The 21st annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival has started with a junior birders discovery lab held Wednesday morning. The festival kicks into gear today with a spread of events, starting at 12:01 a.m. this morning with the Big Spit Plus Birding Challenge, a three-day event spread over the festival, challenging birding teams to spot as many species as possible, but without the one-day rush of previous versions of the contest.
New this year is an emphasis on getting festival participants to register and pay the $15 individual registration fee. Additional family members can register for $5 each. Sponsored by the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the chamber is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday to Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday for registration and information.
With many events free, in the past people didn’t register to gain admission. This year the festival will be monitoring events and encouraging people to pay the registration fee. The festival wants to pump up registration numbers, said Debbie Dauphinais, this year’s festival coordinator.
“We really do want good numbers for registration so I’ve got something to work with when I go out and solicit sponsors,” she said.
Already, about 670 people have registered, many from the lower 48, Puerto Rico and from foreign countries like Germany and New Zealand.
The theme this year is “Baja to Beaufort: Every Wingbeat Counts.” Many speakers will be exploring the theme of how migrating birds winter in southern habitats. They will look at where the birds live when not passing through Homer or nesting in Alaska.
The late spring and cold weather hasn’t slowed the shorebird migration. A few western sandpipers, the shorebird that impresses people with their large numbers, showed up this week. Homer is known more for its diversity in species rather than masses of birds. Dauphinais said birders who have already arrived have been impressed with what they’re seeing.
“People are coming and saying they’re checking off birds from their life list,” she said. “They’re finding good birds out there.”
A full schedule of events is available at the chamber or online at kachemakbayshorebirdfestival.org.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.