Displaying items by tag: Citizen Science
Tuesday, 18 April 2017 14:57

Storied Landscapes

Earth Day is nearly upon us. Each year we pause on April 22nd to think about ecology, climate change, preservation—survival. This past year, people the world over have come together around the protection of our waters, taking up the chant "Water is Life."   Now as we think about the health of our planet, I invite you to consider the way we "story" water, the earth, the sky, and all the natural beings in the universe. In The Truth About Stories Indigenous writer Tom King asks, "Do the stories we tell reflect the world as it truly is, or did we simply start off with the wrong story?"

Monday, 13 March 2017 22:36

Brew City Birding Festival

Brew City Birding Festival Logo

Monday, May 7 - Friday, May 11

The Urban Ecology Center is celebrating the second edition of the Brew City Birding Festival! This event is a week-long bird-themed festival from Monday, May 7th - Friday, May 11th. Participants will have a chance to partake in field trips, lectures, family-friendly programs and activities, and bird watching opportunities.

Our weekday morning and afternoon programs feature field trips and bird-themed programs appropriate for everyone. Our weekday evening programs feature lectures and programs more suitable for adults of all skill levels. 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, World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) is celebrated every May. WMBD is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and is turning the spotlight on the bird itself. We are excited to partner with several local organizations again this year to highlight some of Milwaukee areas’ most special birds and the space in which they reside.


Festival participants exploring Milwaukee during a birding field trip


Spend the week with the birds!

Frequent Flyer Pass

Cost: $30

A Brew City Birding Festival Frequent Flyer Pass includes admission to any Brew City Birding Festival lecture, $5 off festival field trips, a commemorative souvenir festival pass and early-bird festival registration* (a total value of up to $80!)

Get your Frequent Flyer Pass

Passes can be purchased online, during registration for any of the programs or in person at one of our Weekly Bird Walks. For more info contact Jennifer Callaghan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (414) 964-8505

*Early-bird registration available if passes are purchased before March 12.



Brew City Birding Festival Weekly Events

Our array of weekday events feature field trips highlighting important stopover sites in and around Milwaukee and programs designed to hone the skills of introductory to advanced birders alike. Check out the full schedule of field trips and lectures below.

Thanks to our Sponsors:

MacGillis Wiemer Attorneys at Law, Weyco Group Inc. and CG Schmidt. 

Monday  |  Tuesday  |  Wednesday  |  Thursday  |  Friday


Monday, May 7

Click on the title of the program to register

Birding at Wind Point Field Trip 

Meet at our Riverside Park branch
Monday, May 7 | 8:00 am - noon
| $15 (Nonmembers: $20)
Avocets, red-necked grebes, great-crested flycatchers, and orchard orioles are highlight birds that have been documented trolling the shores around Wind Point’s lighthouse and the park’s steep ravines. Join the UEC’s birding aficionado, Tim Vargo, as we explore this unique area together. Registration required. Frequent Flyer discount eligible.

Bird is the Word! (lecture)White-breasted Nuthatch with a seed in its bill

Riverside Park
Monday, May 7 | 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm | $5 (Nonmembers: $10) 
This introductory-level presentation will offer something for beginner to advanced birders alike. Ever wonder why a duck’s feet don’t freeze to the ice in the winter or how a bird can perch on a branch without falling? Former MIAD Ornithology Professor, Maria Terres, will lead a lecture about the unusual things that make birds unique creatures in the animal kingdom. Free with your Frequent Flyer Pass!

Look, Up in the Sky! It’s a Hawk! No, a Falcon. No, it’s an Eagle! (lecture)

Riverside Park
Monday, May 7 | 6:00 - 7:00 pm
| $5 (Nonmembers: $10)
Can you tell a buteo from an accipiter in flight? What about from a distance of 100 yards in the rain while a Red Oak is blocking half your vision? Join Seth Cutright as he shares tips and tricks to help you identify raptors in the field more confidently. Register online or use Frequent Flyer Pass!

Tuesday, May 8

Click on the title of the program to register

Menomonee Valley Bird Banding (bird research in action)Two women looking at a bird through magnification goggles.

