By Naomi Klouda
The 20th Annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival was broadly attended this year, attracting 1,900 people who registered.
Attendance was up by 9 percent from last year, said organizer Christina Whiting.
Some 80 attendees were Alaskan. Of those 55 percent came from Homer, 35 percent from Anchorage, and others came from Seward, Fairbanks, Kenai/Soldotna, Trapper Creek and Talkeetna.
The furthest-attending was a couple who traveled from Australia and another pair from England. A caravan of birders from Texas/Mexico came to Alaska just for this festival, Whiting said.
“Our core group continues to come every year, which I think speaks volumes. I don’t quite know what it means. They are coming back taking the same walks with the same guides year after year,” Whiting said. “To me that says we have a solid program that people enjoy.”
The 20th year came out with a record number of pre-registered individuals and families. It also featured a record number of pre-weekend sold-out events.
Some 52 events and activities meant a growing list offered to those attending. Out of Whiting’s 8 years as organizer, this was the largest number of raffle tickets ever sold for a spotting scope – 682 tickets sold, which raised about $2,000 as of deadline counts. A total of nearly $3,000 was raised from the combined raffle ticket sales of spotting scope, shorebird quilt and the shorebird basket.
It also took a famous number of volunteers – 129 in all, who put in 450 hours of combined labors.
Whiting, after eight years of work organizing the event and seeing it grow incrementally each year, was honored prior to the keynote address of International Crane Foundation George Archibald’s talk. She was presented with special recognition and gifts by a team of collaborators on the shorebird festival.
High praise came from Keynote speaker Archibald, whose talk focused on repopulation efforts related to the red crested cranes in North and South Korea. He told a packed audience he was impressed. “I travel to Festivals all over the world and this one is the largest of its kind and is so well organized. Very impressive for such a small town.”
A highlight for birders was the sighting of a pair of Bristle-thighed curlews at the mouth of the Anchor River. The rare pair were seen first on Friday evening through Sunday morning, often mixed in with the Whimbrels. The Bristle-thighed Curlew breeds only in North America. Its adult population numbers about 7,000 individuals, making it the rarest of the New World curlews and godwits.
On May 11 there was a sighting of a huge number of Pacific Loons on the west side of the Homer Spit by the Glacier Drive-in. Estimates of 80 or so were packed close together, like scoters
A good-sized group of common eiders also were seen in the same area, along with Red knot, Solitary Sandpiper, Great Blue Heron’s, Red-throated loons and the American Golden Plover.
Out on the Bay: A Thick-billed Murre was seen on May 13 near Gull Island. Tufted puffins, black oystercatchers and Red-necked Phalarope also were seen on the bay.
An Osprey was seen May 13 at the Glacier Spit.
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