artist!

Rofina Madaba Lutta

Why are you a part of the Collective?
I am a part of the Urban Bird Collective because seeing reflections of self in the places I love completes me.

What is your favorite bird?
My favorite bird is the cedar waxwing, I love their art deco look and their cooperative nature.

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?
My favorite birding spot is the Space Coast in Florida, but in the Twin Cities I like Elm Creek Park.

What do you like best about being outside?
I love the outdoors, especially if I can jump off a rock into a lake.

What other activities do you enjoy?
I enjoy my work, which is to support formerly long-term homeless people in their housing, but I wish I could do it from a canoe!

Elianne McMahon Miller

Tess Rizzardi

Why are you a part of the Collective?
I am a part of the Collective because I am an avid bird lover, bird watcher and want to be able to share my knowledge and learn from others.

What is your favorite bird?
My favorite bird is the Black-capped Chickadee! It’s two calls always makes me smile!

What is your favorite birding spot?
My favorite Twin Cities birding spot is my backyard and our neighborhood – the West Side of St. Paul!

What do you like best about being outside?
My favorite thing about being outside is to be able to enjoy what is all around us and forget about the stresses of life

What other activities do you enjoy?
My other interests or hobbies other than birding are taking care of our 3 dogs, working 5 sports at the University of Minnesota and playing racquetball!

Jane Shallow

Why are you a part of the Collective?
I am a part of the Urban Bird Collective because diversity is critical to our ongoing and future stewardship of our wild places.

What is your favorite bird?
My favorite bird is the chickadee. They are out and about on even the coldest days.

What is your favorite birding spot?
My favorite birding spot is along the St.Croix river in Minnesota.

What do you like best about being outside?
What I like being best about being outside is you are not inside, just kidding, I love the sun, wind, rain, trees, animals, rocks. I love it all.

What other activities do you enjoy?
I enjoy kayaking, home projects and genealogy.

Asha Shofner

Why are you a part of the Collective?
To connect with others who are historically underrepresented in outdoor spaces, and to learn more about birds of course.

What is your favorite bird?
Currently, Bald Eagles soaring over the Mississippi River.

What is your favorite birding spot?
Anywhere along the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities — most often Crosby Farm Regional Park, or other spots along the gorge.

What do you like best about being outside?
I love feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin. It is the most healing and beautiful experience for me.

What other activities do you enjoy?
Spending time in nature. Listening to and/or writing music. Trail running. Hot yoga. Cycling. Brewing and/or drinking IPA’s. Hanging out with my nephews. Quiet weekend mornings with my partner. Cell phone photography. Trying to understand my 15+ pound house cat, Slay Shoffner. Improving my motorcycling skills (not crashing). Leading Fiwygin Outdoors and connecting folks to nature through my paid gig.

Katie Rose Wesley

Why are you a part of the Collective?
I’m a part of the Urban Birding and Outdoor Collective for two reasons. I love our feathered friends and this group prioritizes nurturing access to nature for people like me, a queer~mixed~race~black~bean. I am happy to have found community who help me spread my wings.

What is your favorite Bird?
Fondness for each bird is fluid, but there is a special appreciation for the least bittern! Before I bought my first pair of binoculars, I encountered this bird sitting way up high on a branch of an elder tree. They were so quiet and still, camouflaged discreetly. I was so fascinated when, what I thought to be a small pudgy bird, extend its slender neck and double the length of its frame. After that, I invested in a pair of binoculars! The red-tail hawk is a close companion as well.

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?
One place I enjoy birding in the Twin Cities is known as Lake Harriet. The backyard is nice as well!

What do you like best about being outside?
• getting to know the land more intimately and feeling gratitude for outdoor connections that restore our bodies, our minds, our souls
• being with a diversity of species, the magic of wild seeds and regenerative dreams
• learning relationships and roles that build healthy ecosystems
• less likely to see buildings, statues, structures, street signs that uphold white supremacist symbols, systems and HIS story!

What other activities do you enjoy?

The outlet, movement, practice, crafting or medium, specifically, may fluctuate, but in my leisure time I dip into reservoirs of passion for the earth, plants, animals, freedom and livelihood for human beans, nourishing meals, music, art, magic, dance, connection, rooting and resting.