Menomonee Valley
Tuesday, May 8 | 5:15 am - 11:00 am
| Free - donations appreciated
Bird banding is a unique way to monitor migratory bird populations which uses specially designed nets. Visit the banding station and watch us remove birds from the nets and put on special identification bands. You might even have a chance to hold a wild bird in your hands. Dependent on specific weather conditions, so please register with Jennifer, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. before attending.

Weekly Bird Walk

Menomonee Valley
Tuesday, May 8 | 8:00 am - 10:30 am
| Free - donations appreciated
Get exercise, enjoy fresh air and let's see how many birds we can find in one morning! Spring migration is the BEST! Binoculars available to borrow. No need to register.

Birding in Warnimont Park Field Trip

Warnimont Birding With JuliaMeet at our Menomonee Valley branch
Tuesday, May 8 | 8:00 am - Noon
| $15 (Nonmembers: $20)
Worm-eating warblers, bank swallow colonies, and long-eared owls find the steep cliffs, bluff faces, and grassy fields of this Milwaukee County Park appealing. 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. Online pre-registration required. Frequent Flyer discount eligible.

Milwaukee Public Museum Field Trip 

Meet at our Menomonee Valley branch
Tuesday, May 8 | 12:30 pm - 4:30 pm
| $25 (Nonmembers: $30)
Take a behind the scenes tour of the Ornithology collection at the Milwaukee Public Museum and experience some of the hidden gems not on display. Fee covers admission to the museum. Registration required. Frequent Flyer discount eligible.

Bird Banding at the UEC - What a Sliver of 15 Years Worth of Data Tells Us (lecture)

Riverside Park
Tuesday, May 8 | 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
 | $5 (Nonmembers: $10)
Perhaps you’ve helped out with this project in the field and then wondered exactly what these little birds are helping us to discover? Learn about some of the trends and patterns that our data have unearthed and the powerful stories data hold. Register online or use Frequent Flyer Pass!

The Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory (lecture)

Riverside Park
Tuesday, May 8 | 6:15 pm - 7:15 pm
| $5 (Nonmembers: $10)
The Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory is not only the only observatory on either shore of Lake Michigan, it’s the only bird observatory in the entire state of Wisconsin; and it’s right in your backyard! In this talk, Chuck Hagner, board chair of the observatory, will share its history, some of its most important research and monitoring projects, and how it is working to advance the conservation of birds and bats throughout the Great Lakes Region. Register online or use Frequent Flyer Pass!

Wednesday, May 9

Click on the title of the program to register

Weekly Bird Walk

Washington Park
Wednesday, May 9 | 8:00 am - 10:30 am
| Free - donations appreciated 
Get exercise, enjoy fresh air and let's see how many birds we can find in one morning! Spring migration is the BEST! Binoculars available to borrow. No need to register.

Big Green Birding Bike Ride!Two women on bikes, looking up through binoculars.

Meet at our Washington Park branch
Wednesday, May 9 | 8:00 am - 4:00 pm
| $10 (Nonmembers: $15)
Get exercise, enjoy fresh air and see how many birds we can find in one day using no fossil fuels! Bring a lunch, a bike, and binoculars. Bikes and binoculars are available for Urban Ecology Center members to borrow. Register online. Frequent Flyer discount eligible. 

Milwaukee County Zoo Field Trip

Meet at our Washington Park branch
Wednesday, May 9 | 11:00 am - 3:00 pm
| $15 (Nonmembers: $20)
Tour the Zoo Aviary and learn about captive avian management and conservation projects staff are involved in. Also, enjoy a short walk to one of the hummingbird banding sites on the Zoo’s grounds. Participants will learn how banding a hummingbird is conducted as well as various other projects involving wild birds on the property. Bring a bag lunch to enjoy on the Zoo grounds. Online pre-registration required. Frequent Flyer discount eligible.

