Displaying items by tag: Birds
Friday, 17 November 2017 09:08

Mother Nature and Father Time

Mother Nature and Father Time. We’ve known they were our family for at least 3,000 years when they first entered into Ancient Greek lore. I prefer to call them our parents and leave out the gender, but let’s focus on their relationship.

It’s prudent to consider time in our daily lives – learn from the past, live in the present, prepare for the future. Nature excels at all three of these things.

On an early morning bird walk last year, we smelled our find before we saw her. The smell of necrosis mixed with day-old vomit lingered on the light breeze. We scoured the nearby terrain trying to find the mysterious decaying matter hidden amongst the leaf litter only to remain perplexed. And then we saw her. Perched on a tree branch, just 10 feet from our heads, sat the pungent perpetrator.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017 10:36

Brew City Birding Festival

Brew City Birding Festival Logo

Sunday, May 7 - Saturday, May 13

The Urban Ecology Center is pleased to announce the inauguration of the Brew City Birding Festival! This new event is a week-long bird-themed festival from Sunday, May 7th - Saturday, May 13th. Participants will have a chance to partake in field trips, lectures, family-friendly programs and activities, and bird watching opportunities.

Sunday's kick-off celebration includes a bird banding demonstration, bird storytelling, crafts, and live raptor viewing. These family-friendly events are prefect for novices and seasoned birders alike!

Our weekday programs feature field trips, lectures, and bird-themed programs appropriate for everyone, but focused on the more experienced birder.

The festival culminates on Saturday with our popular Green Birding Challenge fundraiser!

So, why are we doing this in May? Besides being the best time of year to view large numbers of birds in colorful plumage, International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) is celebrated every May. This year's IMBD theme is migratory stop-over sites and we are excited to highlight and partner with several local organizations to feature some of Milwaukee County’s most important migratory stop-over sites.


Birding at Lake Michigan



Brew City Birding Festival Sunday Kickoff

Sunday, May 7th

We're kicking off the Brew City Birding Festival with a morning full of fun activities! Observe live birds being banded, meet raptors live and up close, learn basic ornithology and more in this series of programs perfect for families and beginning birders. See the full list below and click on a program to register!

  • Big Sit on Coyote Hill

    8 am - 5 pm | Free - donations appreciated
    Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day up by the birds! Sit down awhile or stand, and join our day-long effort to record as many bird species as we can from the hill. Come when you can and stay for as long as you wish.
  • Bird Banding Demonstration

    8 am - noon | Free - donations appreciated
    Kick off the Brew City Birding Festival with an early morning bird banding demonstration! Stop by all morning and see how our Community Scientists study the colorful spring birds migrating through the park.
  • Birding by Canoe

    8 am - 4 pm | $30 (Nonmembers: $40)
    Take a spring trip on the Milwaukee River in Ozaukee County. This paddle, with some occasional bird watching along the way, is great for adults who enjoy exploring the outdoors and observing nature along the river. Some paddling experience is recommended, no birding experience needed. Equipment and transportation from Riverside Park provided.
    Registration is required for this event.
  • Family Fun Bird Walk

    8 - 10 am | Free - donations appreciated
    Get outside and learn how to look for and identify birds during this introductory-level bird walk through Riverside Park.
  • Beginning Ornithology

    10:30 - 11:30 am | Free - donations appreciated
    Learn about basic (but astounding) bird biology and behavior through pictures, hands-on activities and stories in this beginner level course. Appropriate for all ages.
  • Bird Storytelling with David Stokes

    11 am - noon | Free - donations appreciated
    Enjoy a family-friendly storytelling hour with song, movement and poetry led by David Stokes, local nature expert and storyteller. A recipient of the Wisconsin Association for Environmental Education Teacher of the Year and an "Aldo Leopold" award winner, David gets down with his audiences and makes learning fun.
  • Activities and Crafts for Kids

    Noon - 3 pm | Free - donations appreciated
    Drop on by to celebrate International Migratory Bird Day with fun bird-themed crafts and activities.
  • Using eBird

    Noon - 1:15 pm | Free - donations appreciated
    Learn how to use eBird to visualize bird-related data from our GIS and Field Data Coordinator Jessica Orlando.
  • Live Raptors!

