Barrow birds getting Web attention

Posted: Thursday, June 29, 2000

BARROW (AP) -- In the spring and summer, more than 200 bird species migrate to the Barrow area, but keeping track of them can be difficult with a limited road system and lots of wet tundra.

That's one reason why Frank Willingham, a professor at Ilisagvik College, has set up The Barrow Birding Center, a virtual place for birders. The Web site-- a feedback form for people to report their own sightings.

There's also a birding center hot line at (907) 852-1702.

According to the Web site, a snow bunting was the earliest bird spotted in Barrow this year. After that came the snowy owl and king eider. Later arrivals included the tundra swan and western sandpiper.

''The Barrow Birding Center is not a specific place, but rather is an information source for those interested in birds and the birding scene in Barrow,'' Willingham said.

Actually, the closest thing to a headquarters for the center is the Ilisagvik College bookstore, where birders can find check lists, bird books, maps and bird patches.

The online center came about after Willingham fielded calls for several years from birders arriving in Barrow who wanted to know where the best lookouts were. Willingham said the North Slope Borough Wildlife Management Department also was getting a lot of phone calls.

''We decided that perhaps we should have some sort of central information center in Barrow that would provide the kind of information that birders want and that could be a clearinghouse for observations that birders make across the North Slope,'' he said.

Reaction to the site has been positive, according to Willingham.

''People are just beginning to find out about it,'' he said. ''I still find people who don't know about it yet, but I think as times goes on the word will spread about this. We've already had some good feedback from people in the Lower 48, and even one from South Africa.''

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