Birds and Beer! Sex Lives of Birds (lecture and drinks)Hands clinking glasses of beer over two sets of binoculars

Meet at Gathering Place Brewery,
811 E Vienna Ave.
Wednesday, May 9 | 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm: Birds & Beer, 6-7 pm: Sex Lives of Birds
| $5 (Nonmembers: $10)
Birder extraordinaire, Becca Sher, will host the popular Birds & Beer program with special guest, UW-Milwaukee distinguished professor, Peter Dunn. Dr. Dunn will discuss some of the nuances that make bird reproduction and mating rituals so fascinating and the oddities that a lifetime of research on mating systems have revealed. Meet us at Gathering Place Brewery and don’t forget money for beer! Register online or use Frequent Flyer Pass!

Thursday, May 10

Click on the title of the program to register

Horicon Marsh Field Trip

Meet at our Riverside Park branch
Thursday, May 10 | 7:00 am - 3:00 pm
| With Lunch: $50 (Nonmembers: $55), Without Lunch: $40 (Nonmembers: $45)
This 33,000 acre National Wildlife Refuge regularly attracts some of the state’s rarest birds and boasts a park list of 300 species. American white pelicans, yellow-headed blackbirds, and a variety of marsh birds are common spring cohabitants of this sprawling and largely accessible state gem. Join UEC’s raptor expert, Danny Pirtle, for a full-day field trip of birding fun. Online pre-registration required. Frequent Flyer discount eligible.

Weekly Bird WalkA teen, a man, and a woman looking through binoculars in a wooded area in Riverside Park.

Riverside Park
Thursday, May 10 | 8:00 am - 10:30 am
| Free - donations appreciated
Get exercise, enjoy fresh air and let's see how many birds we can find in one morning! Spring migration is the BEST! Binoculars available to borrow. No need to register.

Birds in Poetry (reading)

Riverside Park
Thursday, May 10 | 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
| $5 (Nonmembers: $10)
Birders and poets share much in common. Both like working by ear and always make a practice of naming things. Join Kimberly Blaeser & Chuck Stebelton for an evening of favorite poets and bird poems. Kimberly is a poet at UW-Milwaukee where she teaches Creative Writing and Native American Literatures. She served as Wisconsin Poet Laureate from 2015-2016. Chuck is a poet and Wisconsin Master Naturalist volunteer. Stay after the program to join the May gathering of the Urban Echo Poets meeting. Register online or use Frequent Flyer Pass!

Bird Navigation - A Remarkable Ability! (lecture)

Riverside Park
Thursday, May 10 | 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
$5 (Nonmembers: $10) 
Many birds migrate hundreds or even thousands of miles twice a year, every year , for the entirety of their lives. What’s even more remarkable, is that they are able to innately navigate these flyways using an internal global positioning system complete with specialized organs, an internal compass, and super-senses! Join Tim for this installment of his monthly Beak to Tail series hosted by the Center’s Urban Stargazers group. After the program if skies are clear there will be telescopes set up outside for some stargazing. Register online or use Frequent Flyer Pass!

Friday, May 11

Havenwoods State Forest Field TripHavenwoods State Forest entrance sign surrounded by bright yellow and deep red fall foliage.

Meet at our Riverside Park branch
Friday, May 11 | 8:00 am - Noon
$15 (Nonmembers: $20)
Havenwoods’ mysterious, and often forgotten, military history eventually evolved into the county’s most expansive and under-appreciated state forest. Wisconsin DNR wildlife biologist, Dianne Robinson, will reveal some of Havenwoods’ magic and help participants discover some of the special birds residing in the state forest. Registration required. Frequent Flyer discount eligible.

Linking Climate Change and Changing Bird Populations (lecture) 

Riverside Park
Friday, May 11 | 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
$5 (Nonmembers: $10) 
Worldwide climate data clearly indicate that our climate is changing – it’s getting warmer. Climate change has the potential to be a very powerful influence on the future status of breeding, migrant, and wintering birds. Research shows that bird populations are already beginning to respond to a warming climate. Join Director of the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory William Mueller as he illustrates the connections between birds and our climate and offers ideas of what we can do to help. Free for Frequent Flyer Pass holders.

