Monday, January 22, 2007

Birding Festivals Flock To The Fun

If you're in the market for a great way to spend a day, check out your local birding festivals. Most states have several fairs and festivals going on during the year, and they are an excellent way to get outside, learn something new, make new friends and have fun.

Birding festivals last from a simple one day event to a full month of outings, activities and lectures. The most common are over a weekend, and can range from small local events at a nearby park, to large-scale events that bring visitors from all over the globe, with events spread throughout an entire region. Depending on the specific event, you will have the opportunity to hear knowledgeable speakers, observe live birds up close, take guided walks, get pointers on better wildlife photography, sharpen your identification skills, share experiences with like-minded folks, and even take more exotic outings, such as birding by boat or on horseback. Often there are artists, vendors, children's activities, and the like.

Many birding festivals center on a specific event taking place in the local area, migration being a particular favorite. Another popular theme is the celebration of specific species found only locally, or perhaps in a particular abundance, such as warblers, shorebirds,cranes or hawks. Many blend other interests with birding, such as butterflies, flowers or even music.

Here is a sampling of some of the larger events that take place each spring and summer:

Birds, Blossoms & Blues Festival, Norfolk, Virginia. Field trips, walking tours, boat tours, plant sales, bluesconcerts, family festival.

Florida's First Coast Birding and Nature Festival, St. Augustine, Florida. Kayaking, walking tours, photography expeditions. Learn about outdoor photography, birding, wildlife, butterflies, and much more.

Spring Wings Bird Festival, Fallon, Nevada. Field trips, including a birding by horseback safari, airboat tour, ranch tour, photography contest, and much more.

Great River Birding and Nature Festival, Lake City, Minnesota. 3 days of birding and nature events held throughout the Mississippi River Valley of Southeast Minnesota and Southwest Wisconsin around Lake Pepin. Birding by motorboat, mini-railcar, hikes along shorelines, forests, bluff tops, lectures, and more.

Horicon Marsh Bird Festival, Wisconsin. Bird banding, birding by pontoon, hikes, talks, and the "big sit", where participants try to observe as many species as possible from a 17-foot observatory platform from midnight Friday till dark on Saturday.

Festival of Birds, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. Over 170 species seen last year, field trips, frog/toad outing, workshops, exhibitors.

Cape May Spring Weekend, New Jersey. 200+ bird species, field trips, workshops, boat trips and more at the migration mainline capital of North America.

Mountain Lake Migratory Bird Festival, Pembroke, Virginia. Visit the beautiful Mountain Lake Hotel, with 2600 acres of pristine woodlands to take part in dozens of activities - field trips, workshops, fun for the kids.

Kirtland's Warbler Festival, Roscommon, Michigan. Guided tours to see the Kirtland's Warbler, nature presentations, crafts, kids' activities, photography and more.

Bar Harbor Warblers & Wildflowers, Bar Harbor, Maine. Bird walks, peregrine watches, boat rides, garden and forest tours, art exhibits.

Potholes and Prairie Birding Festival, Jamestown, North Dakota. Guided tours, workshop, wonderful prairie birding.

The Feliciana Hummingbird Celebration highlights hummingbirds in the St. Francisville area of Louisiana, including banding and workshops on how to build a hummingbird habitat in your garden.

Southwest Wings. Arizona's longest running birding festival celebrates its 15th year in Bisbee. Natural history tours, birds and butterfly tours, exhibits and programs.

You can find these birding festivals and fairs by checking birding magazines such as "Birders World" and "Audubon", by contacting your local Audubon chapter, and by searching the Internet, but the quickest way to get a comprehensive list is by scanning the Birding Event Calendar at

Join the flock at your local birding festival, or migrate to a more distant event. Either choice promises a great day of birding!