In this issue: urban green spaces, holiday gift ideas for birders and gardeners, archived YardMap eNews
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The Dirt: News from YardMap
Joining together to break new ground for birds

Special 2014 Holiday Edition

NYC Highline Park
The Highline Park in New York City. Photo by Inhabitant Blog via Flickr

Urban Community Green Spaces:
A New Ethos

“Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive, and even spiritual satisfaction.”

― Edward O. Wilson

As the holidays approach, many of us scatter to all parts of the globe to celebrate the passing of another year with our families, or close friends who are chosen family. Wherever you find yourself over the holidays, take note of the frequency with which you find yourself drawn to, or immersed in, nature. With time away from our day to day existence, some people gravitate toward green spaces, or snow-covered open spaces, for those in northern latitudes. Why do some find themselves drawn to these natural places when there is time to relax and reflect? According to one of the most eminent biologists of our time, E.O. Wilson, it is because the natural world is essential to what it means to be human--to what it means to feel whole.

For the first time in human history more than 50% of the world's population lives in urban environments. In the U.S. this number is closer to 80%. We are inhabitants of built environments, which are hugely fragmented, carving green space up into smaller and smaller areas. With this can come a separation from that which makes us feel whole.

Community green spaces may have a vital role to play in mitigating the detrimental effects of urban life by providing a critical outlet to reconnect people to nature. Aside from providing a place for mental and emotional peace, these spaces also combat the urban heat island effect, reduce air pollution, reduce city noise, and increase the health of city inhabitants by providing a place to exercise. They also provide wildlife habitat in otherwise low biodiversity areas. Preliminary research reveals that animals can thrive in conjunction with urban landscapes, like the bumblebee populations that take refuge in San Francisco city parks. City planners, designers, and urban landscapers are taking E.O. Wilson’s words of wisdom to heart and redefining what it means to be urban by taking the role of green spaces in city life seriously.

YardMap is a part of a growing movement to encourage green spaces in our communities. In addition to nearly 9,000 maps of homes--429 schools, 254 city parks, 237 nature preserves,126 community gardens, and 66 offices are documented. Many of these community sites are mapped in and around urban areas. This does not even include the growing use of wildlife medians and curbside storm water gardens as a means to both protect natural resources and green our urban landscapes.

Our urban ethos is shifting. We can seek a sense of community every day in the places we inhabit and with the people who share our built environments. We can connect daily, not just around the holidays. Community green space can be at the center of those connections. Take an inventory of what is around you, and consider getting to know it well enough to add it to your YardMap.

Holiday Gift Ideas
YardMap is delighted to offer creative ideas for homemade holiday gifts for your favorite birders and gardeners. Image by Jessica Wilson via Flickr

Celebrate Birds, Gardening, and Conservation this Holiday--Homemade Style

Holiday gift-giving anxiety. Have you experienced this phenomena?  It usually hits me at the beginning of November, sometimes December, if my life has been too busy to think about the holidays. What do I get people?

Like most of us, I  get pulled into the joy of giving presents. But, as a bird-lover, gardener, and conservationist, I am also aware of the immense pressures placed on the environment when we create demand for new, material possessions. Enter my solution: embracing the joy of homemade gifts.

Now, before you stop reading because you aren’t crafty, give me just a few more sentences to change your mind. There are a zillion fun, clever, inspiring, and easy, yes EASY, gifts you can make with your own two hands. The hardest part is generating the ideas. So, explore this Pinterest page we put together. It includes a variety of homemade gift ideas that celebrate the spirit of feeding birds, growing plants, increasing biodiversity at home, and supporting those gardeners who live to get their hands dirty. Feel free to forward this link to your loved ones as a “Hint, hint, I’d love something homemade for the holidays.” Included on this Pinterest board are birdhouses, simple suet feeders, garden decor, and more!  We did the research, so you can spend your time creating. On average, these projects will take you about 30 minutes of planning and material collecting, and an hour of creating--depending on how much detail and unique creativity you add. So, roll up your sleeves and make a homemade gift. I can guarantee you will make your loved ones holiday extra special.

by Becca Rodomsky-Bish, YardMap Project Assistant

Calling All Bird/Garden DIYers

Have a great idea for a homemade gift for that birder or gardener in your life? Send us an image or link of your gift and we'll add it to our Pinterest page! Please email photos to

Watertown Bird Garden
Middlesex, Massachusetts

Painted bunting
Even in urban residential environments we can create dynamic habitat for birds. Photo by Mary Dunn

Mary Dunn and her husband have created an urban mecca for wildlife. As avid bird enthusiasts, they have transformed their parcel of land into native habitat that supports dozens of birds, butterflies seeking nectar, bumblebees who overnight on her flowers, and myriad other creatures. This process has taken time, attention to detail, and dedication. About 11 years ago, the welcoming Carolina Wrens called the Dunn's home when they were first looking at the property to purchase. And, from day one, they’ve made strategic changes to their landscape. Take a minute to explore all of their photos, appreciating the dramatic BEFORE and AFTER imagery. They teach us that no matter how quaint an urban property is, it can be enhanced to welcome “...the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees…,” all for the love of birds. To learn more, click and explore their YardMap.
Project Feederwatch Grid
Explore Project Feederwatch data showing the 10 most common birds reported in each state during the Feederwatch season.

Project Feederwatch is Underway!

Check out a cool interactive graphic on the citizen-science blog that shows which birds are most reported at feeders in each U.S. State and Canadian province. Or, better yet, see if you can guess the top 10 from your home region!

The most common bird at my feeder is a . . . 
morning dove

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