Eight years ago folks at the Kenai Watershed Forum and birders like Kenai Tarbox and Toby Burke organized the first Kenai Bird Festival and it has grown every year since in participants as well as activities and opportunities for birders. This year’s festival drew birders from all over the world and featured Alaska’s first 24 hour Big Sit,
“The 2013 Kenai Birding Festival 24-Hour Midnight Sun Big Sit went very, very well. We had a steady stream of visitors during the day with many staying 30 minutes or longer. We did keep a running count which came to 82 individual visitors. At least a quarter of them made multiple visits during the day. Though temperatures were low, the winds were calm for about 18 of the 24 hours which made for very good viewing conditions. I was hoping for a minimum of 50 to 55 total bird species. I would have been happy with 60, but 70, was outstanding and well beyond my expectations! Much thanks is due to expert observers Todd Eskelin, Cindy Avery, and Laura Burke who helped find and compile the impressive list of birds but more importantly generously devoted most of their time sharing their knowledge and appreciation of birds with novice and experts alike. Todd spent seven hours on the platform and Cindy and Laura each spent five hours. Local bird watcher 'Charles’ held a nine hour vigil on the platform from 9 PM to 6 AM. Much thanks to Ken Tarbox who was very supportive of the event and spent time on the platform too. I personally enjoyed my time on the platform and look forward to doing it again next year and I would gladly entertain suggestions on how to improve the event. This is a low key, enjoyable, logistically simple, and inexpensive event to run. So the very first formal 24-Hour Big Sit in Alaska is now history,” reported Toby Burke, Biological Technician U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
According to Ken Tarbox there are over 180 species documented for the Kenai Flats, “So to see 70 species is really a great day. It also shows how important the Kenai estuary is to migrating birds and the diversity of birds using the flats in the spring. The festival was a family event this year with lots of families participating. We had 65 people at the Owl night (lots of kids) and the Great Horned Owl was special. We had 40 kids with over 50 entries in the Peeps Art Show. People visited from Florida, Missouri, Puerto Rico, Fairbanks, Anchorage, Girdwood, and other states as well. We had people who never birded and experts and the combination of both was really special. People helping people learn a great outdoor activity,” said Tarbox.
Lisa Beranek, coordinator of the Festival for the Kenai Watershed Forum this year said most of the activities were full in advance this year with an approximate count of 500 some folks participating in guided river tours, Kenai Fjord tours, guided hikes, talks and film opportunities to learn about the terrific opportunities for birding on the Kenai Peninsula. “We had a lot of first time birders who learned some of the expert’s secret spots and from all reports it was a chilly but hot spot time for birding and the fellowship of making new friends of all ages made for a very warm weekend!”