The Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, the state’s largest wildlife festival, launches spring activities in Homer in early May. Festival participants have 50 events to choose from in the three-day event, from advanced ornithology workshops, beginning backyard birding presentations, field trips and boat tours to nesting sites to arts events and children’s activities.
Hundreds of thousands of shorebirds, of over 25 species from as far as Asia, Hawaii and South America fly home to Kachemak Bay feeding grounds during their spring migration. Shorebirds usually seen during the festival include Western and Least Sandpipers, Dunlins, Short-billed Dowitchers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Common Snipe, and Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers. Over 100 species of pelagic, coastal and woodland birds have been seen in one day during the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, including Aleutian Tern, Red-faced Cormorant, Kittlitz’s Murrelet and Eurasian Wigeon
Visitors from around the world flock here with the birds to celebrate the beginning of summer. Community volunteers man the numerous sites to make sure visitors have a fun and enlightening time here.
Located on the shores of Kachemak Bay, Homer is one of the most accessible and beautiful places for shorebird viewing in Alaska. Many visitors fly in (with the birds) while others drivel the scenic road, about four hours south from Anchorage.
Over 100,000 shorebirds migrate through this area, some staying to make their homes here. Many travel thousands of miles resting and feeding at a few critical stop-over points such as the base of the Homer Spit on their journey to the breeding grounds in the Alaska tundra.
Roadside viewing of over 25 species and flocks numbering several thousand birds is possible. Shorebirds to look for during the festival include: Black-Bellied, American Golden, Pacific Golden and Semipalmated Plover; Hudsonian, Marbled and Bar-tailed Godwits; Red Knots; Surfbirds; Western, Least, Pectoral, Spotted and Semipalmated Sandpipers; Red-necked Phalaropes; Ruddy and Black Turnstones; Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs; Common Snipe; Dunlins; Short-billed and Long-billed Dowitchers; Whimbrels; and Wandering Tattlers.
Other species besides the “Guests of Honor”, the shorebirds, many of the 236 species of birds recorded for Homer can also be seen in early May. These include Arctic and Aleutian Terns, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels and Tufted and Horned Puffins. Red-faced Cormorants and thousands of Common Murres and Black-legged Kittiwakes assemble near their nesting sites on Gull Island and Common Eiders, Pigeon Guillemots, Marbled and perhaps Kittlitz’s Murrelets are often seen on the Bay. Look for Eurasian Wigeons in Mud Bay or Beluga Lake. Three-toed and Black-backed Woodpeckers are resident in spruce woods around Homer, along with Warblers and Swallows and of course there are always Bald Eagles, lots of them.
The Chamber of Commerce always invites an outstanding guest speaker and the festival includes much entertainment along with numerous bird-spotting locations manned by informed specialists to enhance the experience.