Third Annual Black Birders Week Soars To Higher Heights


Adé Ben Salahuddin is a co-organizer of Black Birders Week 2022. He supplied us with this reflection on the occasions of the week.

Barely seven days earlier than the beginning of Black Birders Week 2022, I used to be standing with science educator Dara Wilson contained in the Smithsonian’s Nationwide Museum of African American Historical past and Tradition. We’d simply completed recording a set of primary birding tutorial supplies for a Black Birders Week-themed web page on the museum’s web site. Over our heads, a set of screens cycled between black-and-white images of African American grassroots organizations and their members, each acquainted and unsung. These had been extraordinary individuals who shaped communities to guard and uplift one another within the face of discrimination, now memorialized.

a flyer announces events related to Black Birders Week 2020
Themes and schedules for Black Birders Week 2022, organized by Black AF in STEM.

It was for related causes of group and encouragement that Black Birders Week was first organized, in 2020. The now annual, primarily on-line occasion was created by the Black AF in STEM Collective, a bunch of younger Black biologists and nature fans. The purpose was to carry larger illustration to the world of birding in response to incidents just like the one in Central Park in 2020 involving Black birder Christian Cooper. That altercation highlighted the pervasive obstacles, risks, even hostility that Black individuals usually face after we’re outdoor. As I discussed in final 12 months’s protection, Black Birders Week has advanced from a collective response to a painful scenario to a celebration of the individuals in our communities who’ve discovered pleasure, inspiration, and peace in birds and nature.

This 12 months’s overarching theme, “Hovering to Higher Heights,” was a nod to the continued progress and growth of Black Birders Week. Every day from Might 29 to June 4, the week’s actions and on-line discussions explored a special theme emphasizing steps alongside the birding journey. Individuals and organizers alike mirrored on their very own experiences, portray a mosaic of birding by way of completely different cultures and views throughout the African diaspora. As an illustration, the primary day noticed greater than 100 individuals from the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa introducing themselves and displaying off their birding experiences utilizing the hashtag #BlackInNature.

Herpetologist and Week co-organizer Chelsea Connor kicked off a collaboration with the podcast BirdNote Every day with an episode in regards to the Black Heron, highlighting the chicken’s intelligent fishing technique and its symbolism amongst native cultures throughout sub-Saharan Africa. The subsequent two days, titled #InTheNest and #LearningToTakeFlight, featured a pair of webinars exploring the essential function of mentorship and group in creating new birders, from the factors of view of each mentors and newbies (moderated by Deja Perkins and hosted by the Cornell Lab; archived right here). Later that week on Thursday’s #FlyingTheCoop, viewers had been handled to the tropical sights and sounds of a digital chicken stroll within the Bahamas earlier than tuning in for a presentation by Canadian teacher-turned-wildlife photographer Jason George and his journey with dyslexia.

a black-and-white flycatcher sits on a leafy branch as a person looks on in the foreground
The writer (foreground) will get an excellent take a look at his lifer Japanese Kingbird. Picture courtesy Dara Wilson.

A New Dimension: In-Individual Occasions

The place this 12 months’s occasions actually moved past the method of earlier years was in providing in-person occasions. With outside gatherings remaining a secure and standard manner for individuals to bodily work together, it’s solely pure that folk wish to hit the paths themselves and discover communion within the nature round them. Environmental educator Nicole Jackson and concrete ecologist Deja Perkins, each longtime Week co-organizers, hosted 4 chicken walks (and a raptor demonstration) of their Ohio and North Carolina communities all through the week, along with contributing to the digital panels. Further occasions included a nature stroll hosted by Outside Afro of Southern California, and a chicken stroll in Pennsylvania led by environmental educator Brianna Amingwa.

a flyer announcing a bird walk led by Chaz Faxton and Indigo Goodson, as part of Black Birders Week 2022
Flyer picture by Adé Ben-Salahuddin.

Over in New York Metropolis, I acquired to assist develop and attend 5 chicken walks by way of native parks and greenspaces. I started my Friday with a mid-morning enterprise by way of the Brooklyn Botanic Backyard, co-led by Chaz Faxton and Indigo Goodson. We noticed loads of the everyday metropolis birds like Home Sparrows, Blue Jays, and Northern Mockingbirds–even a Baltimore Oriole–however the greatest thrill got here after the official stroll had ended and about half of the 25 attendees lingered to look out over a area. Out of the blue, a Cooper’s Hawk dived in from immediately overhead and snatched a fledgling European Starling we’d been taking a look at, barely a dozen yards in entrance of us. (Professional-tip: everytime you suppose you wish to depart is all the time when the surprises occur.)

Though birds had been the point of interest, I discovered it much more memorable getting to satisfy different birders and having fun with moments collectively in the identical bodily house. After taking a solitary afternoon stroll by way of close by Prospect Park, I headed to Marsha P. Johnson State Park to satisfy up with Roslyn Rivas, a Bronx-based wildlife biologist and pal from faculty who was main a chicken stroll there that night. This explicit occasion, titled Birds and Brews, had been curated in partnership with the Brooklyn Brewery and was squarely geared toward a younger grownup demographic. Jenna Marie Otero, an environmental schooling assistant on the New York State Workplace of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, spearheaded the chicken stroll + bar night time collaboration. Almost 20 individuals got here, a racially and ethnically various group of virtually fully first-time birders, with a handful of veterans amongst them. The stroll itself was solely about 35 minutes–Marsha P. Johnson State Park is a comparatively small house–however the members loved highlights like a flock of Double-crested Cormorants sunning themselves within the East River.

a man stands in front of a yellow wall covered with drawings of and writing about birds
Dr. Christopher Williams, Nationwide Museum of African American Historical past and Tradition, at a STEM occasion through which youngsters drew photos and wrote about why they respect birds. Picture by Adé Ben-Salahuddin

Again on the Smithsonian, Dara and I had been within the Discover Extra! Gallery serving to museum attendees study owl pellets and stray feathers underneath microscopes. Just a little Black lady, seemingly no older than 4, held a magnifying glass to her face as her mom helped her gently tease aside the tiny, slender bones of an owl’s meal from the dry grey fluff encasing them.

I watched her study and examine the completely different components, utilizing an illustrated sheet on the desk in entrance of her to assist inform a chicken cranium from a mouse leg. I beamed underneath my masks, elated that I may assist carry this expertise to this younger anatomist within the making.

Throughout the room, an older Black man from New Orleans excitedly confirmed Dara movies of the Ospreys close to his home, the gorgeous predators boasting large orange-scaled catches. “It’s good to know I’m not the one Black one that likes birds!” he referred to as to us as he left.

Standing in that house and looking over the room, I took within the second. Just a few months prior, I’d simply began taking my new binoculars out to search for birds at a small pond close to my home. Now, in a single week, I’d been on seven completely different chicken walks throughout a number of states, added over a dozen new species to my eBird listing, and most significantly made new connections with dozens of individuals. And as a homecoming shock after all of the work and journey was over, I discovered that the community-building side of Black Birders Week had lastly began taking root in my very own Connecticut hometown whereas I’d been away.

“It’s good to know I’m not the one Black one that likes birds!” the person on the Smithsonian had referred to as out to us.

Certainly it’s, brother. Certainly it’s.

Adé Ben-Salahuddin is a co-organizer of Black Birders Week 2022. He’s an aspiring undergraduate-level evolutionary biologist and freelance science educator whose favourite birds are nonetheless all extinct (terror birds and moas). You’ll be able to observe him on Twitter and YouTube for movies about prehistoric life, the individuals who research it, and the way we discuss it.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here