Bird-viewing opportunities abundant

Posted: Friday, May 10, 2002

The Kenai Peninsula serves as a major thoroughfare for these avian tourists, and now is the perfect time to grab a pair of binoculars and get some bird watching at its best.

Many birds such as ravens, eagles and mergansers are year-round residents of the central peninsula. Others only summer here, and some just pass through on their way to other points, such as the famous snow geese of the Kenai River flats, which stop for lunch on their way to Siberia.

Three basic groups of birds migrate into or through the area:

waterfowl: ducks, geese and swans;

shorebirds: sandpipers, plovers and a host of little brown tweeters with odd names like godwits and knots; and

songbirds: numerous birds, generally small, ranging from the familiar robins to rarer sightings such as Townsend's warblers.

For those who don't have a convenient rustic lake, the Kenai Peninsula still offers plenty of birding hot spots. The mouths of rivers and estuary flats are favorite places for waterfowl and shorebirds. Check out open water on quiet ponds and lakes or sheltered bays along the ocean shore. Inland, birds are partial to margins where forest and grasslands come together. Remember to use your ears as well as your eyes, as many flocks call in flight and individual birds sing out to establish territories.

The south peninsula offers more organized birding. This weekend is the annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival and tips about interesting sightings are recorded on the birder's hot line at (907) 235-PEEP.

-- Shana Loshbaugh

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