Birders take a look at shorebirds on the outgoing tide on Saturday, May 8, 2021, at Mud Bay on the Homer Spit in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
As a U.S. Coast Guard aircraft buzzed over Mariner Park Lagoon, a trio of volunteers stood bundled up towards the coolness of a late-April morning, looking for the spring’s latest avian arrivals. George Matz, who has organized the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project for the previous 14 years, was fast to share his information — and his scope — to supply a have a look at a larger yellowlegs because it foraged.
Matz is considered one of many guides on the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, which is again with in-person occasions this week after two disrupted years in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Running from May 4-8, it’s brimming with alternatives for birders of all talents.
This yr is the thirtieth anniversary of the competition, which grew out of a community-wide effort to protect crucial habitat for migratory birds, significantly shorebirds like western sandpipers, dunlins and plovers. The primordial calls of sandhill cranes stretching throughout quiet evenings is perhaps essentially the most recognizable signal of birds returning to Kachemak Bay, however you’ll be able to spot dozens of year-round residents and different migratory species that nest or cease over on their journeys north. The Shorebird Festival is the proper place to find out about all of them, with a deal with the celebrities of the competition that give it its identify.
You can register for the competition and buy tickets for guided journeys and occasions on-line at kachemakshorebird.org. An grownup competition go is $20, and $5 per further member of the family. Registration charges preserve the competition going yr to yr, and lift cash for Friends of Alaska Wildlife Refuges, which assist all 16 of the state’s wildlife refuges.
For these trying to discover what the competition has to supply, the newly reopened Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, positioned at 95 Sterling Highway, is a good useful resource for getting oriented. The Visitor Center shall be internet hosting occasions all through the competition for each youngsters and adults, together with artwork and pictures workshops, discovery labs and guided walks.
Melanie Dufour, the competition coordinator, mentioned that some guided excursions can promote out shortly, however don’t be dissatisfied if one thing is crammed — there’s enjoyable for everybody. If you might be new to Homer, she prompt testing birding hotspots like Beluga Slough and the Homer Spit, with the most effective viewing simply earlier than or after excessive tide. Volunteers shall be at viewing stations at Mud Bay on the Spit and Lighthouse Village to assist individuals spot and establish birds.
Just a few of the opposite occasions with no further value embrace a shorebird-oriented First Friday on the Pratt Museum, guided walks geared towards birders of all talents, an Audubon Alaska presentation on corvids at Alice’s Champagne Palace, and the Refuge Alaska Film Fest at Homer High School.
Two Schantz Scholars are attending the competition this yr and shall be giving public talks at Homer Public Library on Friday May 6. The Tim and Tom Schantz Foundation honors the 2 brothers who shared a ardour for birding and Alaska, and died younger from a genetic cardiac illness. Scholars obtain a visit to the shorebird competition. Hannah Clipp’s analysis makes use of climate surveillance radar to watch nationwide migratory hen patterns, and Joel Such will talk about a pioneering new hen monitoring program in Colombia’s Tatamá National Natural Park.
In addition to actions round city, Homer-based tour firms are providing an array of adventures to get additional afield. These embrace guided wildlife and birding boat excursions, kayak excursions to Yukon Island and Gull Island, hikes to discover native glaciology and ecosystems, and a bear- and bird-watching journey to Lake Clark National Park throughout Cook Inlet.
Whatever you select to do, “all of the guides are amazing,” Dufour mentioned.
For households with youngsters, there’s the Junior Birder program — which units youngsters on a year-to-year quest to find out about birds — with completely different actions and necessities annually. First-time and returning Junior Birders can register on-line or in individual, and decide up new and former years’ journals on the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.
Kendra Bush, an environmental training specialist for AMNWR, mentioned, “The whole idea behind it is to just get local kids excited about being outside and learning about birding.” She mentioned the aim is not only to study concerning the birds but additionally their habitats, gaining an general appreciation for the pure ecosystems across the bay.
For the primary time this yr, there are additionally new actions for youngsters aged 12 to 18, together with climbing excursions and artwork and pictures workshops.
This family-friendly and all-ability birding method has lengthy been a precept of the competition, which inspires the intersection of artwork and the outside. The artist behind this yr’s competition poster is Stacy Studebaker of Kodiak, whose coloured pencil on black paper art work options the bar-tailed godwit — a hen recognized for continuous migratory flights of epic size.
A First Friday opening of her work is 11 a.m. to six p.m. Friday at Northern Vibes Artisan Gallery, 4025 Homer Spit Road, No. 12. A exhibiting of unique 6-inch sq. artwork by varied artists is also on view on the gallery, with a web based public sale to learn the competition. Studebaker additionally does a workshop, “Creating Photo Mandalas with iPad or iPhone,” from 1-3:30 p.m. Sunday on the Homer Council on the Arts. See the web site for registration data.
Taking flight on foot on Sunday, May 8, dancer and choreographer Breezy Berryman and her college students shall be performing alternatives from bird-inspired ballets at Land’s End Quarterdeck.
Even after the competition is over, there are various methods individuals in Homer can proceed to study concerning the bay’s winged denizens. Matz makes use of the Cornell Lab eBird app so as to add bird-sightings throughout monitoring classes to international tallies, and there are a number of free birding apps like Merlin Bird ID and Audubon Bird Guide which are nice identification instruments.
“Everybody can bird,” mentioned Dufour, who hopes the competition’s inclusive messaging will persist lengthy after the excursions are completed. “Birding is for everybody — and every body.”