Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges and Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge co-sponsored the 29th Annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival in Homer, Alaska, May 6-9, 2021.
Festival Coordinator’s Wrap Up by Melanie Dufour
The annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, held on traditional Sugpiaq and Deni’ina lands in Homer, Alaska, happened in 2021 like never before. It was my first year as Festival Coordinator, we, I especially, learned a lot! I appreciate all those on the Shorebird Committee who supported me and let me lean on their years of experience.
This year the Festival was a hybrid, holding space for virtual speakers, workshops, and fun activities alongside new and old guided birding excursions, wildlife viewing, and kayaking tours– offered for people of all ages and abilities. The locations of these events ranged from the head of Kachemak Bay to Lake Clark, and along the river and ridges of our community.
And of course, the birds arrived as did the people! At least 17 different species of birds were spotted, including the Ruddy Turnstone which was chosen as this year’s bird of the festival.
The Festival Artist Oceana Wills, and our community volunteer artists who gave their time painting a 6”x6” canvas for the Art & Adventure Auction, added beauty. Every single tour operator, guide, and organization that partnered with us, as well as the generous donors and businesses in our community, ALL gave so much to ensure a welcoming, safe, and memorable experience that will no doubt draw people back when the shorebirds make their stopover next May.
This 29th Annual Festival was like no other. We are all looking forward to the 30th Annual Festival to be held May 4th -8th 2022 where along with the ‘feet on a trail, boat on the water explorations, and fun’ of this year, we hope to add sitting together in a room, applauding our speakers, sharing that perfect frame in our binocs– and our smiles!– while still livestreaming all of it across the world.
The Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges continues to be a great sponsor with continuous support of the Festival and the Coordinator role in this year of transitioning coordinators. The AK Friends work well in partnership with US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Maritime National WIldlife Refuge. We look forward to many more Festivals to come in the future.
The Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges and the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge have decided that for the health and safety of our community, employees, volunteers, and visitors during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival will not proceed as planned in early May.
It takes an entire community to support Alaska’s largest, most accessible wildlife viewing opportunity, and we are grateful to have earned the community of Homer’s support for the past 28 years. It is out of care and respect for the community (and our many beloved birders), and in keeping with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, that we take this action.
We know people across Alaska and around the world will miss the event, and the festival planning committee is saddened to share this news, but we are committed to doing our part to slow the spread of this dangerous virus.
While we are not gathering together this year, we plan to return better than ever in 2021. We also find hope in our shorebirds – as they migrate north, they will continue to gather along our shores. Please stay tuned for new ways to connect with the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival.
Thank you for your patience and understanding. As you continue to enjoy Alaska’s wildlife and wild places, please practice safe social distancing.
The 5th annual Art in the Arctic, February 27, showcasing birds of the Arctic Refuges was a sparkling event well supported by Friends. Two of the six featured artists are Friends members – Laurel Devaney and Amy Mackinaw. Friends Patti Picha and Judy Williams worked the Friends Outreach table with Frank Williams photographing the event.
Numbers were down some from last year with 125 attendees due probably to the biting cold but a good time was had by all. This is a great event for bringing in a diverse crowd and softly conveying refuge messages and information about the 200 bird species that use the northern refuges. This event is run by Fairbanks based refuges – Arctic, Yukon Flats and Kanuti.
Two days later, Arctic Refuge’s 2019 Artist in Residence, Michael Boardman, gave a talk and led a drawing workshop for 14. Boardman has widely shared his experiences on the Arctic Refuge with over a dozen audiences both here in Alaska and in his home state of Maine. Kudos to the northern refuges for so effectively using art to broaden support and appreciation for wild lands and wildlife.
Catherine Hamilton is a professional artist, bird guide and conservationist. Her illustrations and writing can be found in The Warbler Guide and Good Birders Still Don’t Wear White, and in journals and magazines such as Nature, Living Bird, Bird Observer, and Orion Magazine. Catherine will share her work in her role as ZEISS Sports Optics’ Ambassador for Birding, working with partner organization Birdlife International to help promote conservation awareness through birding and art.
We hope you will join us May 7-10th at the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival to hear these two amazing folks speak.
A group of 4 Friends met on Friday, October 25th to prepare salad bar items for the Spooky Season’s “Fish Anatomy” Salad Bar. The group met to cut, dice, slice, boil and prep pasta/salad items to create edible items that would represent fish anatomy. Salad bar items such as kidney beans, black olives, red bell pepper, artichoke hearts, noodles, tapioca, and grapes were prepared and delivered to the Refuge in anticipation of Saturday’s event.
