In shimmering swarms swooping low over the Bowerman Basin mudflats, hundreds of thousands of sandpipers, dunlins, dowitchers and other birds return each year to dazzle and delight regional bird enthusiasts.
Already thousands of feathered visitors have settled into the Harbor to mark this year’s migration and the 17th Annual Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival this Friday through Sunday in Hoquiam. Bird watchers from throughout the area will be breaking out their binoculars and field guides for a weekend spotting red knots, wrens and plovers.
Festival Chairman Arnie Martin said this weekend’s festival will offer a slightly different experience than previous years because it was scheduled later in the migration period. That means a different variety of birds will be expected to be passing through the Harbor this weekend.
“The mix of birds you see on the mudflats varies week to week,” he said. “This is going to be a good week for us.”
Bird identification specialist Richard Crossley will make this year’s keynote speech, discussing his techniques for identifying birds in the wild. A native of England, Crossley is a renowned birder and photographer who enjoys sharing his passion for bird watching.
Martin said the festival was pleased to bring Crossley to the Harbor to explain his unique methods for surveying birds. The speech is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Hoquiam High School. Tickets are $15.
“He’s an authority on a different way to identify shorebirds,” Martin said. “It’s really quite an interesting way to see them. … We’re excited to have him here.”
The festival will also feature a wide variety of birding tours, lectures and workshops. A banquet and auction will be held at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Hoquiam Elks Club to help raise money for local bird education programs. Several local and nature-related items will be up for bid. The catered banquet costs $25.
A Nature Fun Fair will showcase outdoor and environmental information booths, kid’s games, food and other activities all day Saturday and Sunday at the festival headquarters at Hoquiam High School.
Martin said a few of the tours have started to fill up, including popular tours to the Grayland area and the “Coastal Raptor” tour. The trip to Oceans Shores , where several snowy owls have been feeding for months, still has seats for Friday. Tours to Point Grenville and Lake Quinault also have seats available on Saturday. The trips cost $25 to $40.
A free lecture called “Mudflat Meals” will share some of the tiny critters that draw in shorebirds for an easy meal along their migration at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
Another lecture will explain the basics of bird identification at 10 a.m. Saturday. The lesson costs $10. To learn about photographing birds in the Puget Sound area visitors can also attend a lecture with regional birders Saturday afternoon. The cost is $15.