Sponsors

Our Support System

Audubon Society of St. Paul, St. Paul Minnesota

https://www.saintpaulaudubon.org/

Our mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity. St. Paul Auduboners, very simply, want to make the world a better place for birds, and by doing so, we hope to improve the world for all living things.

The Savaloja Fund of the Minnesota Ornithological Union

Much appreciation to the Savaloja Fund of MOU. The Urban Bird Collective has been founded to help launch and anchor our work. The Savaloja grants Individuals or organizations undertaking projects in Minnesota that increase our understanding of birds, promote preservation of birds and their natural habitats, or increase public interest in birds, including in minorities currently underrepresented in Minnesota’s birding community

Partners

Our Support System

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Vistor and Education Center, Bloomington, Minnesota

https://www.fws.gov/refuge/minnesota_valley/

The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is a 14,000-acre National Wildlife Refuge in eastern and central Minnesota. Located just south of the city of Minneapolis, it is one of fourteen Regional Priority Urban Wildlife Refuges in the nation.

Audubon Society of St. Paul, St. Paul Minnesota

https://www.saintpaulaudubon.org/

Our mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity. St. Paul Auduboners, very simply, want to make the world a better place for birds, and by doing so, we hope to improve the world for all living things.

Board of Directors

Our Support System

Monica Bryand, Executive Director

Monica Bryand started out her career as an accountant but was fortunate to spend over 25 years in the philanthropic community including 16 years at Headwaters Foundation for Justice. In 2015 Monica decided to make a major career and has taken on many consulting opportunities and followed her passion for bird photography working on a special project with  Audubon MN.

While leading and supporting the Urban Bird Collective, Monica is also serving in a co-leadership capacity with Voices for Racial Justice.

Monica believes in community service and has served on many boards and committees for over 25 years and currently volunteers with her local District Council the West Side Community Council and Audubon St. Paul’s Conservation Committee and serves on the board of HawkRidge.

Monica is a Latina that believes that it is critical to work across issues that affect us all and to work for systems change at the same time. Monica’s passions include environmental, women’s, people of color, and glbt issues. She feels extremely fortunate to pursue her passions for both people and the birds.

Shalini Gupta

Shalini Gupta has been involved with energy, climate and environmental policy – with a focus on building frontline community capacity – for the past 20 years. Her work is centered on solutions to our ecological crises that are grounded in people and place; and our economic and social histories.

Shalini’s past work experience includes research and policy positions at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, the Kiel Institute for the World Economy in Germany, and the Izaak Walton League of America’s Energy Program.  A former governor appointee to the Minnesota Next Generation Energy Board, Shalini has served as co-Chair of the Headwaters Foundation for Justice Board of Directors and on the founding leadership team of the Midwest Environmental Justice Network. Prior to starting her consulting work, Shalini was the co-founder and executive director of the Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy, an environmental justice research and policy organization.

Jill Meyer

Jill Meyer was lucky to have birding parents who shared with her the joy of being in natural spaces. Most of her regular activities extend outdoors: hiking, camping, biking, gardening, or sitting on the deck watching the backyard birds. Jill paints and draws, and the main subjects are…birds!

But the themes are sacred places, environmental protection, awareness of climate change, a different angle of looking at the natural world. Professionally, Jill is a data geek consultant for non-profits. As Jill inches towards retirement, her wife and her are dreaming of all of the places we will take in with their pop-up camper.

In the meantime, it is fabulous to just go outside the front door in Minneapolis neighborhood to see what nature holds.

Tom Thao

Tom Thao is a community member, organizer, and activist in Minneapolis and St Paul. He has previously worked as an organizer for Move Minnesota a St. Paul based non profit working around transportation putting people first and as a Health Educator with Ramsey County Public Health informing community about health concerns and include and elevate community voices at County wide decision-making
tables.

Tom is passionate about the outdoors whether it’s  boundary Water trips, community bike rides or a relaxing walk around the lakes, he’s excited to be present in nature. He is also committed normalizing #blackandbrownpeopleoutdoors.