    1 - 3 pm | Free - donations appreciated
    Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day by getting an up close look at some of the beautiful raptors from Schlitz Audubon Nature Center.
  • From Beak to Tail: Spring Warbler Identification Tips

    1:30 - 3 pm | $5 (Nonmembers: $10)
    Join Tim Vargo, Manager of Research and Community Science, for an in-depth look into the wonders of bird ecology, conservation and behavior. This is an ongoing series you can jump into at any point. The program features a lecture, discussion and a dusk walk. Beginning through advanced birders welcome. Binoculars provided.
  • Field Trip: Lake Park Birding

    5:30 - 7:30 pm | Free - donations appreciated
    Join us for an evening bird walk at Lake Park - one of the best warbler hotspots in the area. Situated along a coastal bluff, migratory birds flock to the park during the spring.
    Meet in the parking lot in front of Lake Park Bistro.


Raptor Educator Sara Sloan presents turkey vultuer Tallulah. Photo: Schlitz Audubon Nature Center
Raptor Educator Sara Sloan presents turkey vulture Tallulah. Photo: Schlitz Audubon Nature Center


Special thank you to our sponsors and community partners whose generous support has helped make this event possible!


Weyco Group
MW BCBF web page

Community Partners

Seth Cutright • Eagle Optics • Amberleigh Henschen • Lake Park Friends • Milwaukee County Parks • Milwaukee County Zoo • Milwaukee Public Library • Milwaukee Public Museum • Schlitz Audubon Nature Center • Becca Sher • Maria Terres • Wehr Nature Center • Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory



Brew City Birding Festival Weekly Events

Monday, May 8th - Friday, May 12

Our array of weekday events feature field trips highlighting important stopover sites in Milwaukee County and programs designed to help seasoned enthusiasts better their spring birding skills. Check out the full schedule of field trips and lectures below, and click the description to register!

  • Field Trip to Grant Park

    Monday, May 8 | 8 am - noon | $10 (Nonmembers: $15)
    Grant Park is a hidden gem in Milwaukee County and a great place to look for colorful migrating songbirds. Join Milwaukee County Parks Assistant Natural Areas Coordinator Julia Robson for an in depth look at the birds and habitat management practices of the Park.
  • Lecture: The Truth About Flycatchers - Making these Intimidating Birds Fun

    Monday, May 8 | 1 - 2 pm | $5 (Nonmembers: $10)
    These look-alike birds give even the most experienced birders nightmares. Join expert Seth Cutright as he teaches you some easy ways to identify these infuriating birds in the field.
  • Lecture: Exploring the Oddities of Birds

    Monday, May 8 | 6 - 7:30 pm | $5 (Nonmembers: $10)
    How do birds fly? Why do they sing? Former MIAD Ornithology Professor, Maria Terres will lead a lecture about the unusual things that make birds unique creatures in the animal kingdom.
  • Big Green Birding Bike Ride!

    Tuesday, May 9 | 8 am - 5 pm | Free - donations appreciated
    Get exercise, enjoy fresh air and let's see how many birds we can find in one day! Bring a lunch, a bike and binoculars. If you don't have a bike or binoculars just borrow ours.
    Meet at our Menomonee Valley branch.
  • Family Bird Walk

    Tuesday, May 9 | 4 - 6 pm | Free - donations appreciated
    Take a guided walk through Three Bridges Park and explore the wildlife, particularly the MANY Spring birds! Participants will learn tips to look for and identify birds on this introductory-level bird walk. Bring binoculars if you have some or borrow a pair from the Center.
    Meet at our Menomonee Valley branch.
  • Birds and Beer!

