Since it’s in our nature here in Madison to go for a bike ride or drink a beer, it only makes sense to add some actual nature to the equation, too.
There will be a little of all three on Saturday during Birds, Bikes & Brews, hosted by the Madison Audubon Society at Next Door Brewing Co. Participants will get a chance to ride the Lake Monona loop, check out what birds they might see along the way and drink a special bird-themed beer created by Next Door.
“Folks can be serious about the birding if they want, they can be serious about the biking if they want,” said Matt Reetz, executive director of the Madison Audubon Society. “Or they can be serious about the beer.”
It’s the second year for the event, which is partly a fundraiser but aims primarily at getting people interested in the birds or the Audubon Society, organizers said.
“We all think if people are out there enjoying them in their home city, they’ll be moved to either enjoy them more or get involved in helping their habitats,” said Carolyn Byers, Madison Audubon’s education and operations specialist.
For $5 participants get a checklist of birds they might see, and a pint of beer (or non-alcoholic beverage). From there, $1 of each specialty pint sold will go to the organization’s conservation and education programs.
Madison Audubon takes a light-hearted approach to the event, hosting a contest to name the specialty beer that will be brewed. It will be a session pale ale with an ABV of approximately 4.7, said Next Door brewer Bryan Kreiter, one that should go down easy after the 12-mile ride around the lake. This year, the brew is called “Owl Have Another.”
“Bird puns are fun,” said Emily Meier, the organization’s communication and outreach coordinator.
Last year’s event was self-guided; this year there are two guided rides, one at 3 p.m., and another at 4:30 p.m.
Byers and her husband, B.J., will be leading one of the guided rides. She found herself doing that last year, even though it wasn’t a guided ride and she didn’t even work for Madison Audubon at the time.
“I was sort of collecting people as I went along,” she said. “I’d be pointing something out and more people would come and ask to see it, and I ended up having this group with me.”
For experienced birders, Birds, Bikes & Brews taps into a new movement called “green birding.”
“Birding is sort of a traveling hobby, and one of the things people locally have said is that we can reduce greenhouse emissions by going biking more when we go birding,” Reetz said. “So they bike to destinations.”
And while many experienced birders go for a “big year” — spotting the highest number of species in a year — an event like Birds, Bikes & Brews can add a twist to that.
“People have started doing ‘big green years’ — the most birds people can see from a particular point on bike or by kayak or some way without fossil fuels,” Byers said.
But for this event, experience is not required. In fact, having people new to birding is what makes it fun, Byers said.
“One of my favorite reasons to bird with new birders is every bird is exciting,” she said. “Their whole face lights up and they say things like, ‘Oh my god, that’s a tree sparrow? I had no idea.’ And tree sparrows are everywhere. It’s like birding with kids, it’s all exciting.”
The organization wanted to give people a fun way to get started, Meier said.
“Sometimes it can be a little intimidating, especially on a field trip, to go with someone who has a species list that’s longer than birds you know even existed,” she said.
Participants will get a checklist of birds they might see along the route, with space to add other birds they might spot.
“It’s a good time, we’ll catch a lot of different birds,” said Reetz, who also will be leading one of the guided rides. “Not just water fowl, but warblers will be coming through, the cranes are starting to move, and we’ll catch the common urban birds. There’s more diversity to urban birds than people think.”
Because the city has a lot of green space as well as wetlands, water and grasslands, there’s a wide variety of birds to see here, Reetz said.
“There are not very many species that don’t come through this area,” he said. “Of the 200-some species that have been reported in Wisconsin, the majority have been sighted in Madison. Almost all of them come through here.
“We’re lucky to live in a place like this.”