Birding is a hobby that – at least on the Kenai Peninsula – has grown into something more than a hobby. Every year at this time, birders from all over the country flock to the peninsula to get a closer look at the many migratory species that call this place a temporary home.
One of the longest-running celebrations of birding on the Kenai Peninsula is the annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival in Homer, now in its 21st year.
George Matz is a Homer birder who has long been a part of the festival.
"It's a celebration ... so people can see shorebirds," said Matz. "It's actually become kind of a reunion ... so many people from Anchorage come down here and from other parts of Alaska ... people you only see once or twice a year."
Matz says that birding can sometimes serve a purpose other than just the pursuit of an interesting hobby. For instance, the “Shorebird Project,” which is in its fifth year, aims to create a database of species that gather around the Kachemak Bay area every year.
"I've got about 30 volunteers right now," he said. "We go out once every five days and have this intensive monitoring for two hours ... identifying the birds we see and counting them. We're hoping to see some trends."
Matz says the information gathered is shared with scientists and researchers and can lead to important discoveries about the numbers, habits and patterns of migratory birds. He says the project has now expanded to the Anchor and Kasilof Rivers.
On the central Kenai Peninsula, birders are getting excited about the upcoming Kenai Birding Festival, which takes place May 16th through the 19th.
Ken Tarbox is a local birder and coordinator for the festival. He says the growing festival has added a couple of new events this year, including an opportunity for participants to take part in the Kenai Fjords tour out of Seward.
A great pace to learn more about local birding is online at www.kenaibirdfest.com, which features information about the upcoming Kenai Birding Festival, tips and tricks for catching a glimpse of various species and a special “bird of the month” feature.
Tarbox says the website is a great way for peninsula birders to share information with one another.
Matz and Tarbox made their comments on the “Coffee Table” program which aired Wednesday on KDLL and KBBI.