Taking Off with the BUrBs!

A few years ago, I was visiting my home area in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where a friend and I were itching to go on a nature walk. After searching on Google Maps and driving to different sites, we became frustrated at the lack of natural spaces in the city. Some of the forested areas were inaccessible, and many of the urban parks had little nature to offer. There are so many benefits to nature that everyone should have access to. As a city lover and nature admirer, I am passionate about highlighting the importance of urban ecosystems. For this reason, I want to highlight Birds of Urban Baltimore (or BUrB for short) here!

Mike Hudson, BUrB program manager (left) and Matias Orrego, Maryland Environmental Service Environmental Specialist (right)

Birds of Urban Baltimore manages a public bird banding station at Masonville Cove Urban Wildlife Refuge in Baltimore, Maryland. By having their operations in front of the public, BUrB can engage urban populations with nature through the education of scientific processes and, of course, birds! I had the honor of participating in the bird banding. I learned much from Mike Hudson, the BUrB program manager, and bird bander. In about a month, BUrB banded 571 birds, showcasing how much wildlife is present in the city! 

Unfortunately, many of our bird populations worldwide are in decline. Birds in cities face many obstacles due to the lack of wildlife-friendly urban designs. The research being done by BUrB can bring more attention to the population trends of urban birds. I hope this inspires more sites like Masonville Cove, a once dumping ground that became a nature oasis in a historically polluted city.

A moment very inspiring to me in my time with BUrB was seeing Mike Hudson demonstrate the bird banding process to a young boy (pictured on the right). The boy and his family were hiking when they approached the bird banding station out of curiosity. Mike showed the boy how to release the bird after it was banded, in which the young boy squealed out of excitement when seeing the bird fly away. “Another one, another one!” he yelled. I think Mike inspired a future naturalist that day! 

I connect with sites like Masonville Cove that help give city folk the wonderful benefits nature offers. Creating nature-focused opportunities for underserved communities is my ultimate career goal! Having started in the environmental field as an 18-year-old Latina, it was discouraging seeing how my counterparts had different ethnic backgrounds than me and were also much older. It made me feel like it would be impossible to climb up. As I have grown in this field, I have experienced communities that have helped me feel seen. Sites like Masonville Cove and programs like BUrB achieved this feeling for me. I have Environment for the Americas to thank for this, of course!

Although the bird banding season here is over, I will be visiting Masonville Cove many times again this summer to participate in their fishing programs. I can’t wait to come back!

Mike Hudson showing a young boy how to release a banded bird
A yellow breasted chat, bird with a bright yellow breast and white eye ring
Me holding a red winged-black bird, has streaked and dark brown pattern throughout the body
An indigo bunting, bright blue bird with some black on the wings
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