Birders return to the South Coast in September

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Published: 30th April 2020
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Birders return to the South Coast in September

CHARLESTON — The 29th annual Oregon Shorebird Festival, from Sept. 4-6, will place South Coast birds in focus through a full weekend of activities in Charleston.

Anywhere from 60 to 100 birdwatchers, or birders, flock to the coast each year to enjoy the feathered wildlife that can be found around the area.

Dawn Harris, Visitor Services manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said this festival is the perfect size for novice birders to sample the hobby.

“This isn't a festival where we have hundreds or thousands of people. It's a nice, small, intimate group," Harris said. "So, you have an opportunity to work one-on-one with your field trip leader and to meet other people who have an interest in birds and nature.”

Activities include several field trips, by land or sea, including trips to Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, New River and sites around the Coos Bay area.

The Cape Arago Audubon Society started the Oregon Shorebird Festival almost three decades ago to give fans of all skill levels the opportunity to watch the migrating birds that stop over in the estuaries of Coos Bay and Bandon.

“It's a wonderful opportunity for you to learn about birds that you see when you walk the beach, or are at a wetlands,” Harris said. “Partly, because you are going to be with people who are, like yourself, just learning. But also because there will be a lot of intermediate and expert birders, and they love sharing this passion for birdwatching. They love nothing more than helping someone else get excited about birds.”

Tens of thousands of shorebirds migrate along the Oregon coast in the fall, using beaches and estuaries as stopover habitat to feed and ready themselves for the journey south.

Yet, one of the more popular birds to get spotted each festival is one that is always here. Although, it can be very difficult to find.

“It's always special for people who have never seen a Western Snowy Plover, and so we will definitely go and see that bird because it is a threatened species,” Harris said. “Snowy Plovers are one of the few shorebirds that is here year-round on our beaches.”

She said another crowd-pleaser, though, is one of the birds that rarely makes an appearance. It is a bird called the Wandering Tattler.

“That is a bird that drops in and likes to use the jetty rocks, at the south or north jetty, and it moves in and around the rocks looking for little bugs and invertebrates that live in there. They are only here on that short migration. And they just aren't all that abundant, so we are lucky if we see four or five of those at all. And who doesn't want to say that they've seen a Wandering Tattler,” Harris said, with a laugh. “It's a great name.”

It's not the only great name, though. Other birds in the area during the festival include the Western and Least Sandpiper, Dunlin, Long-billed Dowitcher, Semipalmated Plover and Black-bellied Plover.

While you are invited to bring along your best binoculars for birding to try and spot them, the item is not vital to being able to enjoy the Oregon Shorebird Festival.

Harris said the guides will have spotting scope for birding with them to help people spot the birds, even from a distance.

“The purpose is to let everybody look through them. So, even if you don't have compact binoculars at home, we are still going to have optics that you can use that will allow you to see the bird. You will still have a great time, even without binoculars, and you will still be able to see birds up close and personal.”

The three-day event also includes some informative speakers in the evenings. After a day of bird-watching, the attendees are invited back to the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology.

On Friday, Sept. 4, they will listen to a talk from the Bandon group called Washed Ashore. The nonprofit group will discuss its mission of educating and creating awareness about marine debris and plastic pollution through art.

On Saturday night, Sept. 5, Daniel Roby, professor of wildlife ecology at Oregon State University's Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, will speak about the Double-crested Cormorant ecology and management in the Columbia River estuary.

“If you want to come to a festival that is small and intimate, and a lot of fun, this is the one,”Harris said.

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