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 a welcoming and inclusive space 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.

Mission and Vision

Our Mission statement

The Urban Bird Collective creates a welcoming and inclusive space that centers BIPOC and the LGBTQIA+ communities in order to realize and reap the benefits of being out in the natural environment while building birdwatching skills. In addition, to do this work, we are active stewards of the environment who protect habitats for not only the birds, but for all living things.

 

How we do this:

We welcome people with all levels of experience birding into a nonjudgmental and inclusive space.

We mentor participants and each other as lifelong learners.

We foster passion and stewardship for the environment.

We respect the gifts and purpose of all living things in the environment as a way of healing and self-care.

We offer collaborative and shared opportunities with other organizations that align with our values.

We are an organization that is led by and for the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities, and we will advocate for equity, diversity and inclusion in the natural outdoor communities.

We are community scientists.

 

Vision statement

The Urban Bird Collective envisions a world in which BIPOC and the LGBTQIA+ communities enjoy the benefits of birding and the outdoors and feel safe and included at all levels of organizations and agencies that engage people in the outdoor environment.

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 and building a more diverse, inclusive birding community. Sometimes we have to build new systems to ensure BIPOC folks feel safe. I love sharing my passion for birding with others. 

What is your favorite bird?
The cedar waxwing got me started. Before I started birding I didn’t know it existed and then the world just opened up to the amazing birds we have in MN and right here in the Twin Cities. 

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?
I love jumping in my kayak and Pig’s Eye Lake. On land, I have too many to count. Tops are the MN River Valley Wildlife Refuge (visitor center, Bass Ponds, Old Cedar), Afton State Park, Crosby. In greater MN I love Hawk Ridge and Sax-zim Bog.

What do you like best about being outside?
Slowing down and taking in all the sounds and sights and forgetting about the day to day work for just an hour or two. I never know what I’ll see that day and most times it’s awesome, no matter what birds or animals I see.

What other activities do you enjoy?
I love kayaking, juggling, I play racquetball 3 times a week, pickleball, Gopher women’s sports, biking and being with my fur-babies (2 dogs, 1 cat)

Melissa Acosta Michener

Why are you a part of the Collective?
The UBC creates an environment where I can show up completely as I am. I know that I’m surrounded by talented, smart, authentic individuals who come from various backgrounds. Together we get to explore new places and meet new people and that’s as good as it gets!

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.

Ethan Bott

Why are you a part of the Collective?
I believe that being outside and connecting with nature is so important to our mental and physical health. The Urban Bird’s Collective of creating safe places for BIPOC and LGBT folks to be outside and enjoy birding is vital and is something I am passionate about. The outdoors has been an exclusive club and I hope to change that narrative with the UBC.

What is your favorite Bird?
The White-breasted Nuthatch is my favorite bird with their peculiar behavior, inquisitive nature, and their beautiful colors. They are a bright spot during the cold winter months and it always lifts my spirits when I see one!

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?
I really enjoy the T.S. Roberts Bird Sanctuary as that was my outlet and place to bike and escape to during the first year of COVID. But I love the many other spots that are just as vibrant and diverse in the middle of the city! Urban birding is the best!

What do you like best about being outside?
I love being outside because it allows me to escape to another world where I can focus all my energy and thoughts on nature. I can let go of the worries of life and just immerse myself. I love learning and seeing the wonderful intricacies of nature and the wildlife is just the cherry on top!

What other activities do you enjoy?

I love playing board games, cross country skiing, and documenting other awesome wildlife like dragonflies or bumble bees. I am also an avid disc golfer and have yet to discover a way to play disc golf in spring while also birding!

Jensen bigelow

Why are you a part of the Collective? 

I recently moved to the Twin Cities and joining a UBC walk was one of the first things I put on my to do list. Since graduating college I’ve moved around quite a bit, but my love for birding has remained constant. UBC is unlike any birding group I had joined before, focusing on the diversity of both birds and people. It was people who got me into birding and I would love to help be that support for new birders!  

What is your favorite bird? 

I also can’t choose a favorite, but now as I am writing this answer, the most recent bird that made me smile was an American Coot.  

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?  

