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Birding Backpacks at Madison Public Library

Feminist Bird Club Madison at Lake Farm County ParkMadison Public Library is now offering Birding Backpacks thanks to a generous donation from the Feminist Bird Club-Madison Chapter and support from the Madison Public Library Foundation. In 2022, the Feminist Bird Club joined the Great Wisconsin Birdathon to raise funds to purchase backpacks of birding equipment to have available at each of the Madison Public Library locations. They were able to raise over $4,000 during the Birdathon, with 50% of their funds supporting Wisconsin’s highest priority bird conservation projects, and 50% funding the birding backpack project.The goal of this project is to eliminate the cost barrier that can come with trying a new hobby like birding--all of the equipment needed to get out and explore nature through birding is provided in the backpacks.

Birding Backpacks Include: 

  • 1 pair of binoculars for adults
  • 1 pair of binoculars for kids
  • 1 Sibley's field guide for adults
  • 1 youth field guide from Madison Audubon
  • location guide to help you explore potential birding spots near each library

Checking Out A Backpack

Birding Backpacks at Madison Public LibraryBirding Backpacks can be checked out for a 7-day loan period and are available at every library location. This is a walk-in collection meaning no holds are available and backpacks are distributed on a first-come, first serve basis.

A few things to remember when checking out a backpack: 

  • A library card is required. 
  • NO renewals will be allowed.
  • Only 1 backpack may be checked out per card.
  • Backpacks MUST NOT be returned in book drops. Packs should be returned to staff at the circulation desk.
  • Backpacks may be returned to any South Central Library System library location.
  • Binoculars are under a limited lifetime warranty, which covers defects in material or workmanship. Warranty does not cover damage caused by the user or normal wear & tear. It also does not cover binocular accessories including lens caps, straps and cases. Please take good care of the materials - all lost/damaged material protocols will be followed if items are damaged.
  • No charge for overdue items, but please keep in mind that this is a unique and popular item and others will also been keen to try it!

Feminist Bird Club Madison WisconsinAbout the Feminist Bird Club of Wisconsin

The Feminist Bird Club is a birdwatching club dedicated to promoting inclusivity in birding while fundraising and providing a safe opportunity for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, BIPOC, and women to connect with the natural world. The Madison chapter was founded in 2019 and offers monthly outings that are open to everyone who supports their mission, no birding experience required! 

About the Great Wisconsin Birdathon

The Great Wisconsin Birdathon is Wisconsin’s largest fundraiser for bird conservation. Each year bird enthusiasts from across the state form teams with the goal of finding as many bird species as possible within a 24-hour period while raising important funds for bird conservation. LEARN MORE

Birding Resources

Yellow Warbler photographed by Michael Asher from the Feminist Bird Club Madison Wisconsin

Yellow Warbler photographed by Michael Asher

Finding Maximum Bird Joy

Birding can sometimes feel intimidating and challenging and a bit frustrating if you’re trying it for the first time, so the Feminist Bird Club has provided some helpful guidance to encourage folks. Here’s what they suggest to achieve maximum bird joy:

  • Look for movement. Start by standing still and looking at the natural movement of the world around you, like the wind moving through the leaves and the gentle swaying of branches. Once you get accustomed to this natural motion, different types of movement (like a bird fluttering in the branches or flying tree to tree) start to catch your eye much faster than before.
  • Listen for sounds. Birding is about more than just what you see, but also what you hear. The songs and calls of birds will help you uncover their presence, so take a few moments to listen carefully. Try and pinpoint where calls may be coming and look for signs of movement that may indicate a bird or critter. Investigate strange noises (which might sometimes be a squirrel or chipmunk!) because sometimes birds make sounds you don’t expect.
  • Slow down.  Enjoy the relaxation that comes with immersing yourself in the moment and really noticing the sights and sounds of the world around you. You might find that the longer you wait in one spot, the more the birds will pop out and give you a look. They really are hiding everywhere, so be patient with them (and yourself) and take it slow.
  • Take it one bird at a time. There are a lot of birds you might see. Did you know Wisconsin has over 300 species of birds? It’s a lot to get to know them all, much less what they look like in different plumages and making all those different calls. Start learning about the bird you’re currently looking at! Observe it as much as you can and then read about it in a field guide. Slowly, bird by bird, your knowledge will grow.
  • Go easy on yourself! Like all hobbies, birding can be challenging. It takes some practice to get your binoculars on birds - the more you see, the more there is to learn and that might feel overwhelming. But don’t be hard on yourself during the process–because it’s not about getting the correct ID, getting the best look at something, or knowing everything about a bird. Birding is about appreciating the beauty and wonder of the world around you. Put that joy first, and you’ll find this hobby never disappoints. 

Your Local Guide to Birding

Birding Backpack location guide from Madison Public Library and the Feminist Bird Club - MadisonNow that you've got everything you need to try birding, all that's left to do is try it! But, where do you start? The Feminist Bird Club - Madison Chapter has put together this helpful guide to finding birds in the city. The guide offers multiple spots near each Madison Public Library location where you can explore nature and look for birds.

The Guide Provides: 

  • Birding hot spots near a Madison Public Library location
  • Transportation information for getting from the library to the location by bus, bike, car, or on foot
  • A short description of each destination’s accessibility conditions
  • A write-up that shares what birds people might expect to find at each destination across the four seasons


Apps and Online Community

  • Blue Jay photographed by Megan HenekeDownload Merlin Bird ID to help you identify birds. It’s not foolproof, but it can use your location and the time of year to narrow in on what you might be seeing or hearing. Record a bird call, upload a photo, or answer some short questions about what you saw to get some potential bird suggestions. Bonus: Merlin Bird ID also serves as a free field guide on your phone!
  • Explore the world of eBird. See what other birders in the area are finding, discover new birding hotspots, learn about what to expect in each season, and maybe, if you’re up for it, start submitting your sightings, too. eBird is one of the world’s largest community science platforms, so your birding can help support scientists studying our feathered friends! 
  • Check out Madison Audubon’s Entryway to Birding blog for local Madison birding tips and guidance for getting started with this hobby.
  • The Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin has a web site and online newsletters to help you learn more about efforts to bring this bird back to Wisconsin.

Super Fly Books

Supplement your excursion with these awesome reads put together by the Feminist Bird Club - Madison Chapter! This book list includes field guides, memoirs, fiction, nonfiction and children's books, too. BIRDING BOOKLIST


This program was made possible in part by generous support from: