Wild Birds Unlimited
8402 Old Sauk Rd., 664-1414, www.wbumadison.com
9 am-7 pm Mon.-Fri., 9 am-6 pm Sat., 11 am-5 pm Sun.
I must admit that until now, the word 'birds' has mostly made me think of Alfred Hitchcock. It reminds me of those pesky creatures that ravaged an otherwise gorgeous Tippi Hedren in his classic thriller. But after one 45-minute discussion with Margie Hamilton of Wild Birds Unlimited, I'm convinced that birding just might become my newest stress-relieving, at-one-with-nature hobby.
The idea for the store came from Hamilton's simple Mother's Day request for a bird feeder from her husband, Dan, at the time a dentist in Indiana. A passion for all things bird ensued, and the couple moved to Wisconsin to open a franchise of Wild Birds Unlimited, a chain of outlets based in Carmel, Ind.
'People in Wisconsin are very nature-conscious,' says Margie. 'There were lots of people who doubted a birding store could survive in Madison, but we just celebrated 20 years.'
Wild Birds Unlimited is housed in a bright, airy space that includes an outdoor feeding station, so customers can watch local birds in action, like chickadees, starlings and grackles. All bird needs are met here: seed, suet, feeders, birdbaths. Lacking a tree from which to hang a feeder? Check out the pole systems, which can even clamp to a railing.
For the diehard birder: Waterproof Sidewinder binoculars by Vortex ($190) and a vented microfiber Tilley Hat, with ultraviolet protection ($70). For the average backyard birdwatcher: a small hopper feeder made of recycled milk jugs by Wild Birds Unlimited ($34), or an artsy, cobalt-blue hummingbird feeder made of handblown glass ($48). And for the kiddies: the nature book Leapfrogging Through Wetlands, by Middleton author Nancy Field ($8), and some ingenious Mumz socks, which have insect repellent to keep bugs at bay ($13).