The place I have been birding the most so far is at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, mainly the visitor center feeders, Bass Ponds, and Old Cedar Ave Bridge. I’m looking forward to visiting more places with UBC.  

What do you like best about being outside?   

I enjoy being outside because I just do. I know it makes me feel good and that is enough for me to keep going back outside. Saying good morning to the dandelions, feeling the wind twirl my hair, following an ant across the sidewalk, and being reminded to be intentional about where I step are just a few things I enjoy in nature.  

What other activities do you enjoy?  

Here are a few things I enjoy and a favorite of each: 1. Playing board games – Pandemic 2. Watching movies – Whisper of the Heart 3. Going for walks – anywhere with trees 4. Baking – cookies 5. Drinking tea – lemon ginger. 

Ari Kim

Why are you a part of the Collective?  
I have always enjoyed birding as a hobby and a way to connect with other bird nerds. Being a queer and BIPOC individual, I was ecstatic to discover the Urban Birding Collective here in the Twin Cities. The opportunity to help cultivate such an inclusive space for all communities to feel empowered to get outside and enjoy nature through birding is one that I am so honored to be a part of. I am here both to learn and share my knowledge and passion for conservation and of course for birds!

What is your favorite bird? 
My favorite bird has to be the quirky American woodcock.

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?
My favorite birding spot in the TC is Theodore Wirth Regional Park.

What do you like most about being outside? 
I enjoy being in nature because it provides me an opportunity to slow down and regain perspective on the world we live in.

What other activities do you enjoy?
I enjoy reading, playing volleyball, cooking, and going on adventures with my wife, Blandine, and dog, Blue.  

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.

Daniel Torres Hawkins

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.

PATRICIA O’LEARY​

Why are you a part of the Collective? 

My favorite part of the Collective is socializing. I make a new friend every time I show up to an event. Everyone is welcoming and willing to help when I’m having a hard time spotting a bird.

What is your favorite bird?

The Scarlet Tanager. I saw it early on when I started birding. I had never seen a bird so bright and I didn’t think I would see it in Minnesota. It was during Warbler Weekend 2023.

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot? 

I enjoy walking through the Eloise Butler Garden at Theo Wirth Park.

What do you like best about being outside?  

I like the sun and its warmth during summer. I also enjoy listening to the sounds of nearby birds. It gives me something to focus on.

What other activities do you enjoy? 

I enjoy playing the ukulele, skating (ice skating and roller skating), cooking, baking, and stretching.

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!

Lyn Birr

Why are you a part of the Collective?
I absolutely love nature, birding and being outdoors. I think it is important to have a space where diverse individuals are able to be exposed to and have access in a safe and inviting environment.

What is your favorite bird?
Bobolink. It is a striking bird with a very interesting song. Unfortunately, with habitat loss it becomes harder to find but I’m always thrilled when I find a new location around the city where it is still hanging on.

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?
Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area. It is a vast area with so many different possible ways to enjoy the outdoors in all seasons.

What do you like best about being outside?
It heals the mind and soul. It is a great place to just relax and absorb the world around you. Everything is new everyday; even if you walk the same block everyday. If you take the time to look and listen, you can find new and interesting things to see, hear or smell.

What other activities do you enjoy?
Camping, hiking, woodworking and gardening.

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.

Jean Thompson

Why are you a part of the Collective? 
I joined the collective because I was really wanting to be a part of this community — it is unlike any of the other birding/outdoor groups I’ve been involved with. I love seeing, learning, and trying to protect birds and it feels good to be around people who feel the same way. Being around people who are new to birding is also exciting because it’s both an opportunity to learn from them, and to teach.

 What is your favorite bird? 
This really depends on the day. I have an affinity for Kestrels, Northern Shrikes, and all of the owls — the way that they scan the ground from above, reminds me of our cat…

What is your favorite birding spot?
Silverwood Park in St. Anthony —  because we lived close to it and I walked there daily (but we recently moved!).

What do you like best about being outside?
Most of the time, it improves my mood [depending on the weather] 🙂 

What other activities do you enjoy?
I like reading, going for walks with my sons (I’m a mom to twins), volunteering, and kayaking. Foraging mushrooms is another hobby of mine — but I’m new to it. 