Landscaping for Native Birds (lecture)

Riverside Park
Friday, May 11 | 6:00 pm - 7:00 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. Register online or use Frequent Flyer Pass!



Man marvels at a pack of native bird feathers at a class.

A bird-themed lecture at Riverside Park during last year’s festival


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


MW BCBF web page 2500


CG Schmidt

Community Partners

Kim Blaeser •Seth Cutright • Echo Poets • Milwaukee County Parks •
Milwaukee County Zoo • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources • 
Milwaukee Public Museum • Becca Sher • Peter Dunn •
Chuck Stebelton • Maria Terres • Urban Stargazers • 
Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory •  Woodland Pattern


Photo credits: White-breasted Nuthatch by Bruce Halmo, Beer by ADBE.

Many folk tales, urban legends, and myths have led people to believe just plain inaccurate things about some of our wild creatures. Dragonflies were believed to be the Devil’s helpers by sewing naughty children’s eyes shut while they slept. Bats were believed to get tangled in people’s hair in the dark because of misconceived poor eyesight. And, ravens were thought to be premonitions of death. I’ve heard countless critter myths throughout the years, but one creature in particular continues to surprise me with its maligned status: cue the American Toad.

Thursday, 30 June 2016 12:23

CRIKT and You

It is the season of showy butterflies, buzzing cicadas, crackling grass hopper wings and CRIKT research. Nope, that is not a typo. CRIKT stands for “Citizens Researching Invertebrate Kritters Together” and this research team at the Urban Ecology Center is leading the nation in its approach to field ecological research. “Invertebrate Kritters” refers to the vast array of animals found in the insect, spider and mite categories. Because invertebrates impact people in a variety of ways: pollinating crops, decimating crops and invoking some of our greatest fears or senses of awe, they have been studied quite a bit over the years. So what sets CRIKT apart? It is WHO is involved and WHERE they work.

A potent odor in Three Bridges Park recently led us to a dead skunk lying next to the Menomonee River. It rested, amazingly intact, on a sewerage outflow pipe lightly covered in snow. Whether he was the victim of hypothermia, winter starvation or a ravenous hawk remained a mystery, but whatever the skunk’s demise, it was clear that two weeks after he had perished, his scent still lingered.

When I think of the opossum, I think of a scrappy little character; tough, resilient, clever, and tenacious. In fact, one of my first memories of the opossum demonstrates its impressive adaptability. When tree hollows and brush piles provided inadequate shelter, the resourceful opossum sought shelter elsewhere - she would sneak in under our house's raised foundation and hunker down next to the hot water pipes beneath the bathrooms. There, she would build a comfortable bed of dry grass and stay till spring. And sometimes, when my family would take a shower or bath, you could even hear the scratching of little opossum paws against the water pipes, presumably acknowledging the relief provided by the warm plumbing.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015 00:00

Cops and Larvas


The thing I enjoy most about working at the Urban Ecology Center is the occasional unforgettable experience I get to share with volunteers. They don’t happen every day, but sometimes Mother Nature waves her wand at a precise second and a really special moment is created. I’ve seen volunteers cry in reverence to close natural experiences and I’ve experienced the pure magic of nature more times than should probably be allowed. But last week a trio of beat cops shared with me a moment that was surely conjured by the powerful mother herself.

By now you have probably heard about the Riverside Park Beaver. He’s been chewing down Milwaukee River Greenway trees since the summer of 2014, has been featured on local news segments, has been written about in social media and blog articles, and even became the star of our recent Earth Month grant-matching campaign. But, how much do you really know about this busy beaver? You might be surprised to learn that this species is much more complex than one might think.

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!

I have a confession. A part of me enjoyed when the Riverside Park beaver was a secret. I liked sneaking through the park examining tree trunks along the river for signs of beaver chewing. I enjoyed watching the progress of the chew on the large cottonwood that first revealed signs of the beaver. I enjoyed sharing the location of the tree with nature-loving volunteers and I entertained myself by photographing two of those volunteers with the last name "Beaver" kneeling next to the tree pretending to gnaw at the bark.

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