“I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance than I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.”—Henry David Thoreau
Although having a bird casually flop onto your shoulder might not seem like a very common scenario, an experience like Thoreau’s may not be too far from the norm at one of the many bird festivals happening across the United States this spring. Every year, thousands of bird watchers—veterans and rookies alike—gather at various sites to watch as hundreds of bird species migrate and settle for the spring. Some events offer workshops on the basics of bird-watching, like what tools to bring and how to avoid scaring birds away. Others offer bird-watching field trips geared toward areas of interest such as scientific research, photography, artwork, and travel. Whether you’re interested in wildlife preservation or in having a live subject for your artwork, there’s a bird festival just right for you.
Kenai Peninsula, Alaska: Kenai Birding Festival
May 15–18, 2014
With famous birds like the albatross, horned puffin, and black-capped chickadee, Kenai Peninsula provides an awe-inspiring experience for bird enthusiasts at all levels of experience. All of the birding field trips are within a short distance of each other, so visitors can see a large variety of habitats and species in a single day.
Leavenworth, Washington: Leavenworth Spring Bird Fest
May 15–18, 2014
The Leavenworth festival is the perfect destination for young families and bird-watching novices. It kicks off with a musical concert and picnic that create a family-friendly atmosphere. Children can discover the wonder of birding through the festival’s Bird Discovery Science Center. Meanwhile, adults can enjoy field trips to find and observe well-known and obscure species alike, such as nutcrackers, ravens, grosbeaks, and buntings.
Cortez, Colorado: Ute Mountain/Mesa Verde Birding Festival
May 8–12, 2014
This festival, perfect for both the adventurer and the artist, offers overnight bus trips to destinations such as Pagosa Springs, Dolores River Canyon; La Plata River, Ute Mountain Park; Bluff, Utah; and Condors, Arizona. Among the birds often sighted are the roadrunner, spotted towhee, black phoebe, and wild turkey. The festival also hosts a bird-themed art show.
Galveston, Texas: Galveston Birding & Nature Photo Festival
April 10–13, 2014
The Galveston FeatherFest focuses many of its events on photography. Located on a portion of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, the festival encompasses habitats such as woods, beaches, and prairies. Common sightings include herons, falcons, owls, nighthawks, and woodpeckers. Among the lecturers and guides are renowned naturalists with knowledge on species characteristics, bird habitats, and conservation efforts.
Oregon, Ohio: Biggest Week in American Birding
May 6–15, 2014
Known as the warbler capital of the world, northwest Ohio is the springtime home to a myriad of songbirds. Located in Oregon, Ohio, this 10-day festival offers half-day trips to six distinct birding sites. There will also be keynote addresses, workshops, and discussions on such topics as environmental preservation and its importance to bird-watching.
Down East, Maine: The Down East Spring Birding Festival
May 23–26, 2014
The Down East Spring Birding Festival showcases birds from several distinct habitats, such as bogs, forests, and both freshwater and saltwater shores. On average, attendees report more than 200 sightings during the three-day festival. Many aesthetically alluring birds, such as the short-billed dowitcher, the black-eyed woodpecker, and the cedar waxwing, make appearances during this festival, creating a great opportunity for artists and photographers.