JAY CLAIRE

Why are you a part of the Collective?
The Collective introduced me to birding. My partner and I were invited to a sandhill crane event in 2022— we knew nothing about the Collective (or birding!) but felt instantly welcomed. A couple years later, we are both new leaders! I feel passionate about fostering affirming, inclusive, accessible outdoor spaces for queer, trans, and BIPOC people, and I am excited to be joining UBC’s work.


What is your favorite bird?
Choosing a favorite is tough— there are still so many birds to meet! I grew up in Sacramento, CA, and I have a soft spot for the magpies, scrub jays, flickers, and mourning doves that frequented my childhood backyard. Moving to Minnesota was an ornithological culture shock that still feels exciting and new. I saw cedar and Bohemian waxwings for the first time recently and am majorly crushing. Great blue herons, a frequent sight both here and back home, are also near to my heart; I love to watch them gliding low over a misty river.


What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?
I am really partial to trails along rivers, so Afton State Park and the Mississippi River trails near my house in St. Paul are faves for me. 


What do you like best about being outside?
Oh, everything. I often find myself outside when I am in need of a center; I am always surprised to discover that the center I’m looking for isn’t in me, but around me. It is helpful to be reminded that I am one single part of a vast web of relationships that exists mostly beyond my understanding. Tuning in to those relationships (even a little bit) feels very nourishing.

What other activities do you enjoy?
My partner and I love to cook (and eat!) and we do a lot of experimenting in the kitchen. I can also be spotted roller skating, playing guitar, quilting, reading, and taking night classes in American Sign Language.

Michael Kurtz

Why are you a part of the Collective? 

To help educate and teach about the great outdoors and birding. Passing on environmental education will be pivotal in the new age of technology. We cannot forget our animal relatives and all they have done for us. I hope to spark an interest in birds to youth/the public, the same spark and appreciation I have gained for the love of birds more in depth the past few years.

What is your favorite bird?

All birds. Western Meadowlarks and Magpies back home in the Dakota’s. Golden Eagles as a raptor, all owls are favorites. Juncos in the winter, goldfinches in the summer and I just love little field sparrows right now, they are fun to observe and hear. I have many favorites in many categories so feel free to ask!

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot? 

Anywhere in the Minnesota River Valley, and around the Mississippi River is a hit. Lebanon Hills Regional Park as well, I have experience guiding those hills. (Former Dakota County Parks Naturalist)

What do you like best about being outside?  

Enjoying nature free, unattached, unplugged unless I have my camera with me. Nothing beats the fresh air, the sound of a small stream passing through the woods or the wind blowing bird song through the air. Learning from our animal relatives is another reason I try to get outside as much as possible. Everyday, every experience you have with an animal relative you can learn from them. Birds are extremely smart and highly intelligent animals. 

What other activities do you enjoy?

Tracking and photographing mammals. I started out photographing cottontail rabbits at a young age and have continued to learn as a self-taught photographer, naturalist, tracker and now birder. The more you experience the great outdoors and escape the city the more you can learn. The cities offer great resources and destinations for viewing and learning about birds but I enjoy hiking the furthest away, the roads less traveled. Just observing and being in the presence of mammals, birds, nature and other wildlife will make my day. Nature is healing. 



Jocelyn KUO

Why are you a part of the Collective? 
I am a part of the Collective because I believe in its philosophy of inclusiveness and its richness of programs.

What is your favorite bird?
My favorite bird is my “spark” bird, a yellow-headed blackbird. It is the bird I first saw at MN Valley NWR headquarter in Bloomington after I retired, and I immediately fell in love with birding. The rest, like they say, is history.
 
What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?
I have many favorite birding spots in the Twin Cities. Chief among them are: Harriet Alexander Nature Center, Snail Lake, Vadnais Lake, Sucker Lake, Purgatory Wetlands, and Bass Ponds
 
What do you like best about being outside?
To me, being outside is a communion with nature, a meditation of the mind. Walking in the woods, hearing bird songs and enjoying the tranquility of nature are the ultimate relaxation of the body and the mind.
 
What other activities do you enjoy?
I enjoy reading, travel, cooking,  movies, word games, music, and social gatherings with friends, besides birding.

