Vancouver Queer Birders Club

Introduce yourself and your epic community you’re involved with.

I’m Syd, and I’m the founder of Vancouver Queer Birders- an organization that has quickly become such a joyous part of my life. Currently, my partner Ashley and I run monthly bird walks and sits in and around the unceded, ancestral territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, also known as Vancouver, BC.

We’re curious, why and when did you start the Vanqueer Birders club?

I started the club in January of last year, kind of in an act of desperation. I was seeing these clubs pop up all over the place, but never my place. I think I just desperately wanted to talk to some other queer people about birds. After enough waiting, I figured I could just try it myself, so I semi-haphazardly threw the idea into the social media void. Somehow, our first meetup had almost 30 people, and it’s only grown from there.

I genuinely have no recollection of when my personal thing for birds started. But it's something that has brought a lot of fullness to my life. There’s something special about seeing spaces you’ve always known come alive through a different lens. You start to notice the ebb and flow of the world around you, and you feel yourself become a part of it. I think that's really what I’ve found birds and birding have done for me.

That was something I really wanted to share, especially with queer folks like myself. Being queer can be joyous, but can have a heaviness to it at times. I think given that, providing even small, monthly moments of community, joy, and awe can be so important.

What are the walks centered around? Of course, birding, but are there any other aspects to the club that draw your community in / you focus on?

For me, I think the club is less so about learning every meticulous detail about birds, but more so about bringing together people in a sort of collective appreciation. I’ve found the birding world to be a little daunting, so we try to create a low-barrier space where we can learn collectively in community.

I think that intimacy of knowing birds can be built up slowly, when you are just watching for the sake of it, with no goals in mind. One day- after a bit, you wake up and you know the silhouettes of the birds on the telephone wires without even seeing their colours, or you notice a bird based on its flight pattern alone. I think this approach takes a lot of pressure off, and makes the whole experience so much more fun.

Ok, your favorite bird and critter in the Vancouver area?

For birds, it's the Spotted Towhee without a doubt. I remember biking through the farm roads near where I grew up seeing one for the first time, and slamming on my breaks to get a closer look. They are just silly little birds, with little croak-y voices and vaguely scary little red eyes.

For critters, I simply cannot deny myself a Douglas Squirrel, and if you see a photo I don’t see why I’d need to explain that any further.

How are you spending your time outside of work lately? What are some thoughts and ideas that have been occupying your mind?

Amid the club and other work, I am also entering my second year of a Master’s degree in Community and Regional Planning, so I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of community, and how that shapes our understanding of place.

As the founder of this queer organization, I’ve been very drawn to the idea of orientation beyond sexuality. I recently read an excerpt for class about orientation referring to how we see and relate to the world around us. This group to me feels like an extension of this concept, seeing orientation as how we choose to situate ourselves, what we focus on, who we care for, and what we love. I think as queer folks we often feel like we can only show parts of ourselves in our lives, and what I want from this group is to encourage and celebrate fullness, and what each individual brings with them.

What are your go-to materials and how do you think about them?

I’m a binocular girly for sure. I’ve tried experimenting with a camera in the past (I lost it on the bus, so I’m calling that a sign) but I really like to just be in the moment with what I’m watching. I know some amazing bird photographers and truly appreciate the beauty of what they capture (and how helpful it can be for IDs), but for myself there’s something so fun about tracking a bird in a hundred little half glimpses through the trees, trying to piece together who I’m looking at.

We’re stoked that Nocs are in your toolkit. In what situations do you find yourself grabbing your Nocs? How are they helping your craft?

What I really like about Nocs are their portability, I can so easily toss them into my bike bag and set off. I keep the monocular at all times in the water bottle pocket at the side of my bag, just in case. I think having optics ready to go kinda reminds me to stay in tune with the world around me. When I have it in my bag I keep one headphone out to listen for birds, and I know if I hear somebody fun I can always get a better look.

If you could describe yourself as any creature or animal, what would it be?

I feel like the obvious answer here would be a bird, but I feel like maybe being a bird would detract from my whole personality as a bird-watcher. So maybe a squirrel, something that could get me a little closer to life alongside them.

Anything on the VQB calendar that you’re looking forward to? We’d love to stay in touch! Where can we find you these upcoming months?

This is our second spring running the club, and that means we get to start doing bird sits again! Our walks are absolutely amazing, but the sits really emphasize the community aspect that makes the club so special. During them, we all gather around and look through guidebooks, chat, play games and point out any birds that fly by. It always feels very special.

For me personally, I’m usually wandering around any birding spot I can get to via bike or bus.

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