Wrangell will once again hold its annual birding festival next weekend, April 26 through 29. The Stikine River Birding Festival celebrates migratory species that make a pit stop in the area. Activities include art workshops, lectures from researchers and, of course, plenty of bird watching.
The City of Wrangell and the U.S. Forest Service host the 20-year-old wildlife festival. Forest service employee and festival organizer Corree Delabrue says, with art showcases and science lectures, everyone can appreciate the scenery and creatures of the Stikine Delta.
“I’m a total bird nerd so I take my enjoyment in that science-y part. But there’s definitely people that may not be able to identify their birds, but they enjoy birds and they enjoy looking at them and hearing them. So we plan a festival that caters to a little bit of everything,” Delabrue says.
The Stikine River has a diverse landscape, including mud flats and various brush and forests. This area attracts up to 3 million shorebirds a year during their spring migration.
“They’re flying this huge distance and this is their break,” Delabrue says. “They rest, they refuel on the delta before they take off. A lot of these birds are going up to the Arctic, that’s where they breed for the summer.”
Some come from as far as South America. Typical sightings include sandhill cranes, bald eagles and snow geese.
Evon Zerbetz is a Ketchikan based print-maker and children’s books illustrator. Zerbetz says she will host adult and student workshops throughout the week.
Another presenter is Julia Parrish from the University of Washington. She’ll be discussing how climate change is affecting birds, focusing on the recent warming of the Gulf of Alaska that led to higher rates of bird mortality.
“She has this network of citizen science observers that reported bird moralities and that way, from the University of Washington in Seattle, they could track all over Alaska,” Delabrue says.
Birding enthusiasts and newcomers can check out various species on and off the island. Local birder, Bonnie Demerjian will host a birding 101 course for newbies. Then she’ll take folks to the golf course, which is a good spotting ground on the island.
“That’s a good opportunity for both intermediate, advanced, beginning birders because you can break up into groups and people that are just learning can learn from Bonnie,” Delabrue says.
Local boat tours will also take folks up the river for more bird watching.
The festival lasts April 26 through 29. A complete schedule of events is available at stikinebirding.org.