Kenai Birding Festival: a great winter 'first'

Posted: Friday, January 28, 2011

What season do you consider the best time to try something new? I always think of the endless possibilities of summer. It wasn't until this past December that I started seriously checking out the winter pursuits available here on the Kenai Peninsula.

Although I have lived on the Peninsula for seven years, I am a Florida girl; born and bred in the South, and winter has never meant super cold or snowy before. So it was with these southern roots that I found myself standing with my feet strapped to skis for the first time at a clinic last month. An hour later, I had successfully learned the bare basics of cross-country skiing and hadn't fallen, even on the steep hills.

In addition to skiing, there is a lot of wintertime fun to be had here on the Kenai that is "family-friendly." This community is fantastic for planning get-togethers, public events that appeal to a wide variety of people, and especially opportunities for each of us to try new things. There is just such an opportunity coming up this weekend: The Kenai Birding Festival Winter Workshop.

The "first annual" Winter Workshop is dedicated to introducing the fun of winter birding, from how to entice birds to your back yard, to how we can easily identify the species that overwinter here on the Peninsula. If you are overwhelmed each spring by trying to sort out over two hundred or more bird species, winter is the perfect opportunity to experience birding for the first time at a slower pace. A typical winter birding trip might turn up ten to fifteen species, and all of these birds are considered easy to identify.

My first experience on cross country skis was fantastic, I am so glad I gave it a try and I look forward to another outing soon on the Kenai Refuge trails. Your first birding trip at the Winter Workshop will reveal an almost secret life of birds as they survive and even thrive during the darker, colder months. It will leave you looking forward to the next opportunity to go winter birding and prep you well for the arrival of our spring migrants. The two-day Workshop, hosted at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center, caters to birders of all ages and experience level. Check out the schedule of events below and get more details at I look forward to seeing you this weekend at the Kenai Birding Festival Winter Workshop for another great Alaskan winter "first"!

Friday, February 4

1:00 p.m. -- Birding Field Trip lead by Toby Burke and Todd Eskelin to the mouth of the Kasilof River and local backyard feeder hotspots.

5:30 p.m. -- Birding Expo and Pre-movie Reception before the feature presentation of Winged Migration. Organizations including the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Kenai Watershed Forum, Keen Eye Bird Club, Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center, Audubon Alaska and Kachemak Bay Birders will be on hand to discuss happenings, issues, and birding events on the Kenai Peninsula.

7:00 p.m. -- A special FREE presentation of "Winged Migration," the critically acclaimed documentary and 2002 Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary Feature follows five film crews during a rich variety of bird migrations through 40 countries and each of the seven continents. Suitable for all ages.

Saturday, February 5

9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. -- The Peeps Children's Program with Dan Pascucci and Leah Eskelin includes birding crafts, activities and fun educational songs. Space is limited to 30 children and must be accompanied by an adult. You must pre-register for this program with the Kenai Watershed Forum at 260-5449.

10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. -- Build Your Own Bird House with The Keen Eye Bird Club to take home and enjoy the birds in your own back yard.

1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. -- The Basics of Beginning Birding with Ken Marlow will take new birders through the first steps of getting out in to the field and enjoying our local feathered friends, from navigating your way through field guides to fine-tuning your binoculars.

2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. -- Build Your own Bird Feeder during this fun and easy activity for all ages. You'll receive a bag of birdseed to take home and get your feeder up and running, too.

7:00 p.m. -- Great Grey Owl meet and greet with Bird TLC, a non-profit dedicated to rehabilitating sick, injured or orphaned wild birds and providing avian education programs.

7:45 p.m. -- Alan Boraas: "Birds in the Time the Animals Could Talk: Humans and Birds in Traditional Dena'ina Culture." Traditional Dena'ina formed one of the world's most sustainable societies through their fishing and hunting practices and their attitude toward nature. During "The Time the Animals Could Talk" Dena'ina communicated with birds, as they did with all animals, creating a different level of understanding of nature than we normally have today. Boraas will explore these ideas through traditional stories and other information during this illustrated talk.

Leah Eskelin is a Visitor Services Park Ranger at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Previous Refuge Notebook articles can be viewed on the refuge website,

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