Now in its 23rd year, the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival has settled into a weekend- long wildlife festival that goes like this:
• Spring arrives, and birds start showing up;
• In late April and early May, dozens of species and thousands of shorebirds ar- rive in Kachemak Bay;
• Homer, Alaska, Lower 48 and even for- eign birders dust off their binoculars and start watching the birds;
• From today through Sunday, tours, concerts, workshops and events center around all things birding;
• And, oh yeah, people have one heck of a time.
About 600 people have registered early, said shorebird coordinator Robbi Mixon, with about a third from Homer and the Kenai Peninsula. Registration can be done online at kachemakshorebird.org or in person from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. today-Saturday and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday at the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center. There is a $19.50 fee to attend the festival, with $5 each for up to four family members. Beyond that fee, many events are free but are limited and require registration.
The focus will be daily shorebird viewing stations at Mud Bay and Lighthouse Village in the early evenings. The best viewing is be- fore and after high tides. Experienced birders will be on hand and spotting scopes available to help spot and identify birds.
Since late April, volunteers with the Kachemak Bay Birders have been doing shore- bird monitoring in Homer and Anchor Point. Last Friday, spotters checked out hot spots on the Spit. In an email, organizer George Matz reported 120 black bellied plovers at Mud Bay and a few semipalmated plovers.
“As usual, plovers are leading the way,”
Western sandpipers, the little birds that
make up in quantity what they lack in size, also have started to show up, with 100 at Mud Bay. Another small shorebird, the dunlin, also has shown up, with about 75 at Mud Bay.
One change to shorebird this year has been the addition of more family bird walks and tours, Mixon said. Kids ages 8-10 can once again participate in the Junior Birder pro- gram and earn badges by attending bird walks and talks. Another new event is “Birding With an Otter’s Eye View” from 4-7 p.m. Friday from the Kachemak Bay Water Trailhead by Pier One Theatre. Take a guided kayak tour for $85 a person, with proceeds benefiting the Kachemak Bay Water Trail.
A more adventurous and new trip is to the Chisik Island bird rookery on the west side of Cook Inlet from 6:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday from the tractor launch at Anchor Point State Recreation Area.
Many popular events return this year, like Shorebird Sing at 6 p.m. Friday at the Homer Brewery, the annual bird calling competition. Buzz Scher, who describes himself as “an ex- perienced birder,” but not an expert, has been doing a talk on shorebird identification since the first year of the festival.
He’ll do it again at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center. Never birded before? Check out “Birding for Absolute Beginners” at 9 a.m. Saturday at Islands and Ocean or “Birding Optic 101” from 1-2 p.m. Friday at Islands and Ocean. Ben Lizdas of Eagle Optics, a longtime festi- val sponsor, offers tips about what to look for in scopes and binoculars. Eagle Optics also has a booth at Islands and Ocean.
Keynote speaker Dr. David M. Bird speaks on “How Birds Do It” at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s a very fitting name,” Mixon said of the keynote speaker.
Dr. Bird teaches wildlife biology and is director of the Avian Science and Conservation Centre of McGill University, Montreal, Canada and writes a column for BirdWatcher’s Digest.
The featured speaker, Neil Hayward, last visited Homer to tag a rustic bunting, the bird that broke the 2013 Big Year, a contest by birders to see as many species in North America as possible in one year. Hayward speaks about that quest in “An Accidental Big Year” at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Mariner Theatre.
Bird and Hayward join featured shorebird artist Kim McNett in a reception from 4-6 p.m. Friday at the Pratt Museum. McNett has drawn an unusual image for this year’s shorebird art, a Japanese brush-style drawing of a merlin chasing shorebirds. McNett shows her work at K-Bay Caffe and does a workshop at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies. (See story, page 12.)
For more information on events, see the festival program, available at the chamber and other locations.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at email@example.com.
23rd annual Kachemak bay Shorebird Festival
When: May 7-10
$19.50 a person, $5 for each additional family member; proceeds support the festival
event FeeS: free with registration or per event; see schedule. Register at the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center
or online at www. kachemakshorebird.org
Welcome reception for keynote speaker Dr. David Bird, featured speaker Neil Hayward and featured artist Kim McNett
When: 4-6 p.m. Friday, Pratt Museum
Who: Dr. David Bird
“How Birds Do It”
When: 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Mariner Theatre, $10
“Can Drones Help Our Bird Populations?”
CoSt: 11 a.m. Sunday, fee, $5
Who: Neil Hayward Featured talK: “An
Accidental Big Year”
When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Mariner Theatre, $5
“Hawai’i: Extinction Capital of the World”
When: 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, $5