As I was searching the Net looking for resources or inspiration for Urban Birding, I found Cornell's Celebrate Urban birds project. I really like the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, as they publish one of my favorite magazines, "Living Bird," and also have great Internet resources for birders like All About Birds and ebird. I also found a great website and blog by a guy in England, David Lindo, the Urban Birder; it's on my blogroll and I invite you to check it out, it's great!
What I like about Celebrate Urban Birds is that they want to know if you're seeing some really, really common, unexciting birds. When I was trying to get myself excited about birding very close to home, secretly I kept thinking...except during migration, what would I see? The same old boring birds every day! But the Urban Birds project focuses on those same (mostly) boring birds: house finch, house sparrow, barn swallow, cedar waxwing, brown-headed cowbird, European starling, Oriole (Baltimore or Bullock's), American robin, killdeer, mourning dove, rock pigeon, peregrine falcon, American crow, mallard and black-crowned night-heron. It's like someone told me, "I want you to go out and find some mourning doves and house sparrows," which makes me WANT to find them, at least for now. I printed off the checklist and couldn't wait to get started.
The project is basically, you decide on a time and place, then go sit there for ten minutes and notice if you find any of the birds on the list. I live fairly close to Tipton Park, which has some ponds and prairie grasses between the roads and (really, egregiously big) McMansions...it's really not a bad little bird habitat. The local Audubon chapter had a lot of input into the park, if I recall correctly.
So I grabbed my binoculars and floppy hat and strolled down to the park, sitting under the pavilion and looking out at the pond and grasses. I saw six of the the target birds: house sparrow, barn swallow, crow, robin, mourning dove, and mallard. I also saw song sparrows, red-winged blackbirds and a goldfinch. After the ten minutes observation was up, I strolled around the ponds and saw a female ruby-throated hummingbird feasting on some white flowers -- I think foxglove beardtongue -- a cardinal, Canada geese, a starling and a gray catbird, sixteen species in all.