Jadine Kaufman-LEe

Why are you a part of the Collective?  
UBC’s mission is a community response to a problem, and I want to support it in ways that I can. As a queer, mixed race person who has worked in conservation and spends time outdoors I’m passionate about making it more accessible and inclusive. Birding is for everyone!

What is your favorite bird?
My favorite bird has to be the Spotted Owl. I’ve spent many nights tripping through the woods at night fending off bugs and fear to study them. Watching them watching me was always a cool experience. 

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?
Right now, it’s Round Lake. I live nearby so I go often!

What do you like best about being outside? 
I love being able to watch trees sway in the wind, or say hi to my neighbors as they pass. It’s a way of being connected, and affirmed. I think it is so fun to share a plant with a bee for a moment- I smell the lavender while the bee eats the nectar. Things like that.

What other activities do you enjoy?
I enjoy reading, hiking with my partner Louis, creating spreadsheets, and hyper focusing on whatever activity calls that day, such as sewing, painting, learning new instruments, or writing haikus.

MAGGIE LORENZ

Why are you a part of the Collective?  
i am part of the UBC for a few reasons: 1. a reason to FORCE myself to do things I enjoy – instead of working all the time! 2. to sharpen my skills as a birder. 3. to meet new people and have fun!

What is your favorite bird?
That is touch. All time favorite has to be a chickadee. I love their “sweetie, sweetie” song which reminds me of my childhood. I also had a really special moment with a Boreal Chickadee at the Sax Zim Bog that I’ll never forget. 

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?
I love going to Wakan Tipi, aka, Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, because it’s so close to my house and the cultural significance of the place. But I also love Battle Creek and Crosby Farm. 

 

What do you like best about being outside? 
There is really nothing that can compare to spending time outdoors to reset your mental wellbeing. If I get super stressed, nothing can help get me back to balance like some time in a natural place. 

What other activities do you enjoy?
I love foraging, cooking, sewing, hiking, puzzling and board games with the fam, and then the summer powwows!

 

Mia Bauer

Why are you a part of the Collective?  
I joined UBC because I was looking for a deeper sense of community. I knew I loved birds, being outdoors, and connecting with people from all walks of life. UBC provided all of the above right from the start! It is such a welcoming environment where all of my nerdy bird facts are fully, enthusiastically embraced and I can learn something new during every excursion. 

What is your favorite bird?
All of them? Whenever I see a species I have not seen before it becomes my new favorite. If I had to pick a few top species, they would have to be, in no particular order, the barn swallow, American bittern, yellow-rumped warbler, northern harrier, loggerhead shrike, rough-legged hawk, emperor penguin, indigo bunting, cedar waxwing, and, of course, the hardy little black-capped chickadee.

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?
Bass Ponds would have to be number one. I always have amazing experiences there from osprey flying directly overhead to ducks numbering in the hundreds. Otherwise drop me in any state park and I am one happy birder. 

What do you like best about being outside? 
Being outside gives me the space to relax and forget about my daily stressors. It is a place where I feel most connected to the world and to myself all at once. I also love getting lost in the sounds nature provides, whether it be bird song, rustling leaves, or crashing waves. 

What other activities do you enjoy?
I am an avid runner that is usually training for anything from a 5k up to a marathon (always open to new running buddies!). I also enjoy kayaking around the Chain of Lakes, hiking through the wonderful state parks Minnesota has to offer, and volunteering at the University of Minnesota Raptor Center. To relax, I find comfort through puzzles, meditation, documentaries, music, spending time with loved ones, or simply curling up with a hot cup of tea. 

Leila Jacobson

Why are you a part of the Collective?  
I recently moved to the Twin Cities and was looking to find community with folks who care about birding and fostering welcoming, inclusive spaces together. I’m so excited to learn from everyone around me and feel comfortable being my full self. 

What is your favorite bird?
My favorites birds right now are the American kestrel and Blue-winged warbler!

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?
I enjoy going to Silverwood Park and the Thomas Sadler Roberts Bird Sanctuary.

What do you like best about being outside? 
Being outside is how I feel most connected to the world around me. I love feeling how we move through the seasons and noticing the small details and intricacies of those shifts. Hearing the birds singing or seeing a flutter of feathers keeps me in sustained wonder and gratitude. 