    Tuesday, May 9 | 4 - 6:30 pm | Free - donations appreciated
    We will meet in the lobby of Riverside Park and look for birds along the Oak Leaf Trail on our way to Good City Brewery for awesome bird talk and some fantastic brews! Join us anytime and don't forget money for beer and food. We'll leave around 6:15 pm to make our way back in time for the evening Feather lecture.
  • Lecture: If These Feathers Could Talk

    Tuesday, May 9 | 7 - 8:30 pm | $5 (Nonmembers: $10)
    The persistence of wild birds relies on us understanding their ecology and evolution. Feather samples can provide information on everything from migration to stress. Amberleigh Henschen, Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, explains the how we study feathers at this Brew City Birding Festival lecture.
  • Field Trip: Milwaukee Public Museum - Morning Session

    Wednesday, May 10 | 9 am - 12:30 pm | $20 (Nonmembers: $25)
    Take a behind the scenes tour of the North American Bird exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum. Fee covers admission to the museum.
    Meet at our Washington Park branch.
  • Field Trip: Milwaukee Public Museum - Afternoon Session

    Wednesday, May 10 | 1 - 4:30 pm
    Take a behind the scenes tour of the North American Bird exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum. Fee covers admission to the museum.
    Meet at our Washington Park branch.
  • Lecture: The Nuances of Raptor Identification

    Wednesday, May 10 | 5:30 - 7 pm | $5 (Nonmembers: $10)
    Do you have trouble telling a Red-tailed Hawk from a Red-shouldered Hawk when observing birds in the field? Boost your identification skills, learn the intricacies of raptor identification from Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory Director William Mueller.
  • Fascinating Owls

    Wednesday, May 10 | 7 - 8:30 pm | $5 (Nonmembers: $10)
    Learn about the wonders of owls and what makes them unique creatures of the animal world. This program will start with an indoor lecture and move outdoors for a short evening owl prowl.
  • Riverside Park Bird Banding

    Thursday, May 11 | 5:15 am - noon | Free - donations appreciated
    Watch the Urban Ecology Center's Bird Banding team band migratory song birds passing through our green spaces. Lucky participants might even have a chance to hold a live wild bird!
  • Field Trip: Milwaukee County Zoo

    Thursday, May 11 | 11 am - 3 pm | $10 (Nonmembers: $15)
    Did you know the Milwaukee County Zoo is an important stop-over site for migratory birds? We will take a behind the scenes tour of the Aviary of the Milwaukee County Zoo and learn about the Zoo's bird research projects. Additionally, we'll take a peek at the their bird banding project - one of only two in the state licensed to band hummingbirds.
  • Lecture: Landscaping for Native Birds

    Thursday, May 11 | 5:30 - 6:45 pm | $5 (Nonmembers: $10)
    Planning a garden or landscape project? Consider supporting native birds in your design! Learn tips and tricks in attracting native birds to your backyard or garden from our Land Steward Jeff Veglahn.
    Meet at the our Menomonee Valley branch.
  • Field Trip: Whitnall Park

    Friday, May 12 | 8 am - noon | $10 (Nonmembers: $15)
    Join us for a morning field trip to picturesque, Whitnall Park. Participants will leave from Riverside Park and head to Wehr Nature Center to explore the park's spring migrants.
  • Birding by Ear Presentation & Walk

    Friday, May 12 | 5:30 - 7 pm | Free - donations appreciated
    Join us for a presentation and outdoor walk to explore materials being developed by our staff for the visually impaired and how those tools overlap with those being used by sighted birders.



GBC 2017 logo


Click here for more info and registration

This unique fundraiser is our way of celebrating International Migratory Bird Day with fossil fuel free counts perfect for advanced to beginner level birders. Each participant helps raise money for our Community Science program, providing students and the community opportunities to learn about birds and other members of the natural world.

In addition to promoting fossil fuel free birding, The Green Birding Challenge inspires friendly competition and encourages everyone to get outside to explore the wonders of resident and migratory birds in Milwaukee.

Green Birding Challenge Participants try to spot the most birds to win!
Green Birding Challenge Participants try to spot the most birds to win!

