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?"

Wednesday, 15 March 2017 11:36

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

    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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