By Randi Somers
Officially beginning Thursday and running through May 11, this year’s 22nd Annual Chamber of Commerce Shorebird Festival will provide many opportunities to enjoy music, poetry, speakers and more as well as assisting with documenting the return of the various nautical birds that live here during the summer.
In addition to the plovers, oystercatchers, sandpipers and phalaropes, participants may also document sandhill cranes, Arctic and Aleutian terns, fork-tailed sStorm Petrels, Cormorants, Murres and Kittiwakes which nest on Gull Island a few miles across Kachemak Bay from the end of the Homer Spit. Eider, Pigeon Guillemot, Marbled and Kittlitz Murrelets, Eurasian Wigeons and American Three-toed and Hairy Woodpeckers will be seen on the waters as well as in the woods. Although not a shorebird, the bald eagle will be sighted both in the sky and on the shores. A total of 236 species of birds will be viewed and documented by participants.
A full schedule of events and a map can be picked up at the Homer Chamber of Commerce, 201 Sterling Highway. A few highlights are as follows:
Today kids ages 5-10 can earn a Junior Birder Badge at the hands-on Junior Birder Discovery Lab at the Island’s and Ocean Visitor Center’s lab classroom from 3-5 p.m.
Thursday the fun starts at 7 a.m. with an opportunity to view flocks of Sandhill Cranes that feed and rest in the Seaside Farm hayfields every spring. Coffee and continental breakfast will be served and homesteader/ birder Mossy Kilcher will lead the bird identification walk. This event is repeated May 9. The ticket for this is $20 for adults and $15 for children 12 years old and under and is limited to 30 people.
At 8 a.m. Mako’s Water Taxi will take people on a three-hour tour of Kachemak Bay’s south shore to view Goldeneye, Harlequin and Long-tailed Ducks among many more species that call the bay and coves home for the summer. This trip will also be offered Friday and Saturday. This trip costs $60 per person. Meet at the top of ramp 2.
The first major indoor event is “On the Wing” Thursday from 7-9 p.m. at the Homer Family Theatre. Sharol Friesen Schultz wrote a song especially for this show, “This Little Bird,” accompanied by Nina Faust’s video and Tim Quinn and Mossy Kilcher’s bird slides. Jim Hornaday’s “Homer Bound” song and Mark Krohn yodeling are among the highlights. The ukulele band performs a bird hula. This celebration features music of various cultures by the Seaside Singers and the Homer Ukulele band as well as original poetry presented by nine local poets, bird slides and a crane video. Tickets for this show are $10 which goes to the Shorebird Education Conservation Fund.
The M/V Lady Hawke, will take people to Yukon Island, Sadie Cove and Eldridge Passage area as well as Gull Island and into the town of Halibut Cove on the far side of Kachemak Bay. Seaman’s Ecotour Adventures is in charge of this expedition in an enclosed boat with heat, water and toilet. Passengers can expect to see marine mammals, seabirds and mountain goats while learning about the geology and natural history of Kachemak Bay. Passengers are asked to bring their own lunches and snacks. Charge for this tour is $150 for adults and $130 for youngsters 12 and under.
A kayaking and birding excursion to view birds and wildlife on the north shore is offered every day by St. Augustine Kayak Tours from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Time differs according to tides. Hot drinks and snacks are provided. This trip costs $100 per person.
Local bird expert Karl Stoltzfus of Bay Excursions will be taking cruises aboard the M/V Torega to his favorite birding sites on a three-hour cruise, starting at 9 a.m. to view Kittlizs and Marbled Murrelets, eiders, loons and many other species. This trip is limited to 12 people and costs $70 per person. Meet at bottom of ramp 3.
Starting at Bishop’s Beach Picnic Shelter from 10- 11:30 a.m. native plant educator Nancy Lee-Evans leads walks along Bishop’s Beach identifying wild edible and medicinal plants. She will explain their nutrition, preparation and uses. Youngsters are welcome and encouraged to attend with an adult. Adults pay $10 and kids are free.
The keynote speaker is Bill Thompson III. The editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest and the author of 18 books about birds, he will be featured in several events from Friday through Sunday. He starts with Optics Cleaning and Evaluation at the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center seminar room Friday from 1-1:50 p.m.
Also on Friday, the Pratt Museum hosts a welcome reception from 4-6 p.m. He’ll be hosted at a brunch Saturday 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Timber Bay Bed and Breakfast.
His keynote address, “The Perils and Pitfalls of Birding” is slated for May 10 from 8-9:30 p.m. at the Homer High School’s Mariner Theatre. Sunday from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. he provides 10 tips for better bird identification at the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center auditorium. Then on Sunday from 10:30 to 11 a.m. he hosts the Junior Birder Badge Awards Ceremony.
Author Noah Strycker will also be featured in several events from Friday through Sunday beginning with a welcome reception May 9 at the Pratt Museum from 4-6 p.m.
Featured artist Amanda Brannon will conduct a hands-on workshop and demonstration Saturday at Islands and Ocean Visitor Center from 9-11 a.m. Her show and reception will be held Saturday from 5-7 p.m. at the Fresh Sourdough Express Bakery and Cafe.
Complete and detailed schedules are available in the Chamber of Commerce’s publication entitled 22nd Annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival which are being distributed around town and are also available at the Chamber of Commerce office.
Anyone who wants to help can sign on at the Chamber of Commerce with Robbi Mixon. Stop by the Chamber or call 235-7740 if you want to get involved.
Shorebird Festival presents three key speakers
Keynote Speaker: Bill Thompson
Thompson is the editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest and the author of 18 books about birds, including his most recent work, “The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of Eastern North America.” He writes the Bill of the Birds blog and creates regular a podcast for bird watchers called This Birding Life. He is an avid birder and musician, traveling widely performing, speaking, leading field trips, and consulting on ecotourism for birding festivals and nature events around the world.
Featured author: Noah Strycker
Noah is the Associate Editor of Birding magazine, and longtime contributor to WildBird magazine and Bird Watcher’s Digest.From an early age, Noah was intrigued with birds. After high school, he delayed beginning college for a year-long birding adventure. Eventually he attended Oregon State, studying ornithology, and worked on field projects around the world, in places like Panama, Ecuador, and Australia. Realizing he could be come a “full-time bird man,” he spent the following years studying birds in Hawaii and Antartica, where he started a blog, which was inspiration for his 2011 book, Among Penguins. He continues his birding studies in places like Australian outback, the Farallon Islands, Costa Rica, Maine, and the Pacific Coast Trail.
Featured Artist: Amanda Brannon
Amanda lives in Eagle River, Alaska and is a nationally published, award-winning graphic designer, artist, and author. Since making Alaska her home in 1994, she has been inspired by the natural beauty and spirit of Alaska. When creating artwork, her primary medium is clayboard (or scratchboard) on which she does etchings.
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