What other activities do you enjoy?
I love playing board games, going to trivia, unicycling, and learning more about plant ID and biology.

J'Mag Karbeah

Why are you a part of the Collective?  
UBC is a safe space where I can spend time outdoors with individuals from diverse backgrounds who share my passion for bird watching. I feel so fortunate to have found this group of folks.

What is your favorite bird?
Cedar Waxwings

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?
The Eloise Butler Flower Garden and the Long Lake portion of the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge are two of my favorites.

What do you like best about being outside? 
I love being outside because there is no goal. There is no right way to be outside. It’s a space where you can do whatever you want without feeling like you are in competition with others.

What other activities do you enjoy?
I enjoy hiking and kayaking.

Sophie Downey

Why are you a part of the Collective? 
The Urban Bird Collective provides such an important and welcoming space. As a queer, mixed race person, outdoor spaces that center BIPOC and queer community are so valuable and affirming to me. And, I love birds and learning from people who are so knowledgeable about nature and wildlife!

What is your favorite bird?
I don’t think I could ever pick just one bird, but a bird I am always excited to see is a pileated woodpecker. I love how dramatic they are, in size, coloring, and the noises they make. Seeing one swooping overhead is always a joy.

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?
I love the river gorge in Minneapolis, and particularly the sand flats. It is great for spotting woodpeckers, as well as lots of other birds during the spring migration! I love how wild this place feels, even though it is in the middle of the city.

What do you like best about being outside?
Spending time outside helps me remember my place in our vast ecological community. It inspires me to learn more about my plant and animal neighbors, and reminds me of how connected we are to everything and everyone around us.

What other activities do you enjoy?
I love cooking, reading, and getting into new arts and crafts projects, particularly fiber arts!

Tess Bouska

Why are you a part of the Collective?  
I have spent a lot of time in nature alone, which has been both healing and challenging. However within those experiences, rarely have I met, hiked, camped next to, or birded with someone who looks like me. I want this to change!

I’m ecstatic to be a part of an outdoor collective that empowers and celebrates diversity in our community and in nature. 

What is your favorite bird?
Every year I feel like I have a new favorite! This year it’s Shovelers 🙂

But, the bird that has always held special meaning to me is the Great Blue Heron. 

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?
It’s so hard to choose! There are so many places to experience nature here in the Twin cities. 

The places I visit every spring and fall for birds are Roberts Bird Sanctuary, Minnehaha Parkway trails and Fort Snelling state park.

What do you like best about being outside?
After every outdoor experience, even the ones where things don’t go according to plan, I always feel at peace, satiated, connected and alive! All of the sensory experiences bring me so much joy.

What other activities do you enjoy?
I enjoy cooking, reading, canoeing/kayaking, swimming and working!

Alice Froehlich

Why are you a part of the Collective?

The connections that people have with nature and the outdoors make for healthier people and heather communities and I want to be part of that here in the city that raised me. I love birds and believe in their magic and power to transform and move energy. Birds bring me so much joy and building relationships around joy is really fulfilling. I believe that Black, Indigenous, People of Color and LGBTQ+ folks coming together in joy and celebrating connections with each other and nature is an act of liberation and contributes to a larger well-being.

What is your favorite bird?

That is impossible for me to choose! I go through different favorite birds depending on the seasons and what is going on in my life. Some favorites include: California scrub jay, red-tailed hawk, bushtit, and the loon. I was fortunate enough to build a relationship with a Peregrine Falcon named Finnegan, who couldn’t live in the wild on his own. I was able to be one of his handlers and spent many years with him. We built a relationship and he taught me so much. I really loved that bird, so he is my favorite individual bird I ever met.

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot? 

Lake Nokomis.

What do you like best about being outside?  

I like how it gets me to tune into different things. I like how being outside heightens my awareness of the wind, the sun, the rain, the sounds, and what is going on with the plants and birds. Being outside can make me feel more at peace and hopeful and reminds me of the bigger picture.

What other activities do you enjoy? 

I like to garden and cook and eat. I like to walk and talk (or not talk). I like to spend time with my family and loved ones. I like to look at moss and gather mushrooms. And I love a good queer dance party!

 

jennie lopez

Why are you a part of the Collective?