On Saturday, October 26, 4 Friends members supported the event by staffing Discovery Tables such as the Fish Anatomy Salad Bar, Bats, Bug Eyes, Thunder and Lightning, Bloodsuckers, and Skulls & Bones. Representing Friends as we shared environmental education to assist in dispelling fears of potentially “spooky” items, we provided information in an interesting and fun way to over 310 children and family members who attended the event.
Overall Friends donated 13 hours of planning, preparation and staffing to support this successful event at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. A hearty well done to Ranger Jack who took the lead on this event and coordinated with Friends members.
Planning for the 2020 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival is underway! The Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, in partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service welcome locals, outsiders, and of course, shorebirds as they migrate back to Kachemak Bay every year to make this spring-time celebration Alaska’s largest wildlife viewing Festival.
The 2020 Festival, May 7th-10th, coincides with a full moon and some impressive tides. This year, the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival is excited to welcome two Keynote Speakers: Catherine Hamilton is a well known artist, bird guide and naturalist who uses her talents to bring attention to bird conservation issues across the globe. Eli Knapp teaches courses in ornithology, biology and human ecology at Houghton College and published The Delightful Horror of Family Birding in 2018. Our Festival Artist, local Soldotna resident Abbey Ulen, is already busy creating this year’s Festival design.
If you want to participate in the 2020 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, there are several ways to get involved:
Host an official Shorebird Festival event
Promote an event or business in the Festival program
Donate to the Crane Club
Join us to attend May 7-10, 2020
Event sponsorship and donations may be submitted online by January 15, 2020 at: www.kachemakshorebird.org/
By: Tara Schmidt and Poppy Benson
Friends came to visit, and it was invigorating! Thirteen Friends Groups from throughout the Pacific plus Fish and Wildlife staff descended on Homer in September for a 4 day “Tanax Agliisada” conference aimed at teaching us all new skills and sharing best practices. Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges hosted the conference at the Alaska Maritime and Kenai National Wildlife Refuges. A grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation brought the 60 attendants to Homer from Alaska, Hawaii, coastal Washington and Oregon, Midway Island and the Marianas Trench.
Building stronger boards, board recruitment and retention, improving community relationships, and empowering our organizations to ensure the success of the Refuge system as a whole were some of the topics covered in. Breakout groups allowed for brainstorming, sharing experiences and goal setting. We learned many of the issues we faced were not unique to us.
We all were fascinated although pretty depressed learning about the Washington D.C. scene from Caroline Brouwer of the National Fish & Wildlife Association and Desiree Sorenson-Groves of the Arctic Refuge Defense Campaign. At least I came away convinced we, Alaska Friends, do need to make a trip to DC once a year to keep our concerns in front of our representatives, and we do need to form a stronger alliance with the National Fish & Wildlife Association.
The National Wildlife Refuge chiefs from both the Alaska and Pacific regions, shared insight on national priorities, departmental directives, long term planning goals and ways we can work together on a panel titled “Impacts of National and Regional Priorities”. Understanding Refuge system priorities will help us work together to successfully develop programs and projects, which should in turn build community awareness and support of the refuge system.
In a small group meeting of the 10 Alaska Friends in attendance we hammered out these goals for the board for this year: 1) create a membership committee and recruit a chair committed to recruiting/following up with members who have indicated an interest in participating at a higher level in our organization; 2) improve our communication efforts to highlight our work, promote our projects within the communities that are benefiting from our financial support of programs tied to the Alaska Refuge system; and, 3) send two from the Board to DC during the budget months of February or March.
Our fellow Friends were very interesting and fun people making for a stimulating four days. Our hosting role went flawlessly thanks to our extraordinary conference organizer, Friends volunteer Anna Sansom. Our visitors loved getting to visit two refuges – Alaska Maritime and Kenai, see their first moose, eat smoked salmon and moose we provided and even participate in Homer’s iconic “Burning Basket”. We hope we have gained new allies in the fights to save Alaska’s Refuges.
Two takeaways from this conference are 1) we are part of a larger organization; and, 2) together we can be a strong coalition for advancing the mission of Wildlife Refuges. This was in line with the goals set for the conference – increase effectiveness and strengthen relationships across refuges. We need to work with other Friends Groups to achieve economies of scale, continue to share know-how and cross sell.