How to Participate

Gather a group and choose from the following three categories:

  • Soaring Eagle Challenge For serious/advanced birders
     Teams of three or four* compete for prizes in a 5-hour (full length) competitive challenge as either a mobile "migratory" team (walking, biking) or a "resident" stationary team (Big Sit).
  • Rockin’ Robin Challenge For less competitive advanced to beginning birders
     Teams of three or four* compete for prizes in a shorter, 3-hour challenge.
  • Fledgling Fun Challenge For families or novices who want to get outside, have fun and learn about birds
     Teams of two or more (no maximum) participate in a non-competitive, 2-hour mini-challenge with guided opportunities to learn about birds and participate in bird-themed quests for prizes.

*A fourth team member is allowed for Soaring Eagle or Rockin’ Robin if they are a beginner level birder. Click here for descriptions and rules of the different challenge types. Note: The challenge types are updated for this year!

Choose your challenge, and gather your flock whether you’re an experienced birder or just enjoy spending time outdoors with friends, the Green Birding Challenge has something for you!

Click here for more info and registration

    Wednesday, 01 March 2017 16:17

    Red Wings and Early Spring

    For those of you who may not know, we have an organization-wide phenology competition every year to document the first of year (FoY) Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Chipmunk, Mourning Cloak, and Butler's Gartersnake. The documentation of these four species typically signifies the arrival of spring and the dismissal of winter. This year's unseasonal warm weather, however, has a resulted in an uncomfortably early kickoff.

    Last fall at Riverside Park, the research and community science department was hosting the Wisconsin DNR’s bat biologists for an evening of bat mist netting, when a gregarious little screech owl paid us a visit. As DNR biologist Paul White held the large group of participants enraptured with a live bat, a persistent whinny in the distance distracted those of us at the back of the group.

    Wednesday, 27 May 2015 00:00

    Green Birding Challenge Recap

    Thank you to everyone who helped make the 5th Annual Green Birding Challenge a success! 19 teams, comprised of both experienced and fledgling birders, participated in this year's challenge and observed over 100 distinct bird species in a fossil fuel free search around the city. Their efforts inspried more than 150 generous donors to pledge $8,000 for the Center's Citzien Science program. Wow! Read on for more fun facts and photos from the day's birding adventure!

    Thursday, 07 May 2015 00:00

    Simple Gifts

    Have you ever had the experience of turning a corner in a familiar neighborhood, and suddenly becoming alert to all sorts of buildings or natural features you had never noticed before? That's sort of what becoming a bird watcher has been like for me. I've walked along creeks and in woods my whole life, but it's only been within the last few years that I've truly been aware of my winged companions out there.

    Our research program has two unique features: an urban habitat focus and the inclusion of volunteer community scientists.

    The urban wilderness research and monitoring we do provides baseline data that allow us to track how our habitat improvements affect wildlife over time. We’re measuring the changes so others can replicate the results in other cities. 

    We are one of the leaders of an international movement to facilitate community-led research and monitoring. Our Community Science program focuses as much on the process of engaging community volunteers as it does on the research process itself. What this means is that everyone can contribute in a meaningful way to scientific research.

    Wednesday, 16 April 2014 14:17

    Say Hello to the Junco!

    The Galapagos Finches were crucial to Darwin’s understanding of natural selection and evolution, but did you know that evolutionary scientists have been studying a more common and locally distributed species for over a century? Learn more about the extraordinary importance of this ordinary bird as we screen the film Ordinary Extraordinary Junco.

    Saturday, 26 October 2013 08:21

    What’s Happening at Washington Park

    With the big events that have been happening in Riverside Park and in the Menomonee Valley, it’s easy to lose track of the fantastic things happening at Washington Park. To catch everyone up, I thought it best to check in with some of the folks who are helping to make it all happen.

    Tim Vargo, bird magnet and Manager of Research and Community Science, had this to say about a wonderful tradition he leads every Wednesday morning:

    Upcoming Events

    Event Listings

    Early Morning Birdwalks (Menomonee Valley)

    Menomonee Valley

    Tuesday, December 12th

    8:00 AM - 10:00 AM

    More Details...

    ROOT - Riverside Park

    Riverside Park

    Tuesday, December 12th

    9:00 AM - 11:00 AM

    More Details...

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