I really love UBC’s mission of creating a safe and supportive environment for all communities & skill levels. Over the past year or so I’ve gone on a number of bird walks with UBC and have found all the leaders that I’ve met to be super welcoming & knowledgeable individuals with so much positive energy. I’m excited to be a part of such an amazing & diverse group of people and to be able to learn from them as well as to be able to share my love of birds & the outdoors with others. 

What is your favorite bird?

My neighbor put up a bird feeder in the tree outside my window and almost every day either a male or female Downy Woodpecker stops by for a bite to eat. They always give a little “peep” as if to say “Hi” when they drop in which makes me very happy. So, these little Downys have easily become my favorites. 

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot? 

Picnic Island at Fort Snelling State Park. It’s a really beautiful spot in the park with lots of trees and picnic tables but also generally pretty quiet without too many people around. It’s also close to home so I like to ride my bike over there to sit and watch the Egrets which I usually see fishing in the river. I also love to see what other birds I might find there. 

What do you like best about being outside? 

I grew up in a rural part of San Diego, California so as kids we were always running around outdoors – hiking, biking, fishing, camping & exploring. So, I feel like being outside now, as an adult, takes me back to my natural state. It’s kind of like going home again which restores my energy, lifts my spirits, and just calms my mind. 

What other activities do you enjoy?

Biking is one of my favorite things to do. But, I also enjoy traveling, hiking, taking walks around my neighborhood, hanging out with friends & family, going to museums, making art, going to the library, or just sitting with a good book and a freshly brewed cup of coffee at my favorite coffee shop or at home in a comfy chair.

michael sawyer

Why are you a part of the Collective? 

 

I have been a woodsy city kid all my life. My father took us on nature walks for as long as I can remember. Growing up within walking distance to the river, I was able to observe all types of wildlife. I want to share my passion for outdoor space with other BIPOC folx and show off safe and relaxing locations that we can freely access. 

 

What is your favorite bird? 

 

Since I was a child I had a fascination with bird, with the American Robin being favorite. I then fell in love with Raptors due to their power and grace. 

 

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot? 

 

I love Hidden Falls Regional Park. It has access to the river and lots of trails to walk and bike. They also have gender-neutral restroom. I also enjoy Veterans Park, it’s where I saw my first Great Horned Owl. 

 

What do you like best about being outside? 

 

I have a career the puts me in front of screens all day long. I enjoy being outside just to shut down and hit the reset button. Being in green spaces and experiencing the flora and fauna that I encounter just relaxes me. 

 

What other activities do you enjoy? 

 

I love fishing, gardening, camping and cooking. I’m a big sports fan and love to watch every sport that’s available to experience in Minnesota. I also volunteer on the board of Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis, Saint Paul, festival, and heritage foundation, and the EDIB+ committees for the Minneapolis Aquatennial and ACM.  

charise pickron

Why are you a part of the Collective?  

Birding gives a sense of home, family, and opportunities for new connections while in nature. I want to share these feelings with others!  

What is your favorite bird? 

I have too many! But the Great Horned Owl because I used to find their pellets in the woods as a kid and bring them in for show and tell.

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?  

Wood Lake Nature Center 

What do you like best about being outside?   

You never know what you might see!  

What other activities do you enjoy?  

I dance Argentine Tango and love to try other forms of dance! I love sports, so if you ever want to go to a game let me know!

michelle terrell

Why are you a part of the Collective?  

Observing birds and being out in nature is integral to my enjoyment of life. It is important to me to be a part of an organization that creates spaces within which everyone feels welcome to explore and appreciate nature together.

What is your favorite bird? 

This is a tough question that I often answer with “whichever one I am looking at” because part of the attraction of birds for me is their wide variety. I will say though that I have a fondness for spunky little birds like wrens and titmice. 

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?  

I am fortunate that my home is my favorite birding spot. When venturing further afield, my local favorite spots are Allemansratt Park, Carlos Avery WMA, and Wild River State Park. 

What do you like best about being outside?   

Being outdoors both grounds and restores me. If the day allows, I love to start off my morning with a nature walk before work and to end the day similarly. I enjoy observing the changing of the seasons and how plants, birds, mushrooms, insects, and all of nature adapt to the annual cycle. 

What other activities do you enjoy?  

