Some may beg to differ, though I like to believe that the show Portlandia is pretty dead on to the persona of Portland. Exaggerated, but accurate. Of all of the skits, the famed line “Put a bird on it,” a tactic to make any mundane item marketable by slapping a bird silhouette on it, rings truest.
On my second excursion to Portland I got to indulge in this fervor for birds in the Tualitin National Wildlife Refuge Bird Festival. A week after hosting our own IMBD event on the coast, it was a lot of fun and eye-opening to see how another region expresses their love of birds, display their conservation efforts, and conduct outreach to the public. The event was open to the general public, though there was a concerted effort to invite the Latino community to join the festivities. The coordinator reached out to Meagan, Stephanie, and me with suggestions on how to do this, and shared some notes on their communications tactics. The result was a feature on Spanish-language news stations, like Univision, and newspapers. Being at the event, I would say their efforts paid off: the event’s audience was highly diverse, with participants of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities strolling from the arts-and-crafts station, the nature trails, and the science displays. I was helping as a Spanish-language interpreter at a station on riverine mammals and had several opportunities to practice my Spanish, and simply chat with the public about cool birds they could see in the refuge.
My favorite visitors were a little boy and girl, brother and sister, who were fascinated with a Chickadee. I took a short walk with them down the trail and lent them my binoculars, explaining why the Chickadee sings, and how they can tell it’s a Chickadee. The two were so enveloped in birding that the parents had to jokingly convince them with promises of food to peel them away! It was lovely to see children from the city connect with nature in a way they never thought was possible. A selfish part of me hopes that their curiosity for the world continues into a career in science! One can dream, though surely with the efforts of entities like the Tualitin Wildlife Refuge of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service urban residents of the Portland area will have plenty of opportunities to dive deeper into the world of biology.
For now, putting a bird on it is definitely a great start!