While the COVID-19 pandemic kept birders away from Kachemak Bay last May in celebration of the 28th annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, the migratory flocks still found food and rest along the coast. This year, bird enthusiasts will be able to participate in a variety of in-person and virtual shorebird-related activities to welcome the birds back again in celebration of the 29th annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival from May 5-9.
Beginning in 1993, the annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, sponsored by the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges and the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, provides educational opportunities in order to celebrate wildlife in Alaska. The festival is planned in accordance with the annual migration of shorebirds through Kachemak Bay each year.
“Kachemak Bay is one of the best stop-overs for shorebirds. (It is) a critical habitat for them to stop over and eat, get a little weight back on to head further north,” said Melanie Dafour, program director for the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges and festival coordinator. “The festival recognizes how important the critical habitat of Kachemak Bay, the peninsula (and) our Earth is. For Alaska, for our Earth-to-be and what it is, we need to take care of it. That recognition is important.”
Dafour says she is excited to see birders with their “feet on the ground and coats on their backs” after last year’s festival was held virtually.
Hundreds of local and migratory shorebirds have already been spotted in the Homer area this spring, according to the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Monitoring Project. George Matz, organizer of the project, encourages all participants to report shorebird sightings in order to keep a record of the birds migrating to the area.
In-person events include bird-sighting kayak and boat tours, guided and self-guided shorebird viewing, historical and archeological tours of Kachemak Bay, conservation lessons and more. In-person tours are limited because of COVID-19 safety precautions, so all participants must register online for events.
All participants are encouraged to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines, including social distancing and wearing masks during the in-person events.
This year, the festival will use the app WHOVA to host virtual events. WHOVA orientation and training is available online at the event’s website. The virtual events will be available to access online up to a month after the festival.
In addition to virtual classes and lessons, the festival will feature virtual presentations with real-time Q&A from two keynote speakers on Saturday. Both speakers will have a selection of signed books on sale at Homer Bookstore during the festival.
Author and wildlife photographer Paul Bannick will present “Snowy Owl: A Visual Natural History” at 5:30 p.m. Bannick’s photography focuses on the natural history of North America, specifically birds and habitats, to inspire education and conservation.
Professor, author, photographer and illustrator Eli Knapp will present “The Delightful Horror of Beautiful Birds” at 7:30 p.m. Knapp will share his experiences, both good and bad, birding with his family across the world. In addition to his keynote speech, Knapp will share excerpts of his new poetry and illustration collection at 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 7.
Junior birders, ages 5-15, will also have a wide variety of activities to participate in, including virtual labs, self-guided family bird search walks, art activities and more. Visit kachemakshorebird.org/juniorbirder for more events.
To help promote Junior Birder activities, local Homer businesses will participate in a weeklong game of “I Spy” by placing stuffed animal birds in their windowsills. Birders are encouraged to post pictures of the spotted birds using #kbayshorebird2021.
The 29th annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival featured artist is Oceana Wills, a Homer native who spends her winters making art and summers commercial salmon fishing. Wills’ paintings predominantly feature women in the fishing industry, as well as her relationship with nature and landscape. Wills’ work is currently on display at The Bagel Shop on East End Road. To see more of her work, visit oceanawills.com.
Will’s painting “Ruddy Turnstone” is available for bidding in the annual auction, along with other artwork and prizes from local artists and businesses. The auction is held online through noon on May 9 at https://kachemakshorebird.org/2019-bird-art-trip-auction/.
Registration fees for the festival are $20 for science talks and Junior Birder events, and $10 for a keynote speaker pass. Individual field events may have registration fees as well.
The festival headquarters is located at the Island & Ocean Visitor Center located on Sterling Highway. For more information about the 29th annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, visit kachemakshorebird.org.