I like photography and my camera is along on most birding outings. I also enjoy historical and genealogical research and graphic design.

Artemis Eyster

Why are you a part of the Collective?  

I have been watching birds for as long as I can remember and feel grateful for how birds have helped me understand the natural world. I love being with others as they experience the wonder of birds and develop a deeper understanding of local ecosystems. It is important to me to contribute to a birding community that welcomes people of all identities and ensures that they feel comfortable and at ease. 

What is your favorite bird? 

My favorite birds are wrens. I love their upturned tails and spunky demeanor. Their songs fill me with joy: the enchanting melody of a winter wren, the comforting song of a house wren, and the bubbling warble of a marsh wren. 

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?  

I like birding in the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, hearing eagles always feels special to me. I also love seeing birds while exploring the trails and wetlands in Theodore Wirth Regional Park. 

What do you like best about being outside?   

I like being outside because it helps me expand my awareness beyond myself. By observing plants, animals, clouds, and other natural phenomena I feel more connected to other living beings. When I feel connected to living things around me I feel more at peace in my own life. 

What other activities do you enjoy?  

I enjoy playing fiddle music with others, cross-country skiing in the winter, and swimming in nearby lakes. I also love drawing plants and animals.

Danielle Asefa

Why are you a part of the Collective? 

I am here to share my passion for birds and the environment, and to hold space for the LGBTQ+ community.

What is your favorite bird? 

My favorite bird these days is the American Bald Eagle.

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?  

My favorite birding spot lately is Fort Snelling State Park.

What do you like best about being outside?   

I love how being outside in nature always fills my cup and clears my head. I head home feeling refreshed.

What other activities do you enjoy?  

I enjoy reading, doing Zentangles, puzzling, cooking and drinking a nice NA beer.

Saba Asefa

Why are you a part of the Collective?  

I’m a part of the collective to be a part of an outdoor community that is inclusive and welcoming. I’ve always loved the outdoors, especially learning about different parts of nature, such as rocks, animals, and plants. I love sharing knowledge and learning from others.

What is your favorite bird? 

My favorite bird is the bald eagle. I always feel awe every time I see one.

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?  

My favorite Twin Cities birding spot is Silverwood Park, especially while kayaking in the lake. You can see a variety of birds from green herons to multiple types of hawks.

What do you like best about being outside?   

I like being amongst trees the most. Being in a forest feels like a rejuvenating experience for me. If I need to settle my mind, I know that I need to go outside.

What other activities do you enjoy?  

I enjoy singing and playing instruments. I’m an alto in a local LGBTQ+ choir called One Voice.

Katy Backes Kozhimannil

Why are you a part of the Collective?  

It means so much to explore and experience the joy of nature in a community that is safe, welcoming, and kind.

What is your favorite bird? 

Sandhill cranes, but I really love them all!

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?  

I love the Vadnais-Sucker Lakes Regional Park because it is peaceful and beautiful, with a wide variety of birds. I have a favorite eagle’s nest on Vadnais Lake that I visit regularly.

What do you like best about being outside?   

Feeling alive in the presence of birdsong, feeling calm in the presence of deep water, feeling protected in the presence of white pines, feeling loved in the presence of sunshine.

What other activities do you enjoy?  

Reading, backcountry camping, gardening, yoga, kayaking and canoeing, cross-country skiing, campfires, farmer’s markets, sauna, hiking, swimming in lakes, grilling on my deck, sitting in a hammock under the treesL

Andrew Marotz

Why are you a part of the Collective? 

I’m joining the Collective after being shown exceptional kindness and welcoming energy at UBC events. I’m very passionate about teaching as a way for me to help others feel included and wanted in birding/outdoor/conservation spaces, and I can’t wait to learn from all of you too!

What is your favorite bird? 

My current favorite bird is the grey catbird. Mimics are so fascinating to me! Since they rely so much on memory for survival, they really represent the power and mystery of our memory to me. And I think that’s pretty special!

What is your favorite Twin Cities birding spot?  

Lake of the Isles is my current favorite, but specifically from paddle board or canoe. If you’re really lucky you’ll see the barred owl floating overhead as it crosses between islands.

What do you like best about being outside?   

