Create Your Own Birds and Beers

Monday night I stumbled in from what was a six hour Birds and Beers with 42 attendees! I love that the event gets that many birders out on a week night, but the challenge hoisting such an event is that I don't necessarily get to talk to my old friends who show up and last night I don't think I talked to all the new people. I'm fortunate in that I have Curt Rawn to help out but man oh man, Birds and Beers is almost getting too big. Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 10.11.57 AM

Here's a photo of a restaurant full of happy birders at Grumpy's. I get requests to do them all over--both the Twin Cities and in other states. There's no reason why people can't host their own Birds and Beers. It’s easy, all you need is a social savvy host and the right bar or pub. I have some guidelines listed on the Birds and Beers page but I thought I would repost them here:

How to host a Birds and Beers:

1. Find a bar or pub that does not have loud live music or tvs blaring sports. Call ahead and alert them to what you want and find out if they have a slow night like a Tuesday or Thursday and ask what their parking situation is like--we have some great places in my neighborhood, but parking can be tricky.  Tell them you want to host a large gathering of bird watchers and that you will bring them 16 – 24 people between the hours of 6pm – 9pm to gather, have a bite to eat and drink a beverage or two. Those numbers are based on the average attendance of our Birds and Beers here in Minnesota.  Our rare lowest number was 8 people showing up.  Our two largest events hosted 52 people for the Crow Roost edition and 97 at the Biggest Week in North American Birding Festival edition (those are extreme). Make sure the bar has a server who can handle a crowd that will shift around.

2. Let people know about it.  Ask your local birding listserv if you can post it there.  Ask if you can post it on your local Facebook birding page.  Create an invite page on Facebook and encourage other birders to let their friends know.  See if your local news paper will mention it.

3. This is the key ingredient for whoever hosts it: as people arrive, get the their names (don’t hesitate to provide name tags). Watch as people arrive, you’ll figure out who is shy and who is chatty.  Make sure shy people don’t linger outside the group not talking to anyone, find out their interests and try to bring them over to another birder who shares that interest, or make sure they sit next to chattier folks.

4. The host should run as mediator with the server. Find out the server's name, let them know they can come to you if they are getting overwhelmed or if the kitchen/bar gets backed up. You can announce it to the group. Let the group know that if they are having an issue, they should let you know and you talk to the server. It helps to have a mediatory because large groups are hard on one server.

5. At some point, pause to allow for introductions. Don’t let everyone tell their life story, but maybe go around the group and have people say their name, what part of town they are from and say what brought them to the group. Some people may have  questions about finding birds, someone may have a tour they are leading, someone may have a research project and need volunteers.  This is the time for them to provide that information. Remind everyone to tip the server well!

6. Let everyone feel welcome. We all enjoy birds in different ways, some of us are hardcore listers while others have heard of this birding thing and want to see what it’s about.  Make sure everyone feels welcome and can learn from each other.

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7. Just because "Beers" is in the title doesn't mean that's the only thing you can have: whiskey, wine, tea, coffee and soda are all good.

8. If you start a Birds and Beers, let me know–I think that’s awesome!