My best antidote to feeling down is to be moving my body around and exploring natural spaces. There’s something about giving into the distractions of patches of wildflowers or an elusive bird in the canopy that brings me so much joy!

What other activities do you enjoy?  

I love photography, writing, and telling stories. I’m currently learning to play piano and rollerblade (I have fallen on 2 out of 3 attempts so far, but so ready for the next try). Canoeing, camping, and cooking also top my list of loves!

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

Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness DEI Fund

https://www.neminnesotansforwilderness.org/

NMW advocates for Wilderness and Wild Places, especially the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Thrive Outside Initiative

https://www.neminnesotansforwilderness.org/

The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) is a passionate group of business leaders, climate experts, policy makers and outdoor enthusiasts committed to sustainable economic growth and climate positivity while protecting – and growing access to – the benefits of the outdoors for everyone. The Outdoor Foundation’s Thrive Outside Initiative awards multi-year, capacity-building grants to diverse communities to build and strengthen networks that provide children and families with repeat and reinforcing experiences in the outdoors. Together, we’re working to create a more inclusive and accessible outdoor experience for all.

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.

Friends of Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge

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

Since 1993, Friends of the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, a charitable nonprofit organization, has been a proud partner of the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge.  Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Statement

Wakan Tipi Awanyankapi

https://www.wakantipi.org/

Formerly known as Lower Phalen Creek Project, Wakan Tipi Awanyankapi is a Native-Led, East Side environmental stewardship nonprofit centered in Dakota values. Founded in 1997 by community activists, our project area stretches from Lake Phalen to the Mississippi River and throughout the (St.Paul) East Side River District. Our work is powered by a dedicated board, staff, and community of volunteers.

The Loppet Foundation

https://www.loppet.org/

Connecting People to the Outdoors through experiences that grow community.

Mississippi Parks Connection

https://parkconnection.org/

Mississippi Park Connection provides opportunities for people to get to and on the river–and have a National Park experience in the Twin Cities.

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! She did the drawings for the UBC coloring book!

But the themes are sacred places, environmental protection, awareness of climate change, a different angle of looking at the natural world. Professionally, Jill was a data geek consultant for non-profits. In retirement, her wife and she are doing more exploring of the natural world in their pop-up camper and just going out the front door in their Minneapolis neighborhood to see what nature holds. And dog parks, too, with their little rascal, Tater.

Tom Thao

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

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.

Chris Smith

Chris is a community organizer for the Association for Non-Smokers MN (ANSR) and Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation (MSFG) coalition. In his role, he enjoys connecting communities with lawmakers and local leadership. He believes that community engagement is key to developing sound equitable policies. His breadth of community organizing experience came from working closely with faith communities as a congregational organizer and field organizing for political and issue campaigns during numerous election cycles.

Chris holds a bachelor’s degree in business and a master’s in advocacy and political leadership -both from Metropolitan State University. Chris is a downtown Saint Paul resident and spends much of his free time outdoors biking, camping, developing bike camping routes for his next adventure, and cheering on the St. Paul Saints with friends and family.

Stephanie Wang

Stephanie Wang is a community member who has found her post-retirement passion in working on local sustainability issues. Most of her work reflects her support of her local watershed district. She enjoys developing projects that seek to broaden environmental engagement in audiences of all ages.

Stephanie most appreciates seeing the positive changes taking place all around her as she and her husband bird, hike, and bike around the Twin Cities.

Jasmine Epps-Flowers

Jasmine, a recent graduate of Augsburg University, is a passionate advocate for positive change. She holds a degree in Political Science and minors in Religion and Sociology.

Jasmine dedicated over a year to the Seward Neighborhood Group, where she skillfully supported BIPOC residents, renters, and unhoused individuals.
Currently, Jasmine is a lobbyist at Lockridge Grindal Nauen, a law firm, where she represents local governments at the capitol. She seamlessly combines her passion for advocacy with her career, tirelessly combating inequalities and advocating for justice. Motivated by her family and her unyielding commitment to being the change she wishes to see in the world, Jasmine remains a dedicated activist. During her downtime, she values cherished moments with friends,
immerses herself in the great outdoors, watches anime and indulges her passion for building intricate LEGO sets.

Thanks for you donation to the Urban Bird Collective!!